When Emma Watson embarked upon her press tour for Beauty and the Beast and The Circle, she assembled an entirely eco-friendly wardrobe. Watching her document this process on Instagram, I felt both inspired and frustrated. Good for her, but what about the rest of us? I want to shop responsibly, but I don’t exactly have access to an eco-fashion consulting firm that can verify all of my choices.
The fashion industry can be shockingly wasteful and unethical. According to Business of Fashion, fashion is one of the most polluting industries, second only to oil. A study done by Dame Ellen MacArthur’s foundation in November revealed that the fashion industry produces more carbon emissions than international flights. In April, it will be five years since the Rana Plaza building collapse killed 1,200 workers in a factory in Bangladesh. In the years since, we’ve made some progress, but not much.
We know this, but it’s hard for sustainable fashion companies to break through the noise — or get past the stigma. One article about Watson and her mission kicked off like this: “Here’s a fun game to play: we talk sustainable fashion, and you try to stay awake through to the end of the sentence. Still there?”
Still, I made the New Year’s resolution to only buy sustainably made clothing for 2018. “Fast Fashion Free 2018” has a nice ring to it, but the challenges are immense. For example, although I love fashion, Louis Vuitton has yet to offer me custom-sustainably made dresses the way they did for Emma Watson. More practically, I had to think about finding everything I might need in a year — like, where would I buy socks?
But my biggest worry was whether I’d be able to find stuff I liked on a budget. Unfortunately, higher price points are just a fact when shopping sustainably (it’s the cost of doing business in an ethical way), but you can find plenty of good pieces around $100. With the help of researchers like Eco-Age and Project JUST(which sadly stopped publishing its “seals of approval” for brands in 2018), it is possible to find trustworthy brands selling everything from lingerie to tights to running shoes made from ocean trash. As for over-the-top statement pieces? There’s always vintage.
Obviously, the best way to shop responsibly is not to shop at all. But if you, too, would like start replacing your worn-out fast-fashion gear with more ethical purchases, read on for my full sustainably produced capsule wardrobe.
Jungmaven Paige V-Neck
This is the softest shirt I’ve ever owned. Jungmaven uses hemp (a low-impact material) and sometimes cotton in their shirts, which are made in the US. Available in sizes XS–XL.
Pact is kind of like the Target of the sustainability world. It’s where everyone gets their bare-bones basics, but with a clean conscience. It uses fair trade-certified factories and certified organic cotton.
Not only my favorite sustainable underwear, but my favorite underwear I’ve ever owned. Knickey is a small New York brand that uses organic cotton and an organic supply chain that they’re happy to tell you about. Available in sizes XS–XL.
When it comes to athletic wear, Girlfriend Collective is my favorite. It uses a polyester made from recycled bottles, which is made in Taiwan and Vietnam (more about its factories here). Available in sizes S–XL.
The sustainable fashion world (like the normal fashion world) is not as size-inclusive as it should be. However, Alice Alexander has a colorful, trendy collection of clothes ethically made in Philadelphia. Available in sizes 0–30.
Kowtow is an especially cool brand because it follows its supply chain from “seed to garment.” Everything from the recycled hemp buttons to the dyeing process is thought out. Available in sizes XXS–XL.
Adidas By Stella McCartney X Parley for the Oceans The Run Performance Jacket
Stella McCartney has long been a champion of sustainable design. Her collection for Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to make an eye-catching workout jacket made from recycled ocean trash. Available in sizes XS–L.
You don’t have to sleep on the suiting trend! Suistudio (the female version of Suit Supply) doesn’t really advertise its sustainability that much, but their sustainability report shows a deep commitment nonetheless. Available in sizes 00–12.
Maggie Marilyn’s designs don’t read “sustainable” at first glance. There’s so much color and pattern! But don’t worry — it’s all made in New Zealand out of fine organic materials. Available in sizes UK 6–14.
Alberta Ferretti teamed up with Eco-Age to make a sustainable capsule collection. This whimsical sweater is made with recycled yarn, which will hopefully become an industry staple. Available in sizes IT 38–IT 44.
Elizabeth Suzann’s clothes are as natural as they come and made-to-order in Nashville. The jumpsuit, made from cotton canvas, looks like something a Brooklyn potter would wear. Available in sizes XXS–XL.
One of the best things I’ve gotten is a custom shirt from Dou.k made from organic materials in ethical factories. If you live in New York the experience is worth it. If not, there are some pre-made shirts available online.
A naturally tanned crossbody bag with a supply chain you can trace is the dream. While Nisolo is a certified B Corporation and transparent about who makes it products and where, it recognizes areas of improvement in its impact report.