At first glance, this might seem great. But, fast fashion has come with a heavy environmental toll.
The average family in the Western world now throws away more than 60 pounds of clothing each year, much of which can take 200 years to decompose. And the production and transportation of clothing is now to blame for 10 percent of all global carbon emissions.
To make one traditional cotton t-shirt, it requires the same amount of water that one person drinks in two-and-a-half years, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). And to dye fabric, the fashion industry currently uses enough water to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year.
Common polyester fabrics shed plastic microfibers that, through washing machines, end up in drinking water and ocean food chains. And other fabrics, including rayon and kapok, are wood-based and contribute to deforestation.
But, amidst the darkness, there are some brands that have refused to sacrifice the environment for profits. Instead, these brands practice “sustainable fashion.” By using organic and recycled materials, producing locally, minimizing water usage, doing away with harmful chemicals, and more, these following brands are prioritizing the future of our earth.
And to make things easier for you, each brand we’ve listed is accompanied with an environmental rating and price point created by the trusted sustainable fashion ratings platform Good On You.
Pact, a clothing, bed and bath brand based in Boulder, Colorado, makes nearly all of its products out of GOTS-certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) cotton. The brand vows to only use ingredients that are “nice and clean,” and to never use toxic dyes or pesticides. Pact’s clothes are soft, comfortable, and made for everyone in the family.
Know The Origin, a clothing and lifestyle brand based in London, England, takes pride in being 100 percent transparent about its production processes and goals. The brand reduces its carbon footprint by making every piece of clothing by hand and reduces waste by reusing offcuts of fabric created in the production process. In addition to selling clothes for both men and women, the brand also offers a line of “conscious living” equipment, including reusable shopping bags, reusable face wipes, metal straws, bamboo toothbrushes, and more.
Based in California, The Classic T-Shirt Company only uses GOTS-certified cotton to make its products and colors them with dyes without harsh chemicals. Additionally, to reduce its carbon footprint, the brand manufactures all of its products locally. The brand also prioritizes quality and makes all of its T-shirts “built to last.” That way, the brand minimizes waste. The brand offers t-shirts designed for both men and women.
A.BCH, a women’s and men’s independent sustainable fashion label based in Australia, considers sustainability in everything it does. To make its clothing, it only uses renewable, recycled, and organic materials, such as hemp, organic cotton, recycled polyester, and more. The buttons on its clothes are made from the seeds of fallen corozo fruits in Panama, and even the packaging is made from post-consumer waste materials, according to Good On You.
Groceries Apparel, a men’s and women’s everyday-clothing brand based in Los Angeles, uses a wide-range of eco-friendly materials to make its products, including GOTS-certified organic cotton, eucalyptus, recycled plastic, hemp, and recycled cotton. To color its clothing, the brand uses vegetable dye, made from roots, leaves, stems, and flowers picked up in different jungles. Additionally, to reduce its environmental footprint, the brand manufactures locally in Los Angeles.
Saint Basics, a Netherlands-based sustainable clothing brand for both men and women, makes a high percentage of its clothing from eucalyptus, so its products are 95 percent more eco-friendly than conventional products, according to the brand. Additionally, the brand’s clothing is free of harmful substances, making them safe for skin and the environment. The brand has all types of clothes for both women and men, including underwear, tops, bottoms, lounge clothes, swimwear, and more.
Pansy, a California-based women’s underwear brand, takes pride in only using eco-friendly materials, such as organic cotton and spandex made from recycled plastic, to make its products. Additionally, the brand reduces its carbon footprint by having all of its underwear sewn in a nearby factory — just 15 minutes away from one of the founder’s apartment.
Adidas, the popular activewear brand, has made a commitment to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and waste by 2020. Additionally, Adidas was one of the founding members of the Better Cotton Initiative and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The brand uses a decent proportion of recycled and eco-friendly materials to make its products, but is currently striving to get better. By 2024, Adidas aims to transition to using only recycled polyester where applicable.
Puma, the popular footwear and athletic brand, has committed to a sustainable future. The brand has set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030. Puma’s website also outlines many other goals regarding its desire to minimize its use of hazardous chemicals and reduce its water and air pollution. Puma is very transparent about the status of its goals, and when the brand falls behind, it publishes the need to step up it efforts.
Teeki, a sustainable women’s activewear brand based in Los Angeles, makes long-lasting products from eco-friendly materials, namely recycled plastic bottles. The brand has also done a lot to reduce its carbon footprint in the production process. According to its website, for every pound of Teeki material made, the brand saves what’s equivalent to a half-gallon of gasoline. Additionally, the brand has limited the amount of chemicals used in the production process, so every pair of colorful leggings and piece of activewear Teeki produces is safe for your skin and the environment.
Athleta, a popular women’s athleisure brand owned by the Gap, has set impressive sustainability goals. Already, Athleta uses sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester, to make 60 percent of its products, but by 2020, the brand wants to have that number at 80 percent. Additionally, by 2020, the brand wants to increase the percentage of products that it makes with water-saving techniques from 4 to 25 percent and increase the percentage of waste that it diverts from landfills from 70 to 80 percent.
Sundried, a UK-based sustainable men’s and women’s activewear brand, has taken innovative steps in recent years to become more sustainable. To make some of its clothing, Sundried uses recycled materials derived from plastic bottles and coffee grounds. Interestingly, coffee grounds are turned into yarn by putting them in a “high-pressure environment.” That yarn is then woven into a “naturally high-tech fabric.” Coffee ground material does not require the high-temperature treatment that other materials do, so by using recycled coffee grounds, Sundried is also able to minimize its carbon footprint.
From Clothing, a UK-based women’s yoga and activewear brand, uses GOTS-certified cotton, Merino wool, and Tencel to make its clothing. Additionally, the brand makes sure all of its materials are free of allergenic, carcinogenic and toxic chemicals. That way, the clothing is safe for both your skin and the environment.
Salt Gypsy, a sustainable women’s surf brand based in “wherever the waves are pumping,” only uses Econyl — regenerated nylon waste — to make its surf garments. And for every 10,000 tons of Econyl material used, the brand eliminates 12.6 thousand tonnes of waste, saves 70,000 barrels of crude oil, and avoids 57,000 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, according to its website.
Girlfriend Collective, a women’s underwear, leggings, and shorts brand, is all about sustainability. The brand consistently uses recycled materials to make its clothing, mostly from water bottles and old clothing. To color its clothing, the brand only uses low-impact, nontoxic dyes. And the brand also offers a “ReGirlfriend” service, in which customers send back their old Girlfriend Collective clothing and receive store credit in return. And the brand can continue to “make new stuff out of old stuff.”
Bleed, a men’s and women’s sustainable and vegan outdoor clothing brand based in England, has made it its mission to “inspire a sustainable lifestyle that excites and easily integrates into our daily life.” The brand only uses eco-friendly materials to make its clothing, such as hemp, organic cotton, cork, Tencel, recycled polyester, Econyl, and more. And its name — Bleed — originated because its founder, after gaining insight on the textile industry, took the opinion that “nature had already bled enough, and it had to stop.”
Patagonia, a popular outdoor clothing brand based in Ventura, California, has prioritized sustainability for some time. All of the cotton used by Patagonia is certified organic, which means it doesn’t require as much water or harmful chemicals. And the brand often uses eco-friendly materials, such as recycled polyester, recycled nylon, and Tencel to make it clothing. Patagonia’s clothing is designed to last a long time, but when it is time to get rid of it, the brand asks customers to send clothing back so it can be recycled or repurposed.
tentree, an environmentally progressive outdoor apparel brand for both men and women based in Vancouver, Canada, plants 10 trees for every item sold. At this point, tentree has already planted more than 30 million trees, and by 2030, the brand has made it a goal to plant 970 million more. Every product tentree sells is made from sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, cork, coconut, and more. And to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the brand uses renewable energy in its supply chain.
Kathmandu, a men’s and women’s outdoor apparel and travel brand based in New Zealand, has been “dedicated to sustainable practices” since 1987. The brand uses a high percentage of eco-friendly materials to make its apparel, including organic cotton, wool, recycled polyester, and more. The brand currently recycles 80 percent of its waste, but has goals to soon make that 100 percent. Additionally, many of Kathmandu’s buildings are considered “green star buildings,” meaning they largely use green energy and are built from sustainable materials.
People Tree, a fair trade women’s apparel brand based in both London and Tokyo, vows to only use eco-friendly, biodegradable materials, including GOTS-certified organic cotton and Tencel, to make all of its clothing, including its denim. People Tree also works with small producer groups in Bangladesh and Nepal who use only their hands to weave fabrics, embroider, dye, and knit. By not using machines, the brand significantly reduces its carbon footprint.
Vetta, a U.S. based women’s clothing brand, takes great pride in practicing “responsible fashion.” The brand’s clothing is made out of sustainable fabrics and woven primarily at a family-run factory in New York City and a partner factory in Los Angeles that gets 70 percent of its power from renewable energy. The brand offers all types of women’s clothing for any day of the week.
Tradlands, a women’s clothing brand based in California, prioritizes making clothes that are built to last. On its website, the brand claims that wearing clothing 50 times instead of five — the average for fast fashion items — reduces carbon emissions by 400 percent per item per year. Additionally, the brand takes pride in working with natural materials like cotton, silk, and Tencel that is produced in small batches. The brand sells all types of clothing, from jumpsuits to jeans, T-shirts, bandanas, and more.
Tonlé, a zero-waste, ethical women’s fashion brand based out of Cambodia and California, has made it its mission to “reduce waste generated by larger factories and change the way business is done in the fashion industry.” To minimize its climate footprint and water usage, the brand makes its products by hand, using eco-friendly and recycled materials. The brand has also partnered with Greenstory, so consumers can view the unique climate impact of each of their purchases. Tonlé sells dresses, jackets, tops, jewelry, and much more.
Whimsy + Row, a sustainable women’s clothing and lifestyle brand based out of Los Angeles, uses a very high percentage of eco-friendly and recycled materials to make its clothing and packaging. That way, it reduces the amount of chemicals and water used in production. The brand also takes pride in the fact that all of its clothing is made locally in Los Angeles, so it can minimize its carbon footprint. In addition to selling clothing, the brand sells bags, jewelry, shoes, lotions, and much more.
Fred & Bean, a sustainable women’s fashion brand based in Canada, is all about preserving the environment. Everything from the materials in its clothes to the phrases on its buttons scream “environmentalist.” The brand only uses reclaimed and upcycled fibers, and reduces its carbon footprint by manufacturing locally.
GRAMMAR, a luxury women’s fashion brand based in New York City, mixes minimalism with sustainability. All of GRAMMAR’s products are simple, elegant, and made with GOTS-certified organic cotton. To minimize its environmental footprint, GRAMMAR produces long-lasting products locally in NYC.
KowTow, an ethical and organic women’s clothing brand based in New Zealand, was founded on a philosophy of sustainability. The brand uses organic cotton, natural fibres, and recycled materials to make its clothing. KowTow also makes it a priority to minimize its water usage and design products that are made to last. The brand’s style is rather simplistic, which makes its clothing perfect for both work and a night out. Online, Kowtow sells everything from t-shirts to jackets, denim, swimwear, and more.
Reformation, a sustainable women’s clothing brand based in California, “puts sustainability at the core” of everything it does. Reformation uses recycled and eco-friendly materials to make all of its clothing, invests in green building infrastructure to minimize waste, water, and energy footprints, calculates an annual sustainability report, and invests in programs that help to replace the resources that the brand uses. Reformation also carries accessories and even bridal dresses.
Sanikai, a luxury vegan women’s fashion brand based in Switzerland, only uses organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles, regenerated nylon, recycled wool, and ramie to make its clothing. And to minimize its carbon footprint, the brand manufactures its products locally. The brand offers all types of clothing, including swimwear, coats, dresses, tops, bottoms, and more.
Brothers We Stand, an ethical and sustainable men’s clothing brand based in London, England, considers sustainability in everything it does. The brand’s clothing is made out of eco-friendly materials, including GOTS-certified cotton, and is built to last. Additionally, the brand cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by using a considerable amount of renewable energy in its manufacturing and transportation. The brand sells just about everything you could ask for — from socks to t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and more.
Knowledge Cotton Apparel, a sustainable menswear brand founded by a Danish father and son team, uses a high proportion of eco-friendly material to make its clothes and accessories, including GOTS-certified cotton, linen, organic wool, and Tencel. By using such materials, the brand has already saved more than 1.6 million liters of water, kept more than 526,072 liters of pesticides and fertilizers out of the environment, and saved the environment from more than 775,900 kilograms of CO2, which equates to driving a typical car 114 times around the world.
Arthur & Henry, an ethical men’s dress shirt brand based in London, uses only sustainable materials, including GOTS-certified organic cotton, to make its clothing. The brand takes inspiration from the days when a shirt was something that was looked after, repaired, and repeatedly worn. So, the brand only makes clothing that is built to last, which also means less waste.
MUD Jeans, a sustainable men’s and women’s brand based in the Netherlands, has practically reinvented the practice of creating denim. Typically, one pair of jeans takes 7,000 liters of water to make. But by using eco-friendly techniques and materials, MUD jeans can make a pair by only using 1,500 liters. And by using renewable energy and recycled cotton, MUD Jeans emits 61 percent less CO2 than the industry standard when creating its denim. MUD Jeans also takes pride in its recycling habits. Over the past three years, the brand has saved 12,000 jeans from landfill and incineration and, instead, turned them into new denim.
Kuyichi, a men’s and women’s denim brand named after the Peruvian God of the Rainbow, was founded in 2001 by two people who were exploring the cotton industry in Peru and were astounded by the pollution that they saw. So, Kuyichi only makes its denim with GOTS-certified organic, recycled cotton, recycled polyester, Tencel, and linen. And to minimize its water and chemical usage, Kuyichi uses a laser-washing technique. In 2016, the brand decided to replace the cotton patch with one made of jacron, making the brand completely vegan.
The Blue Suit, a women’s denim brand based in Italy, only uses organic and recycled materials, including GOTS-certified organic cotton, to make its denim. All of the dyes used in the manufacturing process are non-toxic. And to minimize its water usage, the brand only uses ¼ of the industry standard to wash denim.
Outland Denim, a UK-based sustainable denim brand for men and women, makes all of its denim using GOTS-certified cotton. Outland denim also only uses natural vegetable dye. That way, workers are exposed to less toxic chemicals and water pollution is reduced. In the production of its jeans, the brand considers it all. Everything from the pocket lining to the zipper is made in a sustainable method to reduce waste and the use of hazardous chemicals.
Elvis & Kresse, a UK-based luxury bag and accessory brand for both men and women, makes common practice out of reclaiming materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill and using them to make its products. Since 2005, the brand has been reclaiming old fire hoses, and as a result, saving 175 tons of material from entering a landfill to date. And in 2017, the brand partnered with Burberry to tackle the problem of leather waste. The two brands have since made it their goal to recover 125 tons of leather cutoffs from Burberry and turn them into new, luxury items.
Indosole, a vegan footwear brand based in San Francisco and Bali, Indonesia, has made it a goal to become the most responsible footwear brand in the world. To build the soles of its flip flops and slides, the brand uses tires that would’ve otherwise gone to a landfill or incinerator. Additionally, to reduce its carbon footprint, Indosole manufactures its footwear by hand. Indosole offers footwear that will fit the whole family.
All Birds, self-described as “the world’s most comfortable shoes,” have become ever-popular, and fortunately, are made out of primarily eco-friendly materials. The top of the shoe is made out of wool, shaved from sheep in New Zealand. By using wool, the production of All Birds takes 60 percent less energy to produce than the typical synthetic shoe, according to the brand’s website. All Birds laces are made from recycled water bottles, and the shoes are shipped in packaging made from 90 percent recycled cardboard. All Birds offers sizes that will fit anyone in the family.
Etiko, an Australian men’s and women’s shoe and apparel brand, is constantly striving to become more sustainable. To make its clothes and shoes, the brand uses GOTS-certified organic cotton, natural rubber tapped from trees in Sri Lanka, and vegan glues. To offset its carbon footprint, Etiko purchases carbon credits from an organization that works to replant trees, improve livelihoods, and build village economies.
Fair Indigo, an organic and ethically made clothing company based in Wisconsin, has made it a priority to create “timeless, well-crafted clothing that’s organic, ethically produced, and will endure beautifully for years.” Namely, the brand is trying to steer as far away as it can from “fast fashion.” The only cotton that Fair Indigo uses is organically grown on small family farms in Peru. The dyes used by Fair Indigo are earth-friendly and free from harmful chemicals. Lastly, the brand has taken away all tags and, instead, lists all information previously listed on tags onto fully biodegradable bags that house the clothing. The brand offers stylish clothing for men, women, and even babies.
Noctu, a UK-based sustainable nightwear brand, has clothes for the whole family. To protect the environment and help all of its customers get a comfortable night’s sleep, Noctu makes 100 percent of its nightwear out of GOTS-certified organic cotton. Along with minimizing the amount of toxins in its materials and dyes, the brand manufactures clothing that is high quality and built to last.
Marks & Spencer, a prominent fashion and homegoods brand based in London, England, has begun to make sustainability a priority. According to Good On You, the brand uses a portion of eco-friendly materials, including recycled nylon, recycled polyester, and organic cotton to make its products. And it has set a goal to completely eliminate its use of hazardous chemicals by 2020. In addition to selling clothes for every member of the family, Marks & Spencer sells furniture, food, flowers, wine, and more.
Lucy & Yak, a UK-based clothing brand for women and men, uses some eco-friendly materials to make its clothes, including organic yarn that is dyed using low-impact dye. And to limit its carbon emissions, the brand makes all of its clothing by hand. Additionally, the brand’s packaging is made from recycled materials. The brand specializes in making corduroy dungarees, but it also makes trousers, dresses, and much more.
Finisterre, a UK-based sustainable clothing and accessories brand for men, women, and children “who share a love of the sea,” uses a high percentage of eco-friendly materials to make its products, including GOTS-certified organic cotton, wool, Econyl, and more. Finisterre also considers sustainability in its packaging. Every bag it uses to transport its clothing is biodegradable. Currently, the brand ships its clothes in a degradable plastic called D2W, but due to concerns regarding microplastics, it aims to soon “do better.”
Frugi, a UK-based organic clothing brand for women and children, uses GOTS-certified organic cotton to make the majority of clothes, with the exception of outerwear. Frugi’s outerwear is, instead, made out of recycled plastic bottles. Additionally, the brand never uses harmful chemicals or dangerous dyes, as they are bad for the environment and young children’s delicate skin.
Niovi, a childrenswear brand based in Australia, makes all of its clothing out of GOTS-certified organic cotton. That way, the brand does its part to minimize its water usage and the amount of pesticides infiltrating our soil, rivers, and lakes. Additionally, Niovi donates all of its excess clothing to recycling companies, so it is used to “create new sustainable slow fashion” and not end up in a landfill.
Alternative Apparel, a clothing brand based in Georgia, crafts its clothing with sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. It also uses low-impact dyes and eco-friendly packaging, which conserves 2,100 trees, 400 cubic yards of landfill, 860,000 gallons of water, and 120 tons of CO2 each year, according to the brand’s website. The brand offers all types of clothing for everyone in the family, including T-shirts, socks, loungewear, pants, and much more.
Ecoalf, a sustainable clothing brand based in Spain, makes shirts, jackets, pants, and more, that fit everyone in the family. To manufacture its clothing, Ecoalf uses a very high proportion of recycled and organic fabrics. All of the brand’s clothing is free of harmful chemicals, and three years ago, the brand stopped using animal fur. The brand also has made education a priority. To this point, the brand has already taken part in more than 100 sustainable fashion conferences and forums.
Outerknown, a California-based men’s and women’s sustainable clothing brand, was founded by Kelly Slater, an 11-time world surf league champion, on the belief that “we have a responsibility to make clothing that respects the world around us.” In addition to using mostly environmentally-friendly materials like hemp, organic cotton, and wool, the brand makes clothing out of Econyl, primarily constructed from recovered fishing nets. Outerknown offers a wide variety of clothing, including pants, outerwear, shirts, dresses, and fittingly, swimwear.
Indigenous, an organic and fair trade fashion company based in California, considers itself the leader in ethical fashion. The brand handmakes all of its clothing out of entirely organic and natural materials and uses non-toxic dyes. According to the brand’s website, by acting sustainably, it saves 45,600 pounds of CO2 and 13 million gallons of water each year and keeps 400 pounds of pesticides off of our land. As far as its products go, the brand offers clothes for both men and women, including outerwear, sweaters, dresses, and much more.
Thought, a clothing brand based in London, England, considers sustainability in both the production and shipping of its clothing. The brand only uses natural, organic, and recycled fabrics, including hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, tencel, and modal. When it comes time to ship clothing, the brand does it slowly, “and with great consideration for the environment.” Additionally, the brand asks its consumers to adopt their mantra by “committing to wearing clothes more than once before washing,” repair (rather than replace) clothes when needed, and give unwanted clothes to friends, family, or charity.” The brand offers all types of clothes for both men and women — from underwear to jackets, sustainable socks, and everything in between.
Amour Vert, a fashion brand for men, women, and babies based in San Francisco, is all about sustainability. Its name translates to “green love” in French, and the brand lives up to it. Amour Vert’s clothing is made out of eco-friendly materials, including organic cotton, recycled polyester, Tencel, and cupro. Additionally, every time that someone buys a tee-shirt from Amour Vert, the brand plants a tree. So far, the brand has planted more than 220,000 of trees.
Pact, mentioned above, also has a prominent bed and bath section. And like its clothing, all of the brand’s towels and sheets are made from GOTS-certified organic cotton. And toxic dyes and pesticides are never used in their production.
In addition to clothing, Know The Origin — mentioned above — also offers a wide range of “conscious living” items, including produce bags and totes, bedding, towels, and more. The brand also offers “zero-waste sets,” which are travel size and made from sustainable materials. For example, one zero-waste set is for eating and includes utensils made out of bamboo. Another set is for bathroom care and includes a bamboo toothbrush and reusable face wipes.
Marks & Spencer, also mentioned above, offers just about everything you can think of. The brand, which has made a public commitment to completely eliminate its use of hazardous chemicals, sells everything from flowers to furniture. The brand uses a high percentage of eco-friendly materials, and makes its furniture out of “responsibly sourced wood.”
Unfortunately, fast fashion is still alive and well. But with so many brands, including giants like Adidas and Puma, beginning to prioritize sustainability, things are looking up. In order for sustainable fashion to become the new norm, however, buyers need to continue to seek out brands that share their environmental concerns.
Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.
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