Not only do these brands help you look stylish, they do what they can to help the planet.
These days, there are lots of ways to incorporate eco-friendly practices into your everyday life. One of the easiest? Using your purchasing power to support companies that prioritize sustainability and use earth-friendly manufacturing processes. And it’s not just small, niche retailers who are in on the action. Big companies are attempting to do their part, too—just check out these eco-friendly products on Amazon.
If you’re looking for new ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint, buying clothing from the best sustainable fashion brands is a great idea. But how do you know which brands are actually eco-friendly? After all, this whole sustainability thing can be confusing. From understanding plastic recycling numbers to knowing which seemingly eco-friendly moves are actually harmful to the planet, there’s a lot to remember.
To make it easier, we’ve rounded up the 15 best sustainable fashion brands. One thing to know before you get started: No clothing brand is 100 percent eco-friendly, but there are plenty of brands working hard to mitigate the effects of manufacturing on our earth. Let us explain.
What makes fashion sustainable?
There are a handful of practices brands can put into place to be more friendly to the environment. One of the simplest? Avoiding a fast-fashion approach. Fast fashion is cheaply made clothing that is usually very trendy. It’s meant to have a short lifespan in your closet before it gets tossed. When you factor in what it took to make that item and then the waste of it being thrown out so quickly, you start to understand how it really takes a toll on the planet. Fast fashion also often uses synthetic fabrics. “Synthetics cost less than natural fibers,” explains Anika Kozlowski, PhD, assistant professor of fashion, design, and sustainability at Ryerson University. “Brands that use synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are ultimately creating products that will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.”
Creating timeless, long-lasting clothing meant to be worn again and again is one way a brand can approach sustainability. Another way the best sustainable fashion brands are working to reduce their harmful impact is by banning, or at least limiting, hazardous chemicals from being used during the manufacturing process. Certain dyes and finishes (like the ones used to make something wrinkle-resistant) aren’t bad for the person who purchases the clothing, but they can be bad for people who work on creating the garment or even people who live in the area where the clothing is produced—since those things can get into community water sources.
The type of textiles used also matters. “Try to buy items made of organic fabric when you can,” says Kozlowski. Things like cotton are often grown using pesticides, which are harmful to workers and wildlife, which is why some brands are switching over to organic cottons or linens.
Are there other sustainable fabrics?
The short answer: Yes. The best sustainable fashion brands have found quite a few cool ways to incorporate eco-friendliness into the textiles they are using. Organic cotton, bamboo, linen, and hemp are all eco-friendly.
There are also a host of synthetic fabrics—like Lyocell and Modal—that have become very popular in the sustainable fashion world because they don’t require much water or pesticides to produce. Lyocell is made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees and nearly 100 percent of the dissolving agents used to create it can be reused. Similarly, Modal is made from beech trees, and the water and solvents used to create it can be reused over and over again.
Quite a few brands are also using fabrics made from single-use plastic (such as water bottles) that would otherwise be crowding landfills. Those items get turned into recycled polyester, which is quite versatile and can be used in quite a few different types of garments—from activewear to formal wear.
Now that you have a better understanding of what actually makes a fashion brand eco-friendly, check out the 15 of the best sustainable fashion brands.
Everlane is focused on creating simple pieces for men and women that will last a long time; you won’t find super trendy pieces here. Everlane partners with ethical factories all over the world and each factory they work with undergoes a compliance audit, where Everlane evaluates them on things like whether they offer fair wages, have reasonable working hours, and more. Its goal is for every factory they work with to score a 90 or above. Also cool: They are transparent about the true cost to make each garment they produce. You can go to its site to see exactly how much the company spent to make whatever you’re purchasing, so you can see just how much it is marked up for sale.
This brand is known for its outdoor wear and as being one of the most ethical brands out there. It uses sustainable materials whenever possible and will help you repair items to make them last longer. Patagonia also buys and resells its own styles so that you can either get credit for turning in an old item or can purchase pre-owned items to give them an even longer lifespan. The company also imposes a 1 percent tax on itself and donates that money to earth-friendly organizations.
Timberland doesn’t just want to make products that limit harmful effects on the environment, it wants to have a positive impact on it. The company already planted tens of millions of trees and by 2025, its mission is to have planted 50 million. The brand also uses materials made out of recycled plastic and only works with leather tanneries that have silver or gold star ratings. Full-time employees also get 40 hours of paid time to volunteer to make the world a better place. So far, Timberland employees have volunteered over 1.5 million hours.
With a focus on fighting poverty by creating jobs for women and offering fair wages, ABLE produces clothing, bags, and shoes that are slightly trendy yet still timeless. The company is made up of 95 percent women. It uses durable, natural materials and evaluates all its manufacturing partners on safety, quality, and wages to ensure they fully understand the impact of their supply chain. As a way of holding itself accountable, the company also publishes the wages it pays right on its website.
The Los Angeles-based brand began in 2009 by selling vintage clothing and eventually expanded into making its own pieces. It is 100 percent carbon neutral and exclusively uses sustainable and upcycled materials to create the on-trend, stylish pieces it sells. As for leftover textile scraps? Those get recycled. In fact, the brand recycles 75 percent of its waste. Reformation believes it’s not just enough to manufacture sustainably, so it invests in charitable programs (such as Native Energy) to replace some of the resources it uses.
Known as one of the most sustainable activewear brands, their leggings, bras, and tops are made from materials created from things like recycled fishing nets and water bottles. The packaging—from the tags to the shipping envelopes—are also 100 percent recyclable. The dyes they use are also eco-friendly and the factory everything is produced in has the highest ethical certification available.
With the tagline, “Clothing for positive change,” this outdoor and activewear line incorporates a number of eco-friendly practices into its business. Its clothing is made of textiles like organic cotton and recycled wool. It also incorporates Bluesign technology to keep the air and ocean free from harmful chemicals and uses fair trade certified practices.
Not only is this denim line size inclusive, but it is also committed to sustainability. Its RE:Denim collection is created with 30 percent recycled water bottles and 100 percent recycled water. The result: Cute styles that don’t negatively affect the earth.
This activewear brand is exclusive to Nordstrom. From joggers that are great for running errands to leggings that will move and stretch with you during yoga, each piece is designed for both comfort and functionality. Even better, all of the pieces are made using eco-conscious textiles, like recycled polyester.
All In Motion
Target has long been a go-to spot for affordable fashions and now they offer a sustainable collection, too! All in Motion is activewear for men, women, and kids and it offers all the functionality you want in workout gear—think moisture-wicking and good stretch. A good portion of the collection is made using recycled polyester.
Looking for a little luxury that’s also good for the earth? Eileen Fisher is the answer. This high-end brand is considered an industry leader when it comes to sustainability because it takes what is called a full lifecycle approach. Translation: It takes a sustainable approach to everything from the textiles and dyes it uses to the production process and how much waste it creates. It also buys back gently used pieces and resells them on its Renew site.
Liverpool Eco Denim
The jeans in Liverpool’s Eco Denim line are designed using new laser techniques and processes that use a fraction of the earth’s natural resources, as compared to “regular” jeans. In fact, Liverpool’s sustainable denim scores under 33 on the EIM score (Environmental Impact Measurement) scale.
Rent The Runway
If you haven’t heard of this popular service, Rent the Runway allows you to rent pieces of clothing for a small fee. Not only does this save you money because you don’t have to pay full prices for pieces you may not wear often (like a formal gown for a wedding), it means that each item gets the most possible use because lots of people are able to use it. That reduction of waste is a great way to go eco.
Some have said the Veja makes the most sustainable sneaker in the world. While that may be tough to prove, the French brand does do a phenomenal job. Its chic sneakers use wild rubber from the Amazon, which helps fight deforestation because it gives rubber trappers in that part of the world work, in turn preventing them from cutting down trees to raise cattle. The brand also uses ecological cotton, which actually enriches the soil rather than damaging it. Other parts of the shoes are made from recycled water bottles.
Another super affordable line, this one is sold exclusively at Walmart. The collection aims to offer pieces as good-looking as they are affordable, while the company does what it can to be sustainable primarily by using eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton. The collection is also produced in facilities that aim to protect the environment.