If you're searching the Internet for sustainable clothing brands, chances are, you're keen to cut down on your fast fashion consumption and make your wardrobe a little more eco-friendly.
Shopping ethically is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and overall emissions, especially now that more and more brands are focusing on producing better quality clothes with a seasonless aesthetic, meaning customers won't grow tired of them after a few months.
But with so much sustainable fashion around, knowing how to pick the right brands can be tricky, especially when so many are guilty of greenwashing. With that in mind, here at Marie Claire we've put together a guide to help you.
What is the difference between ethical and sustainable clothing brands?
There is a lot of confusion between the terms 'ethical' and 'sustainable.' No, the two aren't the same. Treating staffers, suppliers and so on in an ethical manner is just one part of being a sustainable business.
There are different ways to produce ethical clothing, and according to the Ethical Fashion Forum, they generally fall into three categories - social, environmental and commercial. The forum specifically tackles these issues:
- Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
- Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights, and supporting sustainable livelihoods
- Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use, using and/or developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
- Minimising water use
- Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
- Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
- Providing resources, training and/or awareness-raising initiatives
- Protecting animal rights
What constitutes a sustainable clothing brand?
When it comes to sustainable fashion brands, there are many things to consider including how a brand sources its fabrics, how they manufacture and transport their products, and how they sell items in a planet-friendly way.
As Joanna Dai, founder of the B Corp-certified clothing brand Dai shares, every new product put out into the world has an impact - however, some brands are doing better than others to minimise their mark. We asked Dai for her expertise on how you can ensure a brand is genuine in its sustainability efforts.
How can you spot if a brand is genuine in its sustainability efforts?
Joanna Dai outlines her tips below.
- Accountability - "For real change, brands must be accountable for their impacts and decisions across the entire business," she shares. "Brands that achieve B Corp certification are invested in running a responsible business."
- Fabrics - "Look to brands that are using certified plant-based or innovative recycled materials as much as possible," she recommends.
- End of life - "Sustainability doesn’t end once the customer checks out their basket. Look out for brands that offer repairs and take-back schemes that help increase a garment’s longevity or encourage responsible recycling," she encourages. "We recently introduced Dai’Cycle, a programme where customers can drop off their preloved Dai clothing in exchange for a £25 gift card to use on their next in-store purchase. We will renew and repair the donated pieces and offer them in-store as preloved items to new customers, or donate it to our charity partner Smart Works."
- Building products to last - "Alongside an end-of-life programme, invest in brands and products that are well designed and built to last," she goes on. "This is a founding principle at Dai, I personally road-test each and every product to make sure it performs and functions for our customers now, and for years to come."
- Valuing people - "Sustainability must combine people and the planet. Look at brands' supplier codes of conduct or commitments to paying fair and living wages to ensure the people who are making your garments are being treated well."
Marie Claire UK's Sustainability Editor, Ally Head, agrees, adding that shopping for sustainable clothing can feel like a minefield when you've got brands greenwashing left, right and centre.
Her advice? "Always check whether a brand has a B Corp certification. If they do, it means they've undergone the most rigorous testing - qualifying can take as long as three years (!) - to make sure their practices are plant-friendly across all aspects of their business. They have a detailed directory on their site of all the brands that have qualified."
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Secondly, do your research - often, if a brand actually works to sustainable practice, they'll have a whole page dedicated to it on their website. "Do read up and also carefully consider both the eco-claims they are making and how they say their business is structured - do they promote fast fashion, do they rack up air miles like there's no tomorrow, and do they still send products out in non-recyclable or non-biodegradable materials? Even if a brand says they're sustainable, they might be greenwashing - for example, a global company that churns out new designs every day doesn't *sound* sustainable to us."
And thirdly, use your common sense. "Buying secondhand, shopping in vintage stores, using pre-loved fashion sites or renting clothes are all great ways to shop sustainably and lower the impact that creating new clothes can have on the environment," Ally explains.
The best sustainable clothing brands you need to know about:
Dai is a B Corp-certified clothing brand founded by Joanna Dai. Not only is the brand using performance 4-way stretch, machine washable, wrinkle resistant fabrics and designing some of the most comfortable clothes ever, but they are also committed to doing good for people and the planet. Sustainability is woven into every fibre of their brand DNA. They use over 60% recycled or plant-based yarns and recently introduced Dai’Cycle, a programme where customers can drop off their preloved Dai clothing in exchange for a £25 gift card to use on their next in-store purchase. The brand will renew and repair the donated pieces and offer in-store as preloved items to new customers, or donate it to their charity partner Smart Works.
"I am OBSESSED with this brand. I met the founder Joanna earlier in the year and loved hearing about her journey of launching a fashion brand that's genuinely sustainable, too (they're a certified B Corp). Their suit trousers and navy striped shirt are my personal favourite items from their collection, but everything is gorgeous." - Ally Head, Health & Sustainability Editor.
OMNES means all, with the brand's ethos being that we are all in this together. The brand is aware that fashion is one of the worst polluters, so even when sketching clothes, designers think of styles and fabrics that you will wear as long as possible. The brand also uses offcuts in accessories to minimise waste, and audits its factories in Romania, India and London to make sure they comply with Health and Safety, Environment, Business Ethics and Labour Standards.
"When it comes to chic dresses and understated event wear, Omnes is one of my favourites. I love the brand's signature cowl neck slip dresses, which are often made from recycled polyester, Ecovero Viscose or deadstock fabric. The shapes are so flattering and they're the kind of dresses you can wear for years to come for all manner of different occasions." - Zoe Anastasiou, Fashion Editor
Ninety Percent gained its name thanks to its unique business model, which sees the brand sharing 90% of its profits between its people and charitable causes that prioritise the planet. In addition to this, the brand also prides itself on transparency and traceability, as well as the use of sustainable materials.
The label focuses on the use of natural, renewable and certified organic materials, including Linen, ENKA Viscose, Tencel, Micro Modal and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton. And also uses low-impact finishes like plant-based buttons and nickle free metals.
With a slogan that reads, "Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We're #2," you could deduce that Reformation is a brand that prides itself on its sustainability efforts. The brand hopes to achieve Climate Positivity by 2025, with a goal that includes sourcing 100% of its fabrics from either recycled, regenerative or renewable materials.
Reformation recently released a circular denim collection and is even working to develop vegan, plastic-free leather made from Mycelium (which is the root-like structure of a mushroom).
As a B Corp-certified brand, you can guarantee that With Nothing Underneath is prioritising the planet and is conscious about its environmental impact. The brand thrives on the ethos of buying less and buying better, offering a whole host of timeless wardrobe staples that are guaranteed to stay in your wardrobe for years to come. In terms of materials, the brand uses Organic Cotton, Tencel, recycled Silk and even its buttons are made from Corozo nuts.
"There is, in my opinion, no shirt brand that compares to With Nothing Underneath. I own three of the brand's shirts and wear them season in, season out. Not only is the quality exceptional, but the fit is second to none—nailing that laid-back, casual vibe that still oozes luxury and expense. They're not wildly expensive in the grand scheme of things, but still more than your average £30 Zara buy. However, when I think about the cost per wear compared to high-street alternatives in my wardrobe, With Nothing Underneath comes out on top every single time." - Shannon Lawlor, Acting Senior Beauty Editor
Arkitaip is focused on creating clothing that will last, with timeless designs and well-crafted construction. Created in Europe, Arkitaip utilises 100% Masters Of Linen-certified linen and can pinpoint where 95% of its raw materials originate.
The brand's garment workers are also treated with the utmost care and protected by the EU's European Employment Strategy. Everything is created in Portugal in a small, family-run factory. In addition to all of this, Arkitaip is also a member of 1% for the planet, an initiative which commits to donating 1% of a brands profit to environmental causes.
As another young brand founded just last year, MyCashmere is bringing sustainable practices to the cashmere sector. The brand produces its clothing in Italy, using either 100% SFA (Sustainable Fibre Alliance) certified yarn or Re-Verso Recycled Cashmere, which is made from post-factory leftovers. The label even takes its sustainable ethos into its packaging, using grass paper packaging which is biodegradable and free from plastic. Ultimately, each of MyCashmere's pieces is created to become a timeless addition to your wardrobe and the kind of classic item you will keep for years to come.
Sézane has become one of the first-ever French brands to obtain a B Corp certification. With its origin in vintage, Sézane believes the pieces that we wear today should become the vintage of tomorrow. From the transformation of their production methods and choice of materials to reducing their delivery and packaging footprint, Sézane is committed to concrete sustainability measures.
Today, three-quarters of the materials in their current collection are eco-friendly. They have obtained 5 certifications (GOTS, Oeko-Tex, FSC, RWS and RMS ) and released their first 100% eco-friendly denim line. Since 2018 Sézane has raised over 4.5 million euros for the philanthropic program DEMAIN. On the 21st of every month, 10% of global turnover and 100% of the proceeds from a dedicated design are donated to programs which support access to education and equality of opportunity for children all over the world.
"Nothing says French girl chic, quite like Sézane. The brand offers timeless staples that you will want to wear for years to come. After all, aside from manufacturing and fabrication, another true test of a sustainable wardrobe is ensuring you wear and re-wear your clothes again and again. Nothing is more sustainable than the clothes already in your wardrobe." - Zoe Anastasiou, Fashion Editor
O Pioneers proudly describes themselves as a brand that represents the 'antithesis of fast fashion.' Made from dead stock or end of season fabrics, O Pioneers works with local seamstresses and craftswomen here in the UK to create all of its products, thereby minimising its carbon footprint.
In addition to this, the brand advocates for investing in classics that will stay with you for several years and not just a season. The brand creates wearable dresses that are made to be utilised for the everyday, and not just on special occasions, meaning you can definitely lower your price per wear.
Founded by Jeanne Damas, Rouje is a brand that recognises sustainability is about constantly improving. The brand is working to become more sustainable with each collection. Currently, 94% of the brand's range is created in Europe meaning the brand lowers its environmental impact. They also choose to use ground transport where ever possible.
When it comes to fabrics, 74% of the brand's Spring/Summer collection is made from certified materials, while the brand also chooses to produce in limited quantities to avoid overproduction.
Nobody's Child has pivoted to become a go-to fashion label that is sustainable as well as affordable, without compromising on design. Through 2021, its mission was to become a more responsible brand and now 90% of the collection is made from certified sustainable materials. Nobody's Child has also partnered with Canopy on the PACK4Good initiative, and its tags are FSC certified, with packaging made from 100% recycled plastic.
"What others see as waste, we see as a starting point…" this is the bold proclamation on Fanfare's website. The brand was built on a circular fashion model, using rescued, up-cycled and recycled materials to create new products.
The brand manufactures its products locally, either in East London or at a short distance away, thereby minimising its carbon footprint while also creating new job opportunities in the local community.
As a brand that offsets its entire carbon usage, you can guarantee that Deiji Studios is conscious about its impact on the planet. The brand designs using natural and sustainable fibres including linen, GOTS cotton and more, utilising materials that are biodegradable or recycled. Deiji Studios has also partnered with 1% for the planet, meaning that the brand contributes at least 1% of its annual revenue to environmental causes.
EVARAE ensure a fully transparent supply chain of materials and production. Consciously choosing materials that are made through more sustainable processes that lower their environmental impact. 100% of swimwear is made from the regenerative fabric ECONYL®, while their ready-to-wear collection is crafted in 100% earth-friendly fibres. The ready-to-wear collection is produced in small production runs, cutting down on waste and minimising the environmental impact. EVARAE uses a small family-run atelier in Rimini, Italy, who have over 20 years of experience producing swimwear, meaning the brand can guarantee the safety and job security of those involved in creating its garments.
DAY 6 is a new independent womenswear brand focusing on the growing gap between fast and designer fashion. Designed, milled and produced in the UK, DAY 6 put an emphasis on small, minimum-waste production that is climate and customer conscious. DAY 6 creates playful designs with a high-fashion attitude at an attainable price point.
This contemporary sustainable womenswear brand celebrates individuality, authenticity and sustainability. In just 13 years, Amy Powney has gone from sweeping the cutting-room floor at Mother of Pearl to taking the helm as its Creative Director. Sustainability has been a life-long passion for Amy and she’s been on a mission for Mother of Pearl to reduce its impact on the planet. Clothes are made from organic and natural materials, with a transparent supply chain, putting social responsibility, respect to animals and low-environmental impact first and foremost. Their website is set up so you can see the sustainable attributes of each piece.