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.
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
“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:
- 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.
- Fabrics – Look to brands that are using certified plant-based or innovative recycled materials as much as possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
DAY 6 is a new independent womenswear brand focusing on the growing gap between fast and designer fashion. Fusing elements of patterns and silhouettes, DAY 6 creates confident product that helms true to its ‘Saturday’ attitude in which the brand found their name.
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 create playful designs with a high-fashion attitude at an attainable price point.
GANNI has pledged to focus on four areas, the planet, people, the product and prosperity. These goals include reducing CO2 emulsions by 30% per kg of clothing, a gender equality policy, using more sustainable fabrics and investing in innovative projects to support the planet.
Le Kasha's mission is to make beautiful and timeless clothing suitable for every place and every season, using only natural and noble material, at the Le Kasha Eco label factory.
White Stuff’s women’s jeans and dungarees are designed consciously, using lower impact materials and manufactured with recycled water and renewable energy. All of their new styles feature recycled cotton (between 5% and 20% of the total fabric mix) and recycled polyester thread. The pockets are made from a recycled polyester and organic cotton blend. Additionally, the different washes of jeans have been created without pumice or stone washing techniques, which can be damaging to factory workers’ health. The denim factories they work with all take steps to mitigate their environmental impact.
Created and led by couple Pavel and Teodora Lozanov, Bogdar expands on its family’s fashion legacy in Bulgaria – a country with a rich history in clothes manufacturing. It remains true to its roots with 100% of Bogdar pieces produced in their family-owned facility in Vidin, Bulgaria, with a hand-picked team of just 16 members, while building on, and contributing to the emerging style of the New East.
nobody's child has pivoted to become a go-to fashion label that is sustainable as well as affordable, without compromising on its feminine designs. Through 2021, its mission was to become a more responsible brand – 90% of the collection is now made from certified sustainable materials. It also partnered with Canopy on the PACK4Good initiative, and its tags are FSC certified, with packaging made from 100% recycled plastic.
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 designers and fabrics that you will wear as long as possible. It's also using 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.
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.
Sézane has become one of the first ever French brands to obtain a B Corp certification. In the space of the last 10 years, Sézane has become an undisputed leader within its market as must-have limited quantity items as well as leading in the sustainability space.
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, 3⁄4 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
Founded in Indonesia in 2012, Faithfull the Brand has care, quality and authenticity weaved into its fabric. From day one, co-directors, Sarah-Jane Abrahams and Helle Them-Enger have collaborated with Bali’s best manufacturers to create their hand-made garments, and have continued to live and work closely with their local community ever since.
At the heart of the brand are thoughtfully produced designs that evoke a sense of summer and a spirit of travel. Faithfull is known and loved for its vintage inspired prints, flattering shapes, and unique pieces, made for sun-seekers and romantic dreamers.
As a major step in their ambitious plan to achieve Climate Positivity by 2025, the brand is introducing a new platform of wardrobe staples that are made to be remade, beginning with Circular Denim.
The fashion industry operates on an endless make-sell-pollute cycle, with roughly 90% of clothing discarded before the end of its lifetime. Ref’s new Denim collection is made from fabric scraps that could’ve been trash but through collaborating with leaders of denim innovation Strom and Bossa, they've created a line of fully Circular Denim. Ref are thrilled to bring their technology to Ref's best-selling denim and to also push the fashion industry towards a better, more transparent shared future at the same time.
With Ref, Strom and Bossa prep the denim scraps and combine them with FibreTrace and organic cotton, they are then woven into denim that ultimately becomes a pair of jeans. These fabrics are made from 20% Recycled Scrap Cotton and 80% FibreTrace Cotton (a technology enabled fiber that allows consumers to follow denim’s entire lifecycle—from fiber, to product, to finished product). All styles from the collection are 100% recyclable because jeans this good deserve to be around forever.
The MARFA STANCE concept is based on buildable, adaptable, reversible and personalised clothing. Each piece can be worn in multiple ways and with multiple functions, promoting a buy less and buy better approach. Unique, buildable elements are available in each collection to evolve key styles, offering the ability to update and sustain your signature wardrobe season upon season. In addition the collection has a modular element where if a customer buys multiple items from the collection, the pieces can button into each other and create new ways to wear for different times of the year. Seasonless, timeless design and colour palette encourage forever wear, focusing on the garment's longevity and functionality as an investment piece.
Operating from their London Atelier, BITE make and produce everything on-site in their east London factory space, using only natural, certified organic fabrics with a record of social and environmental responsibility. The collection consists of a maximum of 20 fixed and updated styles each season, an evolutionary archive which is now stocked at over 10 global retailers.
Responsible fashion label ASKET is perfecting one garment at a time, throwing out all the unnecessary fuss and focussing on what matters: quality and fit. Recently, the first three garments of its womenswear permanent collection launched: the white T-shirt, the white Shirt and the Standard Jeans. Each piece joining the permanent collection is 100% traceable and created to last and designed to fit - with 54 sizes in the denim.
All of Anny Nord’s gorgeous shoes (based on a clean Scandi aesthetic) originate from the brand’s design studio outside the coastal town of Båstad in Sweden. The brand believes in quality over quantity and to slow things down they only present two collections per year.
Production is kept as close to home as possible in order to keep transports shorter and in turn the CO2 footprint smaller. It works closely with a few quality factories in Portugal and Spain where shoe-making is a handcraft and good and ethical working conditions are a given.
All plastic packaging has been removed, and the label works with premium leathers that are from Leather Working Group (LWG) audited members within Europe in order to ensure a supply chain of superior environmental performance.
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. 95% of swimwear is made from the regenerative fabric ECONYL®, while ready to wear is crafted in 100% earth friendly fibres. RTW pieces are produced in small production runs, cutting down on waste and minimising the environmental impact.
It has a small family-run atelier in Rimini, Italy, who have over 20 years experience producing swimwear, and it can guarantee the safety and job security of those involved creating its garments.
Hunza G’s production process begins and ends locally in the UK, amidst a small group of individuals passionate about quality knit fabrics and considered swimwear construction. The crinkle fabric is knitted in a local mill in the Midlands, then processed and dried before being sent to their Central London studio where each garment is cut and made, limiting any possible unnecessary fabric consumption. They also resourcefully produce small run-off quantities of headbands and scrunchies with small cuttings of excess fabric – reducing wastage and providing a long-lasting alternative.
1 People, a revolutionary Danish apparel and lifestyle brand that is globally expanding, has a mindset to introduce a new meaning of sustainable luxury. They have now launched the Minimalist Edit - your solution for sustainability. 1 People have curated a variety of effortless luxurious looks, so you can be confident that you are consciously styling yourself in timeless, ethical, high-quality fashion. Minimalism is at the heart of the brand, which is why the Ready To Wear Edit pays attention to detail, offering ten simplistic and versatile designs that can be styled up to 30 diversified looks. This collection along with every 1 People product sold will benefit charity Business For Planet and its efforts to support the education of the social entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
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.