There once was a time when eco-friendly companies were hard to come by, but thankfully, we've seen an increase in ethical clothing options that are beneficial to the environment and the workers who make them! Here are 11 brands making waves in the realm of high-end, ethical fashion, that prove you don't have to compromise your morals for your love of style.
Established in 2004 by brothers Raan and Shea Parton, Apolis believes in inspiring social change while empowering communities, which really shouldn't come as too much of a surprise since the name itself translates to "Global Citizen." Their approach to worldwide change starts with the people, where local manufacturing of their goods and safe practice are of the highest priorities.
In the three short years they've been active, Zady has made a name for itself as the "Whole Foods" of fashion. Design duo, Soraya Darabi and Maxine Bedat started Zady out of New York with a shared desire to inspire change within the fashion industry. Zady is all about supply chain transparency, showcasing its emphasis on ethical consumerism. By working directly with the workers at the helm of each production stage -- farmers, sewers and all those in between -- Zady is able to ensure the highest quality and care of each garment. They are constantly looking to improve each stage of the supply chain from pesticide use and dye composition, to energy efficiency.
AG Jeans believe social responsibility is important at all levels. They enforce ethical labour and aim to reduce their environmental impact, without compromising the quality of their clothing. In order to maintain complete control over the production process, AG Jeans built their own vertically integrated facilities -- and know their product from the ground up! As for reducing their carbon footprint, they prioritize water consumption and utilize Ozone Technology, which reduces their water consumption by half, saving millions of gallons of water. They also use eco-friendly materials and reuse excess scraps from their garments to keep waste to a minimum. The company provides their supply chain employees and management staff with training on human trafficking and slavery, which ensures they're equipped with the knowledge to ethically source their materials.
Nau takes a modern approach to design while seeking to leave minimal imprints on the environment. Founded in 2007, Nau partners with organizations they believe fit the same ideals, taking careful consideration into how they source and develop their line and, in doing so, have created partnerships all over the globe, including Canada, China, Thailand, Turkey and more. While Nau recognizes that every part of the production is vitally important for creating a cleaner Earth, they also believe that sustainable means more than just creating a product that lasts; it's about the people making and wearing them, too. Nau donates 2 per cent of its sales to partners worldwide bringing environmental and economic change to communities, as well as improving human health. Some of their partners include The Conservation Alliance, Ecotrust and MercyCorps.
Matt & Nat is a Montreal-based brand inspired by nature. This vegan-friendly line does not use leather or any other animal-based materials, and they only work with factories that qualify for the SA800 standard certification, which is the social standard for decent workplaces set by Social Accountability International. In 2007, Matt & Nat switched to using only linens made from 100 per cent recyclable plastic, and they are always experimenting with other green materials in an effort to improve and innovate.
This Brooklyn-based shoe company is the brainchild of artists, Carla Venticinque-Osborn and Aaron Osborn. Artisan inspired, Osborn Shoes began as a community development project in 2009. Their humble beginnings started in Guatemala with only one cobbler and two sewers, but quickly grew to boast 30 employees composing custom weaves designed by expert weavers. Their closely-monitored production line sources American thrift stores and eco-Latin American materials to create their unique shoes, while empowering the communities in which they're manufactured, by ensuring each pair is made with fair-trade standards in mind. Osborn Shoes regularly strives to be leading innovators in their field by designing small batches each year to steadily grow their collection, without compromising their ethics.
Spratters & Jayne is a New York-based knit accessories line for men and women. Founded in 2009, this human rights-focused brand creates hand crafted scarves, hats, gloves and more out of wool, alpaca and acrylic blends. Spratters & Jayne is committed to supporting the rights of women, encouraging education and reducing energy consumption and waste, both in the U.S. and abroad. Founder Rachel Warner is driven by her desire to instill positive change in the world, all while designing beautiful and ethically-sourced pieces.
This eco-jewelry collection is the brainchild of Susan Crow, a woman with a passion for sustainable jewels for the conscientious person. East Fourth Street sources Fairmined gold and silver as licensed by the Alliance For Responsible Mining, and creates all of her products in a modest, environmentally-friendly Minnesota studio. The company hopes to help advance the importance of the global impacts of mining, as well as the production in the jewelry industry as a whole. Crowis a recognized leader in sustainable design and is currently a member of the Ethical Fashion Forum, The Fellowship 500, Ethical Metalsmiths and Fair Action Jewelry.
Behno calls itself an advanced contemporary womenswear line that is designed in New York City, but manufactured exclusively in India. Behno aims to bring awareness to the craft and character of "made in India," and sets a new standard for Indian factory manufacturing that improves the quality of life and safety of women working in the trade. It has partnered with Muni Seva Ashram (MSA), a veteran in the nonprofit industry, and together, they built an ethical garment factory called, MSA Ethos. With this new partnership, Behno is able to implement the Behno standard, which encompasses health, garment worker mobility, family planning, women's rights, worker satisfaction and benefits, and eco-consciousness.
Stella McCartney will be the first woman to tell you she designs her clothes to be sustainable and eco-friendly, as the last thing she wants is for any of her garments to end up in a landfill polluting our earth. A vegetarian since the age of four, McCartney grew up on an organic farm, and as a result of her upbringing, does not use any leather or fur in her collections. To take things a step further, all of McCartney's U.K. offices, stores and studios are powered by wind energy, and 45 per cent of her stores abroad use 100 per cent renewable energy. McCartney is wholly transparent about her business practices, and between her clothing line and work with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), she aims to change perceptions of eco-fashion, while creating a greener earth.
Edun is a fashion brand based in New York City that was founded in 2005 by Ali Hewson and her husband (you may have heard of him, U2's Bono). Edun began as a company designed not only to create sustainable fashion showcasing the artisan works of the people of Africa, but also to promote trade within the continent. All of Edun's production happens in the continent. In 2009, Edun partnered with the Invisible Children Society to form Conservation Cotton Initiative Uganda (CCIO), which aims to support the thousands of farmers that were displaced by the civil war in Uganda.
By Jaimee Jacobczak for VULKAN Magazine