As a result of continued inquiries, we have a running series of posts outlining some ethically-manufactured “alternatives” to fast fashion and other sweat-shop made clothes (because high fashion brands are not always blame-less either). (Find previous lists here).
While in general, ethically made garments and accessories tend to cost a bit more than their fast fashion alternatives, there are increasingly more brands that are aiming to achieve accessible price points - and we are dedicated to doing endless research to include more and more brands on these lists that are truly affordable (because guess what, $150 for a top is expensive!).
It is also worth noting that sustainability is not just about buying! It also includes holding on to the clothes you already have (regardless of their price points) and taking care of them in order to get the most wears/use out of them. Remember, sustainability is about taking small steps to improve your wardrobe and is not meant to happen overnight. This is a marathon.
Having said that, if you are in the market for some ethically-manufactured garments, the brands listed below engage in original design, local production (many of the brands manufacture locally), responsible selection of raw materials (think: the use of Viscose, which comes from man-made fibers made from renewable plant material, and requires approximately half of the energy than a cotton garment to produce). They focus on creating sustainable garments and accessories with a lower environmental impact, including by minimizing waste by repurposing it to make additional garments, reducing carbon emissions and/or shipping using recycled paper products.
Still yet, many of them engage in careful oversight by working with factories that abide by national labor standards, and in many cases, visit their factories on a regular basis and speaking to factory owners even more frequently.
Check out the list below and remember, shopping responsibly does not mean wearing high fashion; that is just a myth, my friends!
ZADY | $$
The online retailer has launched its own in-house "Essential" collection that embodies style and sustainability. According to the brand, by working with U.S. partners at every step of the apparel supply chain—ranchers, washers, dyers, millers, knitters, and sewers — it is learning the issues and taking them head on to create a new standard. The only problem here, Zady is rolling out its collection slowly and as a result, most of the styles sell out very quickly. So, if you can buy it, buy it right then!
HELPSY | $$
Launched in March 2013 by fashion industry insider, Rachel Kibbe, Helpsy's goal is to change the misconceptions about ethical fashion and to "curate apparel and accessories that are as beautiful, exciting, and design forward as they are ethical." With this in mind, some of the brands to follow come straight from Helpsy, which means they are ethical and fashion-conscious - and well, shoppable on Helpsy!
SMALL TRADES | $
Launched in 2010 by Robin Weiss, Small Trades is dedicated to classic fashion garments (think: striped tees and cozy leggings) that are handmade from locally sourced, environmentally conscious materials. Of her desire to launch a brand based on timeless, seasonless wears, which are made in Dutch Country, Pa., by a family-owned knitting mill that has been in operation since 1906, Weiss says: “I’m not a big trend person. I love a little trend. But I like to mix it with the tried and true.” That sentiment resonated so strongly with the fashion industry that up until recently, most of the pieces were sold out!
REVE EN VERT | $$$
REV was founded in response to the evolving nature of contemporary style into something a bit too consumptive and trend-based for our taste. The site, thereby, represents a new way to shop independent designer fashion. In addition to stocking brands that are locally produced and manufactured within their country of origin, utilize conscious materials and methods of production and abide by fair-trade practices - like Edith A. Miller, Pamela Love, Christopher Raeburn, and Odette, among others - the brand's house collection, R.E.V BY RÊVE EN VERT, is perfect for wardrobe staples.
MIAKODA | $
Designer Julia Ahrens founded her New York-based brand, Miakoda with the aim to bring eco-friendly, organic and vegan materials to the masses, while still protecting animal rights, labor rights and the environment. The results are effortless pieces (think: long, lightweight cardigans, printed shorts, slouchy trousers and go-to tank tops) designed for easy mixing and matching.
DELLA | $
Los Angeles native Tina Tangalakis teamed up with a Ghana-based entrepreneur to begin Della, a socially responsible fashion line that provides jobs, education and skills training to women and men of Hohoe. The materials are 100% vegan and sustainable, and the designs are colorful, cute, and affordable.
ARKINS | $$
With over 97% of clothes sold in the US being produced overseas, New York City-based Arkins is a bit of a gem. Designer, Germaine DeNigris, who launched her debut collection in February 2014, says Arkins is "for the progressive and modern woman who understands the value of the clothes she is wearing." Every single one of the brand's garments is made in NYC’s Garment District from sustainable fabrics like cotton, silk, hemp, and tencel. In case that's not enough, the design is on point. DeNigris pairs sustainable fabrics with contemporary designs complete with sophisticated silhouettes and subtle details.
ELIZABETH SUZANN | $$
For those with a bit of a bigger budget, Elizabeth Suzann is a must. This Nashville, Tennessee-based brand is responsible for designs that possess such a deceptive simplicity and sense of high fashion minimalism that even Celine fans will be tempted. Effortlessly chic slip dresses and cocoon-like sweaters are cut and sewn locally in Suzann’s Nashville design studio using only the highest quality, natural fiber cloth. Proceed with caution here because you may want absolutely everything on her site! I definitely do.
BIG STAR | $
Established in 1974, Big Star is a heritage denim brand, remaining dedicated to the original aesthetic of vintage Americana, while employing an innovative, eco-friendly approach (think: advanced washing methods, ozone-friendly laser machines and eco stones - the latter of which is used in the washing process - all aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of the denim by minimizing chemical, fossil fuel, and wasteful water consumption). This Southern California brand is a favorite amongst everyone from Kristen Stewart and Vanessa Hudgens to Kate Hudson, Jennifer Anniston and Sandra Bullock. Guys, they have styles for you, too.
COLLECTIVE | $
This brand began with the steadfast belief that business and entrepreneurial enterprise, if done thoughtfully and conscientiously, can have an enormous positive impact on the betterment of peoples’ lives. It is against this backdrop that Collective launched its collection of classic men's and women's apparel - all of which is manufactured in connection with small farms and factories in Turkey, Tanzania, Spain, Nepal, and Bolivia (amongst other locales) and of organic that help support the local farmers and artisans with income generation and promotes sustainable development.
JUNGMAVEN | $
This one is also for girls and guys alike! Los Angeles-based Jungmaven was launched in 2005 with a goal to get everyone in a hemp t-shirt by 2020. Turns out, hemp is actually a naturally durable, soft fabric and also one of the more sustainable textiles out there. As such, Jungmaven has made hemp its specialty, working with natural dyes indigo, black tea, coffee and using hand tie dye techniques to produce classic, stylish tees, tank tops, sweatshirts, shorts and raglans for men and women - in just about every color you can think of.
$ = majority of pieces under $150
$$ = majority of pieces between $150-$400
$$$ = majority of pieces between $400-$750
$$$$ = majority of pieces over $750