Sustainable Clothing Brands Making A Real Difference

EARTH DAY is April 22, 2024

Shining a light on brands that are making a difference, from designer collections to affordable price points.

Vetted by: Jamie Lewin 4.8.24

Being kind to our planet is a year-long endeavor. But Earth Day is a great time to shine a light on those brands making a difference and to remind us that we are all in this together. Sustainable fashion brands put ethical standards at the forefront of their business and no decision is made without taking its environmental impact into account. And they prove that you can make beautiful, fashionable, well-made products while keeping sustainability as your core mission.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE OR ETHICAL CLOTHING?

The first major tenet of any ethical brand is the use of sustainable materials. This means using natural fibers like organic cotton and linen or recycled fabrics. They may also use regenerative farming practices to grow their cotton, subscribe to a recycling program to repurpose items like plastic bottles, and use renewable energy to power their manufacturing. Many aim to use less water in their production process and shun toxic chemicals in favor of natural dyes.

Generally speaking, eco-friendly clothing and accessories tend to be more expensive. This is because all of the basic principles of sustainable practices are more costly. Recycled and organic materials are more expensive as they go through more processes and are held to a higher standard than conventional fabrics. Many companies create in small batches to ensure there isn't any waste. When you produce in small quantities, you can't take advantage of bulk savings. And many of these brands also subscribe to fair trade which ensures a living wage for everyone in their supply chain. They may also try to produce locally to reduce their carbon footprint. While many more affordable brands give lip service to sustainability, you should read further into it to see if they really are as clean as they report to be.

Now that you know what goes into making clothing and accessories sustainable, here are some of my favorite earth-friendly brands creating stylish, high-quality products that you will love for years to come. Mother Earth will thank you too.

Stella McCartney SS24 Campaign
Stella McCartney Cara Delevingne Campaign

DESIGNER BRANDS:

STELLA MCCARTNEY

In the fashion world, few designer labels are sustainable or claim to be which is why Stella McCartney stands out from the pack. She sees her company as change agents and activists, holding themselves accountable to leave a positive impact on our planet. Their fabrics are all cruelty-free, circular, or regenerative like their plant-based alternatives for leather, organic cotton, and recycled cashmere.

Plus: While the price tag may be hefty, it comes with the knowledge that you are supporting their sustainability innovation and getting a beautiful, higher quality garment that is made to last.

Mara Hoffman Poppy Limited Edition Dress

MARA HOFFMAN

Mara Hoffman designs a full womenswear collection, but where she stands out most to me is in the architectural form of her draping and her use of bold color and patterns. Mara created her collection in 2001, but fifteen years ago the company shifted their overall strategy to build and operate within a framework of sustainability. Mara has a deep love for nature and wanted her company's framework to include innovative design and manufacturing practices, responsible fabric and material selection, and increased contributions to and participation in social justice movements. And it hasn't go unnoticed. In 2023 Mara Hoffman was the recipient of the CFDA Fashion Award for Environmental Sustainability.

Plus: This gorgeous poppy dress, “The Dress that Changes Everything,” is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Mara Hoffman and Circ, the circular fashion technology company that recycles textile waste back into new fibers. This innovative Lyocell fiber is derived from 50% recycled textile waste and 50% FSC-certified cellulosic pulp. And it's a limited edition: they only made 35 dresses and each one is individually numbered.

Agolde Sustainable Denim Collection

PREMIUM BRANDS:

AGOLDE

Agolde (along with sister brands Citizens of Humanity and Goldsign) produces high quality, fashion-forward denim that is built for the long run. Their jeans are produced in LA and Turkey mostly in factories that they own so they can control the entire production process. They cut to order, meaning they can produce only what their customers want without having excess to discard.

Plus: Their fit is amazing! Plus you can feel good wearing premium denim, knowing they were crafted with sustainable practices, reducing the impact to the environment.

Reformation SS24 Collection

REFORMATION

I love Ref's tagline: Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.

As they say, "We put sustainability at the center of everything we do, focusing on efforts that have the biggest impact: Product, People, Planet, and Progress." Ref focuses on things like using recycled fabrics and only putting out a limited-edition collection every week with small quantities of each new product. They only make more if they know you want it, based on direct data and feedback from your purchases as opposed to fast fashion brands that produce in bulk quantities before understanding their customer's demand. They also focus on using less water, energy and chemical waste during the production process. And their packaging is recyclable and compostable.

Plus: They make sexy dresses for every occasion and super flattering jeans too.

Women in white Sezane dresses

SEZANE

Sezane came onto the scene ten years ago with their Parisian essentials and rapidly gained popularity among the fashion set, most notably on social media. While they have expanded beyond France, the collection remains true to their roots with beautiful sweaters, coats, denim, blouses, dresses, and accessories. About 3/4 of Sezane's fabrics are eco-friendly: organic cotton, certified materials, recycled polyester and vegetable-tanned leather form most of their collections. And their goal is to go even farther. They use gots-certified factories and fabrics which guarantees the organic status of their textiles.

Plus: You can dress like a Parisian and have the peace of mind that you're wearing one of the coolest ethical brands. Win-win.

Buck Mason womens white knits

BUCK MASON

Buck Mason is known for their cool, sustainable basics made of natural materials and some recycled fabrics. They use cotton grown in the USA, plus they focus on American made, with their main knitting factory in Pennsylvania. They also take pride in ensuring fair working conditions and equitable pay for their workers. I love their earthy color palette and cool, California sensibility. They make clothes that are both cool and comfortable, that you really want to live your life in.

Plus: They also have affordable prices. Their line of tees made in the USA are all in the price range of $45. That means you can create a more sustainable wardrobe one t-shirt at a time.

CUYANA CAMPAIGN

CUYANA

Cuyana's philosophy is Fewer, Better. When making products, they first ask themselves whether they are timeless, functional, and versatile. They want to keep styles in your closet and out of the landfills. Unlike most fashion brands, they only make what they think they can sell; producing in small batches and buying as close to demand as possible to prevent overproduction. And 100% of their assortment is now made from sustainably-certified materials. Cuyana's premium clothing and accessories are clean, classic and minimalist, meaning they will outlast any fashion trend cycle.

Plus: Compared to similar designer leather bags, Cuyana is quite affordable. Their SLGs and bags also make great gifts!

adidas by stella mccartney ss24

ACTIVEWEAR BRANDS:

ADIDAS BY STELLA MCCARTNEY

This collection infuses Stella McCartney's designer sensibilities with Adidas's athletic know-how and blends their activism with activewear in the coolest way possible. Adidas is exploring ways to minimize waste through three focus areas: Made with Repurposed Plastics is their goal to use only recycled polyester in products by 2024. Made to be Remade is the next step, creating a completely circular loop where products won’t end up on beaches or in landfills in the first place. And Made to Biodegrade is their future ambition to create a bionic loop where products can completely biodegrade and return to the natural ecosystem.

Plus: Their engineering is not only geared towards sustainability but put into the design and performance of every style they make.

GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE ACTIVEWEAR

GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE

All of the leggings from GFC are ethically and sustainably manufactured from recycled post-consumer plastics, which curbs emissions and saves valuable resources compared to a conventionally-made virgin polyester pair. Here are stats for a single pair of their Compressive leggings: 25 water bottles recycled, 18.61 lbs of CO2 prevented, 3.11 gallons of water saved.

For a sustainable workout brand, Girlfriend Collective has a pretty affordable price point with shorts starting at $48 and leggings at $68.

Plus: Their float fabric is the softest workout gear you will ever own. And they are size inclusive, stocking sizes XXS- 6XL

Women in Summersalt bathing suits

SUMMERSALT

Summersalt is a swimwear and lifestyle brand that focuses on both form and function, which means they are both stylish and comfortable. They also strive to use eco-friendly materials throughout their company, like their swimsuit fabric which is crafted from post-consumer materials and nylon waste—for example old fishing nets—that are literally pulled from our oceans. They also ship in poly bags that are made from recycled materials and their shipping mailer uses double adhesive for multi-use, and reduces waste on returns.

Plus: They have styles that work for every body type, from little coverage to maximum coverage, and stock sizes 2 through 22.

People hiking in Cotopaxi jackets

COTOPAXI

To prioritize sustainability for both people and planet, Cotopaxi considers every phase of a product’s lifecycle, including partnering with factories that treat workers right, sourcing sustainably minded materials, and making durable gear that lasts. They plan to use recycled, repurposed, or responsibly sourced materials in all of their products by 2025.

Plus: These Del Dia belt bags use fabric left over fabric from other companies' production runs, giving new life to fabric headed for the landfill. Each one is unique and comes in fun, bright colors.

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