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I’ll admit that when I was in high school applying to fashion colleges, I didn’t connect the dots between the fashion industry and environmental sustainability. Like most people, my go-to stores for new clothes back in the day were fast-fashion spots like H&M, Forever 21, Zara, etc., without even understanding what fast-fashion truly meant. When I went on to study fashion in college, I learned so much about the life cycle of clothing and trends. From raw materials to the bitter end of markups and clearance, I realized most clothes either end up in your closet or in a landfill. More than 15 million tons every year, to be exact.

Sustainability can be applied in every stage of this life cycle whether it’s in materials and quality, labor and ethics, or recycling and waste. More consumers are demanding sustainable options and transparency about factory and labor conditions. Similar to the food industry, they want to know what went into producing their garments and accessories. As this demand grows, fashion brands have a responsibility to answer what role they want to play in sustainability.

Some brands are fully committed and want to be known as a completely sustainable brand. Some are transparent about labor conditions, but may still use new or imported materials. And some are just in limbo saying, “we’re working on it, we promise.”

If you need an intro to your new sus style, I’ve compiled a list of brands with various levels of sustainable efforts.

sus level – born to sus

These are brands that have sustainability in their mission statement. Most of them are Certified B Corporations, which means they’ve gone through the tough process and assessments of meeting social and environmental performance standards.

Reformation
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Category: Fun and trendy women’s apparel
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., carbon footprint report for each garment, ethical and green labor conditions, in-store recycling program, recyclable and reusable packaging, local sourcing and recycled materials, responsible supply chain and production, employee community service

Patagonia
sus - fashion - patagonia mens
Category: Outdoor Women and Men’s clothing
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., company Activism, ethical labor conditions, natural and recycled materials, responsible supply chain and production, in-store reuse and recycling program, employee community service

Eileen Fisher
sus - fashion - eileen fisher
Category: Women’s apparel and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., company Activism, ethical labor conditions, natural and recycled materials, responsible supply chain and production, in-store recycling, program employee community service

Threads 4 Thought
sus - fashion - threads4thought
Category: Women’s and Men’s apparel, Women’s active wear and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., responsible supply chain and production, organic and recycled materials,

Stella McCartney 
sus - fashion - stella
Category: Women’s and Men’s apparel, accessories, and shoes
Sustainable Practices: Animal-free, responsible supply chain and production, recyclable packaging, eco-friendly office and stores

sus level – design over everything

These are brands that value great design and with that comes a transparent supply model with ethical labor conditions.

Hanky Panky
sus - fashion - hankypanky
Category: Lingerie and sleepwear
Sustainable Practices: Made in USA, ethical labor conditions

Everlane
sus - fashion - everlane
Category: Women’s and Men’s basic/staple apparel, shoes, and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Transparent pricing, ethical labor conditions

Nisolo
sus - fashion - nisolo
Category: Women’s and Men’s shoes and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Responsible supply chain and production, ethical labor conditions

sus level – working on it

These are brands that aren’t marketed as sustainable, but still believe in corporate social responsibility and have programs that give back to the community and environment.

Madewell
sus - fashion - madewell
Category: Women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Improving responsible sourcing, supply chain, and production, denim recycling*, and beach cleanups
*You get $20 off your next pair of jeans when you bring in an old one to recycle

& Other Stories
sus - fashion - otherstories
Category: Women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories
Sustainable Practices: In-store textile recycling*
*You get 10% off your next purchase when you bring in a bag of old textiles.

I’m going to try to end each post with a challenge for you lovely readers. This post’s challenge is to look through your closet and research the brands you normally wear. What are their sustainable practices? Do they have a socially responsible page on their website? Doing your research is a good way to start being more mindful about your shopping habits!

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