Chances are, if you've read The Fashion Law before or come across my musings (read: rantings) on Twitter, you are likely well versed on our rather strong stance here at TFL when it comes fast fashion. As we've told you in the past, fast fashion is cheap for a reason. Fast fashion retailers are often able to sell products at such low prices because: 1) they do not have to employ/pay designers because a majority of their pieces are copies of the original designs of others; 2) they bypass important quality control and manufacturing safety standards because they are costly to implement and monitor (hence, the toxic chemicals in clothes, the frequent employee hospitalizations, and the increasing number of fires and buildings collapsing); and 3) they do not pay their laborers adequate wages.
As a result of continued inquiries, we have a running series of posts outlining some ethically-manufactured “alternatives” to fast fashion and other sweat-shop made clothes (because high fashion brands are not always blame-less either). (Find previous lists here).
While in general, ethically made garments and accessories tend to cost a bit more than their fast fashion alternatives, there are increasingly more brands that are aiming to achieve accessible price points - and we are dedicated to doing endless research to include more and more brands on these lists that are truly affordable (because guess what, $150 for a top is expensive!).
It is also worth noting that sustainability is not just about buying! It also includes holding on to the clothes you already have (regardless of their price points) and taking care of them in order to get the most wears/use out of them. Remember, sustainability is about taking small steps to improve your wardrobe and is not meant to happen overnight. This is a marathon.
Having said that, if you are in the market for some ethically-manufactured garments, the brands listed below engage in original design, local production (many of the brands manufacture locally), responsible selection of raw materials (think: the use of Viscose, which comes from man-made fibers made from renewable plant material, and requires approximately half of the energy than a cotton garment to produce). They focus on creating sustainable garments and accessories with a lower environmental impact, including by minimizing waste by repurposing it to make additional garments, reducing carbon emissions and/or shipping using recycled paper products.
Still yet, many of them engage in careful oversight by working with factories that abide by national labor standards, and in many cases, visit their factories on a regular basis and speaking to factory owners even more frequently.
Check out the list below and remember, shopping responsibly does not mean wearing high fashion; that is just a myth, my friends!
GATHER & SEE | $$
As a pair of fashion lovers, who had shopped tirelessly trawling high streets, markets, and charity shops, Gather & See’s founders, Stephanie Hogg and Alicia Taylor started to think about how disconnected we are from the production process behind the clothes that we buy. So, they started their site, which offers carefully curated collections from the very best in sustainable fashion talent from around the world at a range of different price points. They’re site has been featured in The Telegraph, The Observer, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar – among others – and is one of our favorite recent finds! We have a sneaking suspicion you will love it, as well! (Ps – check out their “Outlet” section for great discounts)
EDITH A. MILLER | $
Inspired by heritage brand Robert P. Miller (and manufactured at the same historic mill in Pennsylvania using American cotton), Nancy Gibson and Jennifer Murray's collection, Edith A. Miller, is a staple among stylists and the fashion set. Their collection consists of a range of super-soft separates in mixed stripes, camo and solids, and has caught the attention of Barneys and J. Crew since its debut in 2010.
COSSAC | $
Designer Agata Natalia Kozak set out to create "timeless, yet trendy garments that are beautiful, yet ethical," and the result is pretty amazing. Their online shop stocks everything from the perfect white tee to minimal, sleek separates. It is definitely worth a visit to this site!
CARRIE PARRY | $$
After studying at Central Saint Martins and working for Jonathan Saunders, Zandra Rhodes, and Elaine Gold, designer Carrie Parry launched her eponymous label, which is founded on beautifully designed garments cut & sewn locally in the USA. According to Parry, the brand is a culmination of her pursuit to integrate her love for textiles, innovative and quality design with her commitment to environmentally conscious and ethical production.
PIMA DOLL | $
NYC-based Ashley Hamedi is the mastermind behind this pima cotton-centric collection that designed in New York and manufactured in Peru. The Pima Doll collection, which consists of meticulously designed, eco-friendly tops, leggings and dresses, puts a fun twist on the cotton basic, treating the fabric in innovative ways. The leftover cuttings of the tees are upcycled into beautiful, one of a kind hand knits.
SHADOWPLAYNYC | $
Parsons grads Ali Bennaim and Ximena Chouza bring the marvels of the universe to hand-crafted, carefully designed garments. Each piece in this unconventional label is digitally printed with real images from nature and space, many from NASA’s Hubble Telescope, which captures vast networks of gas clouds and star clusters thousands of light years away. Based out of Brooklyn, the design duo source and produce almost everything locally.
DOLORES HAZE | $$
Central Saint Martins student-turned-Parsons grad Samantha Giordano's New York-based collection is known for its flirty dress and separates, as well as its hints of grunge, meet kittenish charm and a mix of school uniform prep. Dolores Haze sources their fabrics domestically, and the garments are manufactured by well paid garments workers (think: hourly wages as opposed to pay determined by the number of garments they produce in an hour) in New York's Garment District.
REFORMATION | $$
And last but not least is just about everyone's favorite, Reformation and its "killer clothes that don't kill the environment." Founded by Yael Aflalo, this brand boasts a consistent range of offerings from perfectly washed Levis jeans, matching crop top and skirt sets, alpaca sweaters and even a dressier Weddings collection. Its environmentally friendly impact stems, in part, from its materials. For instance, "The majority of our woven fabric is made of Viscose, which comes from man-made fibers made from renewable plant material. A viscose blouse requires approximately half of the energy than a cotton top to produce." It is not surprising that Alexa Chung, Taylor Swift, Giovanna Battaglia, Jamie King, Rihanna, Karlie Kloss, and so many others are fans.
$ = majority of pieces under $150
$$ = majority of pieces between $150-$400
$$$ = majority of pieces between $400-$750
$$$$ = majority of pieces over $750