While preparing to write about the mutable, ever-evolving and increasingly pressing topic of
“sustainability” in time for Earth Day, we had deep thoughts. Here in the Shopping department, our jobs are to find, test, and buy the best stuff so that our readers can make informed purchase decisions and find the things they want and need. But we also know that over-consumption is bad for the planet. Does that mean... no more shopping?!
We spiraled a little until we stumbled across
Econyl, a manufacturer of recycled nylon used by the likes of Mara Hoffman and Girlfriend Collective. “Our appetite to create new products and buy new products is infinite. The planet’s resources aren’t,” they explain on their website. “But it’s okay because we can have both: new products and a better environment.” They’re of course talking about the ability to turn ocean and landfill waste into new material, but it spoke to us. As lovers and avid consumers of fashion, we’re not going to stop buying clothes altogether. Actually, as the ones wielding the dollars, we should keep shopping; patronizing eco-conscious, socially responsible designs and investing in high-quality pieces that will last.
Another challenge lies in the complexity of defining a “sustainable” brand. Is about using only organic natural fibers, renewable ones like lyocell and modal, or recycled ones, like
Everlane’s ReNew fabric or the aformentioned Econyl? Is it the Fair Trade or B-Corp certified company paying its employees fairly and re-investing in the surrounding community? As eco-journalist Alden Wicker explained right here on Refinery29 last year, “There’s no perfectly sustainable fashion brand out there. It simply doesn’t exist.” Given this, what matters to us is that the fashion company is on the journey, recognizing the need to lessen its environmental impact and taking real steps to make that happen. And, happily, a lot of designers and retailers are on that path.
Bearing all of this in mind, we did what we do best: we looked for the cutest stuff. All of the brands in our round-up are sustainable or socially responsible in some way, in addition to making products that are attractive and functional that we think deserve some space in your closet. Some you might recognize; some are new — there’s an intentional mix of makers you probably already know and should continue to support, and others who are still emerging. So dive in! And if you choose to celebrate Earth Day by not shopping, bookmark this story for tomorrow.
We first discovered Pact while scouring the internet for the
highest-rated thongs. (Just a day in the life here at R29.) We were thrilled to learn about their 100% organic cotton underthings and Fair Trade manufacturing certification — and even more thrilled to see what appears to be the perfect bralette on sale at 30% off in honor of Earth Day. PACT
Pullover Lounge Bralette, $17.5, available at
PACT More Everlane
You (may have) heard it
here first — after five years of customer pleas and two years of engineering, Everlane will launch Tread, an athletic shoe brand on a mission to make “the world’s most sustainable sneakers,” according to CEO Michael Preysman. The sole of the inaugural style, the Trainer, blends natural and recycled rubbers, and leather for the uppers is sourced from an eco-focused tannery certified by the Leather Working Group, an industry environmental watchdog. Set your alarms for April 25, the trainer’s release day; and in the meantime, check out Everlane’s ReNew collection, featuring outerwear made from 100% recycled plastic. (We love their lightweight Anorak for the these tricky transitional temperatures.) Everlane
The ReNew Anorak, $88, available at
Everlane More Story continues Boyish
If you’re reading this, you may already knows the sins of denim production: that it requires — and therefore wastes — a whole lotta water. LA-based jean purveyor Boyish uses 1/3 the typical 1,800 gallons per pair that normal dungaree manufacturing employs. The result? Perfectly laid back pieces that you’ll want to wear all summer long.
The Kirby High Waist Frayed Ankle Straight Leg Jeans, $148, available at
Nordstrom More Eileen Fisher
Our mom’s favorite brand is quickly becoming
our favorite brand — and not just because of its holistic socially and environmentally conscious mission. Eileen Fisher’s quietly elegant, wear-forever pieces — like these nude stacked heels — are a testament to one of the most sustainable things about the company: that they design timeless wardrobe staples that are meant to stay in the rotation for a long time. Eileen Fisher
Petula Washed Leather Slide, $195, available at
Eileen Fisher More Outerknown
Surfer Kelly Slater has been at the helm of this sustainable men’s brand since launching with designer John Moore in 2013, and the pair spun off a much-anticipated
collection for women earlier this year. Both collections are made from 100% “benefit fibers” – organic, recycled, and/or regenerated — and selected styles are Fair Trade certified. We know you’ve been seeing jumpsuits everywhere this spring — if you haven’t pulled the trigger on one yet, consider one that’s consciously made. Outerknown
S. E. A. Suit, $168, available at
Outerknown More Antidote
The newly-launched Miami-based e-tailer specializes in sustainably-minded indie designers, and our editors flock to the curated site for eco-driven products from Carleen, Mara Hoffman, and Veja. One of our favorite features of the online shop is a navigation feature that allows you to browse brands by their ethical qualities, including “Made in USA”, “Fair Trade”, “Recycled”, and “Vegan”. They also just released an R29 Shopping team fave: a trim gingham tote made from recycled tablecloths for a mere $35.
Tote Bag, $35, available at
Antidote+ More Reformation
We probably don’t need to fill you on how environmentally aware your favorite dressmaker is. Every product page on their site features stats on resources saved, and you can go down a serious rabbit hole reading about its tiered ranking system for the impact of its fabrics. They even sell carbon credits for things like flights and (ironically?) weddings. It doesn’t hurt that they basically re-invented the floaty, sexy occasion dress, and continue to deliver spot-on hotness for all of your festive needs.
Bea Skirt , $148, available at
Reformation More Cotopaxi
We challenge you to find a cuter — and more socially responsible — windbreaker moment. Cotopaxi founder Davis Smith grew up in Latin American and named his certified B-Corp after an active volcano in the Andes. 1% percent of profits from the outerwear brand go to their eponymous foundation, which supports companies like the
International Rescue Committee and Escuela Nueva, an organization that operates 86 schools in rural Latin America. Cotopaxi
Teca Half-Zip Windbreaker, $48, available at
Cotopaxi More Warp + Weft
This family-owned business specializes in affordable, size-inclusive denim in an array of hues, and happily, they outfit men, women, and kids in jeans that come in mostly under $100. They also operate a partially solar-powered factory equipped with an in-house water treatment plant, enabling them to recycle some of the water used in creating their irresistibly-colored dungarees.
Warp + Weft
ICN Plus Wide Leg, $98, available at
Warp + Weft More Araks
We’ve lusted over Araks’ luxurious lingerie and sculptural swimwear since we were fashion noobs. The brand has always produced in its hometown in New York City, with an emphasis on supporting women-owned businesses. (While this might not fall under the category of “sustainable," it’s a policy we can certainly get behind.) Currently, 50% of the brand’s swimwear fabrics are made with Econyl, a recycled nylon, and the remainder come from eco-driven suppliers. If you’re eyeing this brilliant colorblocked maillot, grab it now — the Araks site will go dark on April 22 in honor of Earth Day.
Elmar One Piece, $225, available at
Araks More H&M
All eyes are on H&M right now — as one of the biggest clothing retailers in the world, its efforts in sustainability have the potential to be significant. So far, we like what we’re seeing: this season’s
Conscious collection was replete with airy separates in a host of environmentally-friendly fabrics, including (but not limited to) recycled polyester, lyocell, and Piñatex, a leather alternative made from pineapple-leaf fibers. We’ve also been reading about its efforts to test out the secondhand market with an & Other Stories-dedicated shop on the Swedish resale site (and H&M investee) Sellpy. Don’t forget: H&M also offers in-store textile recycling at all of their retail locations. H&M Conscious
Lyocell-blend Dress, $119, available at
H&M More Nisolo
The Nashville-based brand’s super-luxe leather footwear and accessories are Everlane-ian in their simplicity — and in transparency. Head to the
Nisolo website to read about their factories in Peru and Mexico, where employees are paid above the fair trade minimum wage requirement and have access to education opportunities. They also offset carbon emissions through Ecosphere, and they’ll reward you with store credit for recycling your old shoes. We probably would have added these spot-on block heels to our carts anyway, but the brand’s social mission makes the purchase even more positive. Nisolo
Lucia Block Heel Sandal, $148, available at
Nisolo More Girlfriend Collective
Husband and wife Quang and Ellie Dinh famously launched their eco-conscious activewear brand in 2016 by giving away recycled-polyester leggings to anyone who was willing to cover the cost of shipping. They hooked a whole bunch of customers — including us — with their inclusive sizing, top-notch quality, and oversharing about their recycling facilities in Taiwan and socially-conscious factory in Vietnam.
Vine Topanga Bra, $38, available at
Girlfriend Collective More ELV Denim
One way to shop denim sustainably is find a brand that repurposes. London-based ELV Denim (short for East London Vintage, and a nod to where the dungarees are manufactured) is on the pricey side, but we swoon over the brand’s tonal, re-worked styles. Isn’t the investment worthwhile if this is the only pair of jeans you wear for the rest of the summer?
The Twin Boyfriend high-rise straight-leg jeans, $410, available at
Net-A-Porter More Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? Your Sustainable Lingerie Starter-Pack 30 Fashion Brands You Should Know About This Earth Day The Ultimate Guide To Mother's Day Gifts At Every Budget