[Disclaimer: Having the financial stability to invest in pricey or luxury clothing and other goods is a privilege! Only do what you can.]
As we move fully into October and all the spooky stuff, we also say goodbye to Fashion Week until February 2020. Some things that have been on my mind while watching highlights of the shows are sustainable fashion, small-businesses and handmade goods. For obvious reasons, sustainable fashion is becoming more and more of a priority for consumers.
A big misconception about small businesses and sustainable fashion is that they're not worth the price. But something that many people forget is that clothing from these businesses is often designed, created and shipped right here in America, sometimes with just one person who has only two hands, or possibly a very small team of people. Sometimes a big team, but the products are not outsourced in another country to cut labor costs, and they typically are traveling less distance than, say, your cute tees from Nasty Gal (which is UK-based and receives their products from places like Taiwan and China). Did you know that aviation accounts for 2 percent of global greenhouse emissions? That's about 860 million metric tons a year of CO2 for air travel alone. And that number is climbing.
Another great thing to remember is that usually, clothing purchased from a small or sustainable business is an investment. It isn't meant to be cheap, it's meant to last a long, long time. Jeans from Everlane, for example, will likely last much longer than your jeans from American Eagle, which are outsourced to countries like China, India and Vietnam. In 2018, the United Nations research about climate change reported that about 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions harming our planet are due to the fashion industry. It also uses around 20 percent of our world's freshwater.
The report states that "To make just one pair of denim jeans, 10,000 liters of water is required to just grow the one kilo of cotton needed for the pair of jeans. In comparison, one person would take 10 years to drink 10,000 liters of water."
With all that said, if you're looking to make your own consumer footprint a little lighter, search no further. Here are 6 sustainable brands to shop without breaking the bank.
Hey Mavens! is a small business based in Nashville, TN where creator Annika Chaloff designs and sews all of her products by hand in her home studio. She specializes in made-to-order body neutral lingerie, swim and other fancy bits, offers custom sizing and tweaks on nearly all of her products (the ultimate size inclusivity!), and has a super fun subscription service at a lower price than her other pieces. There's even one gorgeous blue velvet fabric that she paints constellations on by hand for matching lingerie sets. Yeah, she's awesome. Check out her Halloween-themed collection for bats, cats and candy corn embellished bits!
NooWorks is a woman-owned and operated clothing business that collaborates with women artists to turn their textiles into cool pieces! Most textiles are limited run, but they've restocked some of the more popular ones pretty consistently. They're super fun and unique, and support artists of all kinds. If you're looking for something that will never be found in another store ever, look no further. All products are made in California, and the fabrics and materials are also made right here in America. They offer sizes up to 3X.
Everlane is one of the more affordable, mid-budget brands that offers clothing for men and women. They have everything from rigid denim, stretch denim, ReCashmere (website description reads: "the ReCashmere Vintage Crew is made from premium Italian yarn that's been recycled for 50 percent less impact—that means it's just as soft and beautiful as our 100 percent Grade-A cashmere but with half the carbon footprint"), and even sneakers which are 100 percent carbon neutral (that means they do not contribute to or require carbon emissions to be created!).
One of their newest styles of jeans, the Curvy Authentic Stretch High-Rise, is only $68. That's in the same ballpark as a pair from American Eagle. They also offer a "Choose What You Pay" option for their overstock, and are completely dedicated to what they call "radical transparency." My only gripe? They don't go over a size XL/14 in a majority of their woman-focused items.
Athletic wear for all sizes up to 6XL. Lots of cool colors and they make their clothes out of recycled, post-consumer water bottles! They also have a special pink tee available this month for Breast Cancer Awareness month, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The tee uses almost 700 fewer gallons of water than a traditional cotton tee. Their sports bras and compression leggings run between $38-$68 on average.
Pact is another very-budget-friendly brand for lots of different shoppers. Their prices are about the same as you'd find in the mall or Target, and they offer a wide variety of items from basics to nicer statement pieces. Definitely more focused on leisure than Everlane, but just as dedicated to simplicity and quality. They've been open about acknowledging they must expand their size range and I believe it's in the process, but for now, there's not much above XL.
They are committed to fair-trade, ethical business practices, and minimizing the carbon footprint of fashion. They are unique in that they offer not only men and women's clothing, but clothing for babies and children, and house linens. Their products are made with organic, sustainably-sourced cotton (without fertilizers and harmful chemicals) and their team of designers is based out of Colorado.
Kirrin Finch is a pretty unique brand (and they have a fantastic story behind their name - check out their site for details!). They specialize in androgynous, menswear-inspired pieces for female and non-binary bodies. The founders were frustrated with the options of frilly women's clothing or ill-fitting men's clothing, so they created their own. They're on the pricier side, but not many (or any?) brands are doing quite what they are. The quality, attention to detail, and intention behind the entire operation justify the higher price range, in my opinion. They're committed to sustainability, and all of their products are made in NYC. They offer sizes up to size 24.