Think about the clothes you’re wearing. Where are they from? How much did they cost? What material are they made from? These seem like simple questions with straightforward answers, yet your clothes may be telling a much greater story.
So much goes into each piece of clothing we own. Consider the natural resources used to make it, the mechanisms used to weave and dye the fabrics, and the treatment of the workers who produced the clothing. The fashion industry has not historically been kind to the planet or the people who make up its workforce. Harmful chemicals and dyes used in clothes making often end up in our world’s water systems. Mass amounts of energy and water are used in the manufacturing process, and more often than not, workers around the world are exploited along the way.
Fortunately, companies and entrepreneurs around the world are waking up and working hard to create a more ethical and eco-friendly fashion industry. Many sustainable brands are emerging and beginning to produce sustainable clothing through more moral techniques. They aim to provide consumers with high-quality clothing so that pieces remain in closets year after year, rather than mere weeks or months.
Here at Boston College, the culture surrounding clothing can be tricky. With expensive, big-name brands like Vineyard Vines and Canada Goose dominating, it can be easy to fall into the trap of buying apparel simply for the logo affixed to it. Many students feel pressure to keep buying the latest styles from brands that aren’t sustainable or treat their workers poorly. Overconsumption of clothes is detrimental to both our planet and our pockets.
The fashion industry and culture surrounding clothes and trends still have a long way to go in terms of sustainability and moral integrity. In honor of Earth Day this past week, here are a few stellar brands putting their greenest foot forward, as well as some particularly cool pieces from each.
This Californian brand creates simple, wearable basics with a vintage vibe. A blend of trendy and classic, their clothes are marketed at an affordable price point. All of their pieces are made in Los Angeles from locally knitted fabrics, organic and recycled cotton, and hemp. Founder Isadora Alvarez works only with small, family-owned businesses to produce the clothing, which ensures ethical manufacturing.
Tie Dye Tomboy Hemp Tee ($48.00)
Tencel Paperbag Pants in Leaf ($50.00)
Founded in 2014, Kotn produces clothing using the silky soft fabric of Egyptian cotton. Finer and more breathable than standard cotton, Egyptian cotton is often costlier to grow than the regular variety. Because of this, many Egyptian farmers and weavers have been struggling to make ends meet. Kotn works directly with Egyptian workers to help rebuild this industry, providing business and ensuring fair wages for workers. Kotn is also partnered with organizations in the Nile Delta fighting to improve literacy and stop the vicious cycle of child labor. In 2017, Kotn fully funded and constructed a school for children in the area. The company is certainly doing good for the world, their clothing is simple and soft, and best of all, they’re currently putting on a sale.
When it comes to Everlane, all you need to know is two words: radical transparency. Everlane’s philosophy of radical transparency is all about being 100% completely open and honest with consumers about every step, every cost, and every detail of its manufacturing process. The website includes a break down of the exact cost of every stage in their production from the materials to the labor to the cost of transportation. Everlane makes basics designed to last with high quality and ethically sourced materials. Their designers don’t focus on trends; they make clothing that will stand the tests of time.
Known for their Trash Tee (the first t-shirt made entirely from 100% recycled cotton), Everybody.World is reinventing what a fashion company looks like. Their clothes are bright and bold, with many neutral basics also to be found for those who like things a little more subtle. Everybody.World only works with factories that use ethical practices, with all workers earning above the Los Angeles minimum wage ($13.25). They eliminate waste from their manufacturing process and many of their collections are designed by everyday people from a variety of backgrounds.
Merry Jane X Heather Benjamin Hoodie ($80.00)
Known for their sustainable and body inclusive women’s wear, Girlfriend Collective is changing the game for athletic wear. Similar to Everlane, Girlfriend Collective strives to honor the planet while being as transparent in their processes as possible. The fabric for their bras and tops is recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. Known for their leggings, Girlfriend Collective uses special nylon made from old fishing nets and other recycled ocean waste to fashion their leggings. In addition to being eco-friendly, the brand also advocates for more diversity and representation in body size. With sizes ranging from XXS to 6XL, Girlfriend Collective is one of the most body inclusive brands on the scene.
Paloma Bra in Pansy ($38)
Founded with a drive to clean up Earth’s water systems, United By Blue is championing the preservation of clean water all across the United States. Their clothes are fashioned from sustainable materials such as recycled polyester and organic cotton. For every piece of their outdoor and lifestyle clothing sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways. Ocean pollution is an increasing issue around the globe, with 8 million tons of plastic going into the oceans each year. The giant mass of waste compiled in the Pacific known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas. To combat water pollution, United By Blue organizes water cleanups all across the country, from coast to coast. You can even sign up on their website to join them for a cleanup.