What Comes After Sustainable Fashion? Dôen Shares Its Journey of Integrity and Accountability – Vogue.com

In the brand deck I received from Maria McManus earlier this year, photos of her recycled cashmere sweaters, organic cotton button-downs, and recycled nylon leggings were interrupted by a line of text: “We are not perfect,” it read. “We offer a better option, a less harmful way to dress.”

It was a surprise, though it’s hardly a radical statement. Of course no brand is perfect. Still, the tendency for most is to amplify or exaggerate their sustainability efforts, not deliver them with an asterisk. We’ve reached a point where designing an Earth Day capsule or introducing a few recycled fabrics is all it takes to be a “sustainable brand,” a vague categorization made hazier by the lack of standard definitions for sustainable, natural, eco, and other buzzwords. It’s created opportunities for brands to adopt whatever version of “sustainability” works best for them, not for the planet. An organic cotton T-shirt is “sustainable” whether the fibers are 100% organic or just 50%, or if the cotton is certified or unchecked.

“What does ‘sustainability’ even mean anymore?” asks Angel Chang, who recently launched a line of electricity-free, handmade organic cotton garments in collaboration with an artisan village in southwest China. “If my line is ‘sustainable,’ and someone compares it to a fast fashion brand’s ‘sustainable’ capsule… That just isn’t the same thing.”

The confusion and greenwashing has led many designers to avoid the word sustainable altogether. On Instagram, McManus describes her clothes as “made with the future in mind”; Chang refers to hers as “zero carbon womenswear that follows the cycles of nature.” Shaina Mote, meanwhile, calls her practices “holistic,” not sustainable, and Christy Dawn insists “Sustainability is not enough.”

Other brands are rejecting the word more aggressively, like Dôen. In their six years in business, sisters Margaret and Katherine Kleveland—the brand’s chief executive and chief creative officer, respectively—have mostly preferred to let their clothes speak for themselves. Their messaging typically veers more feminist than “eco”: They’re supporters of Planned Parenthood and the NAACP, and with every purchase, they offer customers the option to donate to Room to Read, an organization that supports education and gender equality in India and Africa. Their prairie dresses and eyelet tops are often made with GOTS-certified organic cotton or viscose, and their collections are produced in audited, certified, women-owned factories in India, Peru, and Portugal.

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