One of the most impactful decisions you can make regarding your clothes is how you get them. Generally, not buying things is the best thing to do for everyone (except for maybe you). The next best thing is to buy used clothes or get clothes swapped from friends (or nice siblings!). Next is buying your clothing from an environmentally and ethically friendly clothing company. This section tells you how to go about aquiring your clothes in the best way possible.
Where to Shop
Why shopping local is important
For this section, a list would defeat the point. Go out into the community and take a look at your local shop, and share your favorites with your friends. Whenever you can, shop local. Local brands are more likely to be ethical, as well as great for supporting local economies. When items are sold locally, you also reduce transportation costs. Even better, you can know the person who made you stuff! Look for local companies that make their goods in the city they're located in. In the end, you'll have a more unique style, because know one else knows your town quite like you do.
This list is by no means entirely comprehensive. There are always new brands coming up and doing cool stuff, and also brands that do stuff that should get them knocked off this list. The criteria for the companies included come from our research into the companies and seeing if they have sustainable practices in place or in the works—other’s come from other peopl'e’s lists and reports like that of Good on You.
** We have absolutely no way connected to any of these companies.
These are smaller than your Nikes and H&Ms and are great.
Everlane. Modern essentials with a relaxed fit aesthetic.
Organic Basics. The perfect place to find t shirts, base layers, and underwear with eco-friendly fabrics.
Threads 4 Thought. Threads 4 Through creates well designed athletic basics.
Groceries Apparel. Go get some groceries! Groceries makes great trendy basics.
Aeon Row. Aeon Row uses reclaimed fabric to create a few simple, fairly minimalist pieces.
Outerknown. Men’s wear company committed to sustainability and focused on cleaning the oceans through sustainable and recycled materials.
Encircled. B-Corp certified company dedicated to sustainable wardrobe development, multipurpose garments, and sustainable materials.
Want to have your company included on this list? Email us! firstname.lastname@example.org
We here really prefer to shop at smaller brands or brands really dedicated to the "good" side of clothing, but we understand that sometimes you can't (stuff is expensive, and we know the power of brand identity). So here is a list of big companies that either are the least bad, or have good lines that you should seek out when you need an clothing fix.
REI. REI has a commitment to sustainability in their own collection, but just announced new sustainability requirements for their vendor for product coming out in Spring 2020.
Eileen Fisher. EF has been doing some great things since its inception, and is building with a goal of 100% sustainable materials and practices by 2020.
Athleta. Athleta is making great strides making sustainable choices offering Certified Organic cotton, Fair Trade companies, but its parent company Gap, has been historically horrific. Over all, its making great strides. When shopping at Athleta, look for their sustainable pieces
Good Collections within Brands to avoid
Urban Renewal by Urban Outfitters
Buying / Selling Used
We didn't put this one first, although it is the most important! Used is great because it allows you to get new clothing, without calling for the creation of new raw materials. So buy used clothing, and wear them as is, or have them tailored to fit you. Buy used is also a really great way to get a trendy item you want from a brand that isn’t great for the environment or the people that create the garment with a little less guilt. There are many resources online to buy used clothing, as well as used markets in your town. Here are a few ideas:
ThreadUp. Thread up is a great option for higher end pieces. People package their clothes, and they price and resell them, which means that the price isn’t flexible, but it also means it feels a little more like a traditional shopping experience. ThreadUp also filters options well, has great basic photos, most items have listed fabric content, and has a kids and men’s section. If you’re looking for J. Crew, Banana Republic, or really affordable designer options? Check out thread up.
Poshmark. On Poshmark, individuals have online closets to which they post photos of their clothing. People get to price their own pieces, which makes for some price fluctuation between similar items, but you can negotiate price. As individuals post their own items, there is a wide range in item quality, origin, condition, photos provided and information provided. You can comment on items to ask questions before buy, but shop owners don’t always respond. Poshmark has an absolutely massive selection, which is one of its biggest perks; if you’re looking for active wear, on trend items from younger retailers (H&M, Lululemon, ASOS, Free People, Lulu’s…etc)
Flea markets. Flea markets are great ways to find deals and shop sustainably and ethically.
Clothing Swaps with friends
Do your research
We know out list doesn't include every brand out there doing good with clothing. So the best thing that you can do is your research. A simple "Is _____ good for the environment" or "is ____ ethical?" are easy ways to check. See what people are saying, see if they haven any certifications listed, or any news articles about them relating to their ethics and environmentalism. And then vote with your wallet.
Check out Good On You, a website and app that really elaborates on the ethical and environmental impacts of brands so you can make more informed decisions.
Also look at who is a part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. While all the companies on this list aren’t perfect (Aldo, American Eagle, and Uniqulo for example), it does show their willingness to make steps in the right direction.
Really, the best thing you can do (besides buying used) is not buy anything at all. By not buying things, you take yourself out of the whole system. You are not calling for the creation of resources, the need for transportation, or asking people to work to create something for you. By not buying, you have the control.
How do you not buy stuff you might ask? Its a combination of things. The first is make your clothes last longer. This means buy higher quality clothing, and then take care of it and repair it. Secondly, learn to live with fewer articles of clothing. In America particularly, we have a huge market of low quality items that won’t last that long, leading us to be less invested in our clothing. Just as we watch what we put in our bodies, we should look at what we wear on our bodies.
There are so many resources for creating a "Capsule" wardrobe, or a minimalist wardrobe. The biggest thing people get caught on is feeling like they can't be trendy or maintain their style while not having as much clothing. But that's far from true. Check out Encircled's blog here about doing a closet clean out and maintaining your own vibe while living with less.