The best sustainable clothing brands

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  • Sustainable clothing brands are always great to have on your radar, especially if you’re serious about dressing in a more ethical and durable way.

    More and more brands are focusing on producing fewer, better quality and season-less clothes that customers won’t grow tired of, thus stopping them from ending up in landfill.

    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. Here’s a guide to help you.

    The difference between ethical and sustainable clothing brands

    There is a lot of confusion between the terms ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’, as the two aren’t the same. There are different ways to produce ethical clothing, and according to the Ethical Fashion Forum, they fall into three categories, social, environmental and commercial, specifically tackling 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

    When it comes to sustainability, there are lots of areas to look at, from the sourcing of the fabrics to manufacturing, transport, selling and recycling. Most sustainable clothing brands will already be producing ethical clothing, as ethical issues are a big part of sustainability.

    To be perfectly honest, no brand is fully sustainable yet, but every small step helps to achieve the bigger goal. Some high street chains are investing in more durable and sustainable fabrics and recycled packaging, in a bid to hopefully offset the quantity of clothes they produce. Other smaller brands are focused on recycled and sustainable fabrics, and smaller production runs to use less energy.

    What constitutes a sustainable clothing brand

    We spoke to Joanna Dai, founder of the B Corp certified clothing brand, Dai, about what constitutes a sustainable clothing brand.

    “I think it’s important to acknowledge that every new product put out into the world has an impact. However, in being the architect of a new company, I saw an opportunity to do better, lead, innovate, educate and empower through Dai.

    Along my journey, and amidst a lot of greenwashing, there are a few things I’ve learned that indicate a brand is genuine in its sustainability efforts:

    1. Accountability – For real change, brands must be accountable for their impacts and decisions across the entire business. Brands that achieve B Corp certification are invested in running a responsible business.
    2. Fabrics – Look to brands that are using certified plant-based or innovative recycled materials as much as possible.
    3. End of life – Sustainability doesn’t end once the customer checks out their basket. Look out for brands that offer repair and take-back schemes that help increase a garment’s longevity or encourage responsible recycling. 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 in-store as preloved items to new customers, or donate it to our charity partner Smart Works.
    4. Building products to last – Alongside an end-of-life programme, invest in brands and products that are well designed and built to last. 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.
    5. 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.”

    How to shop for sustainable clothing

    Not sure where to start when it comes to shopping more sustainably? Marie Claire UK‘s Sustainability Editor, Ally Head, shared her top tips.

    “Shopping for sustainable clothing can feel like a minefield when you’ve got brands greenwashing left, right and centre. My top tips for knowing you’re investing in genuinely sustainable clothes?

    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.

    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, as is supporting B Corps and the independent companies doing their bit to build a better tomorrow.”

    Keep on scrolling to discover our favourite sustainable clothing brands – and while you’re here, check out our favourite ethical jewellery brands and sustainable sports brands, too.

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