Anyone who's watched my Instagram highlights can tell you that I love fashion. To me, clothing is another form of self-expression and art. And while most of us will never wear a red carpet or runway look, we are all the beneficiaries of fashion trends that make their way to the brands and designers we wear everyday.
Unfortunately, fashion is widely considered to be one of the top polluting industries in the world. As trend cycles get shorter and shorter, the labor and environmental issues in the fashion industry are getting worse. Some of the largest and most well-known brands, ranging from fast fashion to luxury, have been called out for their bad practices.
If you want to learn more about the fashion industry and how we got here, I’d suggest "Overdressed" by Elizabeth Cline and "Wardrobe Crisis" by Clare Press.
Knowing this, I challenged myself to only purchase clothing that I verified was ethically and sustainably produced. Originally, I meant for this to be a yearlong challenge (Jan 2019 - Dec 2019), but coming out of it, I felt that it had positively changed my behavior as a consumer and fashion fan. So, I’ve decided to keep it up, with a few exceptions.
Going into this challenge, I had to look past brands practicing greenwashing and start doing my own research on individual brands and designers. There was plenty of information available about obvious choices like Patagonia, United by Blue and Reformation, all of which fit my style somewhat. But, in the course of my research and re-education as a consumer, I also found a handful of designers that I’m featuring today:
Nettle Studios is a 2-woman brand, founded by Alex and Lili in San Francisco. Their focus is on slow fashion, and they create high quality, accessible pieces. I first discovered them at a sample sale focused on women-owned brands, where I purchased a beautiful mustard linen tank top, a classy work-appropriate black and white striped tank top and this one-of-a-kind jumpsuit:
I have to admit, during my challenge, I found myself with plenty of light wash denim option and in need of a new pair of black jeans. But finding a half-decent option that met my requirements and looked good was difficult. Enter RE/DONE, which bills itself as a luxury fashion brand, and a great pair of high-waisted, buttoned, black skinny jeans. They take vintage denim (ahem, Levi’s) apart and repurpose the fabric into their new jeans, with most of this manufacturing taking place in DTLA.
*author’s note: I couldn’t verify the sustainability of the rest of their line, so I choose to only look at and purchase their denim
I used to travel to Australia for work about twice a year, and I discovered Bassike on one of those trips. I actually wandered into their boutique in Sydney to purchase a State of Escape bag, and stuck around to check out the clothing on the racks. Their designs are simple, timeless and super wearable -- which would explain why I have a heavy knit cotton sweater, multiple cotton t-shirts and a pair of mom jeans from them, all of which are in my regular wardrobe rotation. I really respect that Bassike’s built in sustainable practices from start to finish and that they provide transparency about their supply chain. While I don’t have any trips to Australia planned any time soon, luckily enough they have a US site and distribute through Net-a-Porter and US-based department stores, too.
Another Australian brand that I discovered during a work trip and have been following for a while is Salt Gypsy. Founder Danny Clayton is based in Byron Bay, and she sources regenerated nylon and other sustainable fabrics for her pieces, which are all locally produced. I’d been meaning to buy a rash guard and new bathing suit from her, but I moved out of San Francisco and away from the ocean/any good excuse to splurge on clothing for water activities. The good news for me is that Danny’s been experimenting with new materials, like bamboo, and pieces - so now I’m eagerly awaiting a pair of leggings and 2 crop tops.
Maggie Marilyn is a New Zealand-based brand that has made huge inroads with major American department stores like Bergdorf’s, Saks and Neiman Marcus, as well as online retailers like Net-a-Porter. The Maggie Marilyn vibe is very frilly, girly and fun, and I love the floor-length cotton dress I have from them. I feel like a boho princess when I get to twirl around in all of that fabric. I love that they publicly share their annual sustainability goals, produce half of their collection with repurposed or recycled materials and manufacture 95% of their collection locally.
Gabriela Hearst is one of the most well-known designers practicing sustainability right now. With her eponymous line and countless interviews over the years, she’s pioneering sustainable practices in American luxury. I practically lust over every one of her collections, and I’ve gifted one of her scarves to a friend and purchased a special occasion suit (yes, I waited for the Net-a-Porter sale for that) from her line. While most of her RTW and accessories aren’t accessible to the average person, she’s an advocate whose work is clearly influencing the rest of the fashion industry.