The fashion industry isn’t exactly famous for its positive effect on the environment. Quite the opposite in fact. As much as we’re all for dressing well, it’s important to understand that the textile industry is responsible for a staggering 10% of global carbon emissions. And as we continue to buy more, that number is only going one way.
One small step we can all take to reduce our footprint is to be a bit savvier about what we buy and where we buy it – shopping with brands that have a demonstrable commitment to lessening their impact on the environment, either through their manufacturing process, build quality and repairability, recycling, or a combination of all of the above.
But who are these brands? And other than their sustainability credentials, why should you be spending your money with them?
Below is a selection of our favourite sustainable fashion brands, spanning everything from robust outdoor gear to well-made wardrobe basics to high fashion.
Neem takes sustainability seriously. All of the brand’s clothes are made from recycled, regenerative and renewable fibres and produced in solar-powered mills, with the aim of providing comfortable, stylish apparel with as little impact on the planet as possible.
The full range includes everything from outerwear to merino sweaters, but it’s the recycled shirting selection that stands out.
Flax London set out on a mission to challenge people’s perception about how and where linen could be worn. Derived from flax (hence the brand name), one of the world’s lowest impact clothing crops, linen offers numerous environmental benefits over cotton – including less water usage, fewer pesticides and fertilisers, and zero waste – making it a truly sustainable alternative to fast-fashion’s favourite material.
Flax’s range combines all the benefits of linen – charm, breathability, sustainability – with timeless designs that can be worn year-round. Heavyweight linen shirts and worker jackets prove that linen is no longer for summer only, while the quality of construction will ensure each piece is still playing a role in your wardrobe in 10 years’ time.
If you’re a fan of Vans skate shoes but enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your footwear is ethically and sustainably produced, then Cariuma will be right up your street.
The brand specialises in crafting high-quality kicks using recycled and vegan materials (65% of its sneakers are 100% vegan), only working with factories that guarantee its workers are treated fairly and make a comfortable, living wage.
Not only that, but for every pair of shoes purchased, Cariuma plant a tree in the Brazilian rainforest to directly aid in the restoration and preservation of these natural habitats. So your wardrobe and Mother Nature will thank you.
ISTO is a relatively new brand that, in its own words, has had little time to ruin the planet. Yet from the outset, the Portuguese premium basics label has been committed to making its environmental impact as small as possible. This is achieved through a mix of local production, the use of organic materials and by limiting the amount of chemicals and water used during production.
It also ensures longevity via high build quality and forgoing fashion trends in favour of timeless styles that can be called upon season after season, year after year.
Producing genderless clothing inspired by life on the Mediterranean, Neutrale is a Spanish label that keeps its collection small and is production local. The aim is to enable people to buy less by creating timeless clothing that are built to last, and ignoring the fleeting fads upon which fast fashion is built.
Garments are simple, versatile and available in a muted, neutral (clue is in the name) colour palette.
ASKET is one of our favourite labels when it comes to premium wardrobe basics. The Swedish brand offers a tightly curated collection of staple items, all made to a very high standard. It’s also making good progress in terms of sustainability. Clothing is handmade to lessen the impact on the environment, packaging is eco friendly and it uses low-impact non-toxic dyes for most of its products.
There are plenty of reasons to like ASKET, and its sustainability credentials are another.
ArtKnit Studios, based in Biella, the capital of knitwear, works with only the finest Italian suppliers and factories in order to deliver some of the best knitwear in the world. It’s also committed to zero-waste manufacture and only uses natural fibres in order to keep its environmental impact low.
Being a direct-to-consumer brand, it offers true value for money as there is no retail middleman. Expect to find everything from cardigans to trousers, all made using organic cotton, merino and premium cashmere fabrics.
Clae’s responsibly produced sneakers are a great alternative to the likes of Common Projects for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint without settling for lesser footwear.
The brand only uses premium leather from certified tanneries audited by the Leather Working Group, as well as a high proportion of recycled and vegan materials, to ensure its environmental and ethical impact remains as low as possible.
This sustainable approach extends to construction, with the LA-based brand managing its entire supply chain while ensuring that all workers are fairly compensated and local labour laws and regulations are respected.
Californian outdoor brand Patagonia has a proven track record when it comes to environmental responsibility. So much so that it has actively run advertising campaigns telling people to repair their old Patagonia gear rather than shopping for more. This is backed up by the brand’s trademark rugged build quality and Ironclad Guarantee, which promises to repair, replace or refund any garment with manufacturing defects.
There’s also a cool program called Worn Wear, which enables customers to buy and sell their vintage Patagonia gear, further reducing the need for new stuff to be produced.
Sustainability was at the core of Swedish denim brand Nudie’s philosophy long before it became an industry buzzword. Nudie uses sustainable fabrics almost exclusively, reuses the bulk of its offcuts, extends product lifespans by offering in-store repairs and actively encourages its customers to wash their jeans less.
On top of that, these jeans are extremely robust and built to last, meaning it’ll be much longer until you have to repair or replace them when compared with denim from a lesser label.
Christopher Raeburn is an English fashion designer with a unique approach to clothing. His designs are known for being reworked from recycled and surplus materials, and he has previously used everything from old military supplies to parachute canopies in order to create his pieces.
His eponymous label has won several awards for its responsible approach to design and manufacture, and although some of his garments may be a bit ‘out there’ for more understated dressers, the brand ethos is something that we hope to see spreading to all corners of the menswear world.
Veja is a French footwear brand dedicated to producing cruelty-free, eco-friendly sneakers. It has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence since its launch in 2005, and its iconic ‘V’ logo is now a common sight on city streets all around the world.
It was actually the first sustainable footwear brand – paving the way for countless others – and is known for making premium sneakers using only recycled materials, sustainably-sourced leather and organic cotton.