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There was a time when most plus-size clothes could only be found at fast-fashion retailers. But, as we’ve learned in reporting on the best plus-size jeans, jumpsuits, coats, swimsuits, and lingerie, a new wave of size-inclusive brands has gone a long way in expanding the category over the last few years, inspiring some more established companies to revamp their own plus-size offerings in return. Many of these companies — both new and old — also claim to be sustainable. But, like their “straight-size” counterparts, it can be hard to differentiate from brands that are actually sustainable and brands that are just greenwashing. To find the best plus-size sustainable brands, we spoke with 11 cool people — including plus-size stylists and fashion sustainability experts — about the ones they think make great clothing and do so in a way that’s better for the planet.
In general, sustainable brands are ones that work to prioritize environmental responsibility, whether that’s investing in ways to reduce waste during the production process, using renewable or recyclable materials, making garments that will last, or, ideally, all three. In addition to environmental responsibility, many sustainable brands also work to ensure there are fair labor practices in place throughout their supply chains. While all of this might sound straightforward enough, as Strategist writer Liza Corsillo wrote after reporting her story on the best sustainable fashion brands, “very few companies are able to achieve true sustainability at every stage of the process.” That’s why she and those in the sustainable fashion space suggest taking a more personal approach. “Instead of trying to find the perfect company that’s accounting for everything,” Corsillo writes, “it’s easiest to think about what is most important to you — better labor practices, less waste, or renewable raw materials — and focus your purchasing power on a brand with similar aims.” With this in mind, we’ve organized the 16 recommended brands below by what sustainability practices the experts say they excel in; where applicable, we’ve also noted the type of plus-size clothes — from jeans to bathing suits to spring dresses — that any brand came particularly recommended for.
If your main concern is responsibly sourced raw materials
This Los Angeles–based brand is best known for its vintage-inspired floral dresses, which are produced from dead-stock fabrics in sizes from 1XL to 3XL. “Somewhere between cottagecore and the version of yourself walking through a wheat field in slow motion, you’ll find Christy Dawn,” says photographer and sustainable style expert Marielle Elizabeth. Solene Rauturier, a digital marketing and PR manager for Good On You, a website that ranks fashion brands by how sustainable they are, adds that it’s a “fabulous boho option for your wardrobe.” In addition to reusing old fabrics to make its pieces, Christy Dawn launched what it calls a farm-to-closet initiative, in which it is partnering with an Indian cotton farm that practices regenerative agriculture to create a new collection with fabrics made from the farm’s sustainably grown raw materials.
Sarah Chiwaya, a plus-size brand consultant and the founder of Curvily, calls Chromat — which offers sizes up to 4XL — “arguably the best fashion-forward swimwear.” Plus-size fashion expert and model Alysse Dalessandro Santiago adds that its designer, Becca McCharen-Tran, is not only known for her “diverse and inclusive runway shows, but for using recycled materials, too.” Chiwaya adds the brand’s commitment to using responsibly sourced materials can be found in such small details as the threat that holds a garment together: “The thread is made of discarded fishing nets and post-consumer plastic waste pulled out of the ocean,” she tells us.
Elizabeth says that ARQ, the maker of some of our favorite underwear and wireless bras, is also where she goes to get her intimates. That’s in part because the brand makes its garments using GOTS-certified organic cotton — or cotton that meets a set of globally recognized production requirements that conserve water, reduce pollution, and create more biodiversity. But also because ARQ works with a family-owned sewing factory in the U.S. to produce its products and ships them using recyclable, entirely plastic-free materials. Available in sizes up to 6X, she describes ARQ’s underwear as the “softest, most breathable undies in covetable shades and prints.” Elizabeth likes to pair it with the brand’s equally soft bras (which come in sizes up to 3XL) for a cute matching set. “I cannot fathom a cuter, ethically made look for lounging at home,” she says.
According to Santiago, “If you are looking for sustainable lingerie, swimwear, and other garments for all sizes and all genders, Origami Customs is the best around.” As she explains, “Everything is made from dead-stock, recycled polyester, regenerative bamboo, or locally milled” fabrics. Supporting her praise is the fact that the brand also made our list of the best plus-size lingerie. While its garments go up to a size 5XL, the brand also encourages customers to send in their measurements to get a perfect, individual fit (and the site includes a very detailed fit guide to help folks if need be).
Offering sizes from XXS to 10XL, Loud Bodies, according to fashion blogger and brand consultant Liz Black, “is one of the most size inclusive lines out there.” She adds that it seeks sustainability in many ways, too, telling us the company is “transparent about who makes the garments and all the steps they’re taking to be even more environmentally friendly.” Those steps include using fabrics labeled Standard 100 by OKEO-TEX (another globally recognized sustainable-production standard) to create its Sustainable Collection, wrapping all items it sells in recycled paper and paying more to use shipping and delivery operations that offset carbon emissions.
If your main concern is environmentally responsible production
In our list of sustainable denim brands, we dubbed Warp + Weft the most affordable option because its jeans will run you under $100 and, as stylist Ansley Morgan notes, are produced in a process that uses “one of the largest eco-friendly mills.” That’s one reason she describes them as “guilt-free denim.” Another: “They require less than 10 gallons of water to make, while a single pair of jeans usually takes 1,500 gallons of water.” (Warp + Weft discloses even more information about its factories, fair-labor practices, resources, and processes on its website.) Its jeans, which are sold in a variety of cuts and washes, are available in sizes from 00 to 24 — “a huge plus,” according to Kristy Drutman of Brown Girl Green, who is also a fan of the brand. Morgan adds the “jeans move with me and still fit when my body changes.”
Revelle Collection produces its garments in the brand’s home city of Los Angeles, which allows the company to better regulate the treatment of its employees and limits its environmental footprint. Elizabeth told us about it, explaining that all of its clothes — which can run up to a size 4XL — are made-to-order, so there is less overproduction and waste. Some, she notes, are made from dead-stock fabrics; others are made with fabrics from small, family-owned businesses or companies that use natural and biodegradable fibers. Because the clothes are made-to-order, the brand allows for “customized sizing and impeccable tailoring,” Elizabeth adds.
If your main concern is reducing waste
“Sustainable does not have to mean crunchy,” Santiago reminds us, citing Fashion Brand Company’s kooky, clever designs as a favorite example. She describes the brand’s commitment to sustainability this way: “They believe producing quality clothing means less pieces end up in landfills.” It uses recycled or biodegradable materials and works with fair trade co-ops that utilize techniques like hand-weaving, embroidery, silk-screening, and knitting to make pieces that she says “are designed to last.” Those pieces range from Western-inspired shirts to knit sweaters to flirty dresses and come in sizes from XXS to 5XL.
As Chiwaya explains, “the most sustainable type of clothing is a piece you can wear for decades,” which is more or less how she describes the stuff from designer Cynthia Vincent’s label, Baacal. Style influencer Alissa S. Wilson explains that the brand reduces waste by producing limited-run collections that are all made in Los Angeles using fabrics that are often upcycled. “Vincent’s designs get more wear than pretty much anything else in my wardrobe,” Chiwaya adds of the clothes she thinks are as stylish as they are timeless (and therefore not likely to end up in the trash). Baacal makes everything from utility jumpsuits to slip dresses, in sizes from 10 to 22; one garment we heard about from both Chiwaya and photographer Lydia Hudgens is this taffeta trench coat that both women own. “I’m so happy we’re finally going places so I can wear it again,” says Chiwaya.
Mara Hoffman is one of those established brands the experts say has committed itself to both accessibility and sustainability. In 2018, it expanded its size range, which now goes up to a 3X and size 20 in pants. More recently, the brand launched it’s so-called Full Circle Market — a resale operation that Caroline Priebe, the founder of the Center for the Advancement of Garment Making, praises as a sign of its commitment to reducing waste. As she explains, the market “allows Mara Hoffman customers to buy and sell pre-loved items, serving the needs of both consumers and the planet.” Ciaraleaf Meaney, the co-founder and creative director of Tomorrow Collective, adds that the brand’s “very mindful” operations include using recycled materials and transparent labor practices.
Portuguese brand nu-in sells a range of clothing — from ready-to-wear to swimwear to underwear — that goes up to a size 6XL. Many pieces clock in at under $100, making it one of the more affordable brands on this list. As far as sustainability is concerned, Rauturier tells us the brand incorporates “a high proportion of eco-friendly materials” into its designs, in addition to “reusing offcuts to minimize textile waste.”
If your main concern is fair labor practices
Girlfriend Collective came up a lot among our experts, many of whom recommend it for its activewear. Offering sizes up to a 6XL, Rauturier says that Girlfriend Collective is known for implementing fair-labor policies, using certified factories and paying a living wage. “The garment makers in the brand’s Vietnamese factory are provided with free lunch and dinners, guided exercise breaks, and free health checkups every six months,” adds Katrina Caspelich, the director of marketing for Remake, a non-profit organization in the sustainable fashion space. Beyond fair labor, the brand’s manufacturing process requires products to be made from at least 79 percent recycled materials, like plastic water bottles and fishing nets, Caspelich adds. Its fabrics are also labeled Standard 100 by OKEO-TEX. Summing it up, Black says, “Girlfriend Collective is basically everything I want to wear at home: comfy, casual, stretchy, with an affordable price point and eco-friendly.”
Morgan says Wray has become her “go-to” for “whimsical, unique” dresses that are “ethically crafted and made to last.” Each piece is designed in New York City and manufactured at fair-trade factories in Hong Kong, India, and Peru, she adds. The brand’s sizes go up to 6X and it “regularly works with plus-size creators,” according to Morgan. Model, writer, and actor Abriana Soll also loves Wray NYC for its “sustainable, size-inclusive” pieces.
California-based Big Bud Press is perhaps best known for its (Phoebe Bridgers–approved) unisex cotton-twill jumpsuits, which also made our list of the best plus-size jumpsuits. But it sells pants, tops, and accessories, too, in sizes up to a 6XL. Morgan says it makes everything “using ethical and local manufacturing, which allows the brand to be very involved in the production process.” According to the its website, the company audits all of its manufacturing partners by both making weekly visits and tapping “independent compliance firms” to review those partners’ processes every three months. Girlfriend Collective furthers its commitment to sustainability by (almost exclusively) using NAFTA-certified fabric made domestically from materials grown domestically; the company says it is on a path to exclusively use fabric like this by 2022.
Eileen Fisher, who sells her Strategist-approved linen garments in sizes up to 3XL, is “a long-time believer in sustainability,” according to Caspelich. She cites the brand’s support of The Garment Worker Protection Act, pending legislation designed to correct labor abuses in Log Angeles’s garment factories, as one example. She also points out that the brand has made efforts to be more transparent by updating its website with information about its supply chain, which includes “a fair-trade and human-rights section to keep customers informed and up to date regarding their business practices.”
Morgan also talked about transparency in recommending Tradlands, but with regard to how transparent the company has been in its process of creating extended sizing (it offers up to 5XL). “You can tell that they are listening to everything their customers have to say about fit and design and actually doing something with that feedback,” she says. On the sustainability front, she notes the brand has set up a resale market similar to Mara Hoffman’s. “One of the coolest things they’ve created is the Worn Well Exchange, a place on their site for customers to buy and sell pre-loved Tradlands pieces.” Beyond that, Tradlands produces each collection in small batches to minimize waste and partners with facilities that employ adults who are paid a living wage, work in clean environments, and enforce U.S.-based standards of working hours, including paying overtime and banning triple shifts. Like Girlfriend Collective, it performs audits annually to ensure its partners are upholding these standards.
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