Wednesday, May 5, 2021


By Dan Matthews

a Look at the Best Sustainable Fashion Brands

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The fashion industry hasn’t always been at the forefront of ethical and environmental standards. Yet, as global issues have become more visible, the public has become more aware of the impact fashion has upon the planet. As such, fashion consumers are starting to make more conscious and informed decisions about what brands they support.

Whether it has been a moral choice or one to protect profits, key brands in the industry have responded to this increasing pressure from the public. While there is still a demand for fast, affordable fashion, this is coupled with trends in sustainable practices.

However, it’s not always easy to know which brands are making genuine efforts, and which are greenwashing their way through to make a quick profit. So, we’re going to take a look at some of the brands that are making serious headway in sustainable fashion.


How fashion brands approach their material usage is one of the key ways in which they can reduce negative environmental impacts. This is important throughout the lifecycle of the garment. With natural materials used to make fabrics, there is a danger in putting too much pressure on ecosystems and overharvesting. Cotton is particularly problematic here; the material requires a significant amount of water to produce, yet a recent report found that 57% of cotton is made in areas that are already under water stress. As a consumer, you need to be cognizant of what goes into your fabrics.

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Some brands are making strides in keeping their material usage sustainable. California-based activewear company Patagonia has long been at the forefront of material-conscious practices. The brand is committed to keeping a close eye on its production, including starting a regenerative cotton program — this means utilizing farming methods that rehabilitate the soil and conform to high animal welfare standards. The brand also makes clothing out of recycled fishing nets, spandex, and nylon. Sustainability is present throughout their business, with activism playing a key role in their plan. Indeed, the company charges itself an additional 1% earth tax to help fund environmental initiatives across the world.

These kinds of material considerations must influence your purchasing considerations. As an individual, it can feel as though there is a limited amount you can do that makes a difference on a global scale. Yet small and consistent steps that reduce your carbon footprint have a cumulative effect on the earth. Gaining an awareness of how the materials you wear are grown, sourced, and even disposed of can help you make decisions to support brands. It also helps to understand what companies use durable fabrics that can be repaired, recycled, and reused rather than adding to landfills.


When sustainability is examined, this is usually from the perspective of whether the company is using environmentally conscious practices. However, it’s important to remember that there is a human element that you have to take into account if you want to support sustainable fashion. While everyone wants inexpensive clothing, this isn’t ethically sustainable if it comes at the expense of workers’ health or wellbeing.

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This means that as a consumer you need to pay close attention to how brands approach their labor practices. Particularly as so many outsource production to other countries. The newly multinational brand, Boden, is a good example of a fashion company that has high ethical standards. They have factories in 15 different countries and all their suppliers are held to high ethical labor standards, with each factory reviewed every 6 months. They also make their relationships with their factories and suppliers open to review by consumers and prioritize suppliers that are compatible with the positive relationships they want to build.

When you’re reviewing which brands have ethical labor standards, transparency is key. If they are in any way concealing how they approach employees and suppliers, you have to question why this might be. Tennessee-based brand, Able, pins its entire business model on the idea that creating jobs in fashion can help end the cycle of poverty for women. It is also transparent about the fact that it is not perfect in its efforts, but that it is growing and learning. They openly publish what they pay their global workforce to stay accountable and keep the dialogue open between the industry, workers, and consumers.


We often think of fashion brands as being lone operations — they make the clothes and get them to stores. However, it’s important to understand that the fashion industry is reliant on many businesses throughout supply chains. Suppliers get fabrics to producers, who then create the garments, these are then stored in warehouses before they are shipped across the country or even the world. Each of these points in the chain leaves room for the production of waste, usage of energy, and creating emissions.

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As such, while it might not be the most exciting subject in the world, your commitment to sustainable fashion needs to include a little research into supplier processes. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, as one of the key trends in supply chain management recently is a focus on sustainability. Businesses are starting to understand that optimizing their supply chain isn’t just good for business efficiency, it also allows them to be selective about choosing partners who demonstrate environmental responsibility.

H&M is probably the most visible brand that is prioritizing sustainability in its chain. It knows that its model relies on fast fashion, but also that its consumer base is savvier and more demanding of sustainable practices. They maintain a commitment to require their suppliers to use clean energy sources where available, that farmers use fewer chemicals in their material growth processes, that packaging is minimized during shipping, and they also make efforts to collect and recycle unwanted clothing. The brand has recently started to adopt artificial intelligence to maximize energy efficiency throughout its supply chain.


While sustainability is a popular element in fashion, it is more than just a trend. It is essential to ensuring the continued health of our planet and the people who live on it. As a consumer, your ability to make informed choices about which brands you support sends a distinct message about what you value in your clothing and who makes it.

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