Happy Earth Day! I can’t think of a more auspicious occasion to talk about sustainable fashion, a topic of conversation that is of increasing importance as the effects of global climate change become more apparent. It’s certainly something that comes up often at Man Repeller HQ as we examine the industry through the lens of not only what looks good, but also what’s doing good, but it goes without saying that there is always more to learn. As someone who frequently writes about up-and-coming brands and styles a significant chunk of our shoots, I’m very keen to continue educating myself on progress being made when it comes to sustainability — and the brands that are at the forefront.
It can be challenging to know where to start, though. For one thing, there are many ways to define of “sustainable fashion.” According to Green Strategy, a consulting firm that specializes in sustainability, there are seven main vehicles for sustainable fashion: secondhand/vintage, on-demand or custom-made, clothes produced in the most environmentally-friendly manner possible, high-quality and timeless design, fair and ethical manufacturing processes, upcycled clothing and rented/borrowed clothing. In an ideal world, all seven would be involved in some capacity whenever a new item of clothing is produced, ending in the garment being upcycled, rented or sold at a secondhand shop once the first owner tired of it.
In addition to the challenge of defining sustainable fashion in the first place, there’s also a common stereotype that exciting fashion and sustainable fashion are mutually exclusive, and for many shoppers (including myself, I’ll admit), excitement is often a priority. BCPM’s co-founder Carrie Ellen Phillips told Business of Fashion, “You always hear this statistic that millennials want to vote with their dollar and that they want brands to align with what their values are. And that is not the case. They will not sacrifice the look or the quality. The style is the most important thing for them.”
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It’s been a pleasure to encounter brands that prove this stereotype wrong. One of my favorites is Untitled Co., a brand that works with Indian artisans and promotes made-to-order pieces designed with the intention of withstanding trend cycles. Another is Girlfriend Collective, the athletic apparel brand behind my favorite workout set (I have it in navy, and I’m obsessed) that is produced with recycled post-consumer water bottles. Everlane is also a definitive leader in this category, designing some of the best basics in the biz while maintaining a policy of radical transparency about how and where their pieces are made.
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None of these brands encompass every one of the aforementioned sustainability initiatives, but that doesn’t discount the work they are doing. They’re making a difference in their own way, and they’re doing it very stylishly. I would love to add more brands like this to my running mental list — brands that are making a contribution to the sustainability movement in a significant way while still maintaining an exciting aesthetic point of view. It’s no easy task, which is why those that do are all the more impressive and deserving of attention. Head to the comment section and tell me about the cool sustainable fashion brands you love. Let’s build this list together.
Feature image via Kowtow.