Sustainable fashion, also called eco fashion, is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.
(Definition taken from Wikipedia)
I used to think that the term sustainable fashion was merely a buzz phrase that brands used to lure in ethically minded consumers who wanted to shop guilt free. Many corporations have been *greenwashing their brands for years so I had a right to be cynical. Eventually I started to do some research on the subject and I was happy to find out that there were in fact, some brands out there that truly believed in sustainability and practiced what they preached.
One thing I noticed was that some of these brands focused solely on the environmental aspect of sustainability. I wanted to find companies that were not only using business practices that were kind to the environment but to garment workers as well. Those were difficult to find and few and far in between until about three years ago. Nowadays it seems that more and more environmentally conscious brands are popping up all the time (In both online and brick an mortar form) that are also striving to and succeeding at treating workers kindly and paying them a living wage.
This development may be partially due to the headline making tragedy that occurred in India on April 24th, 2013. On that date in Bangladesh, Rana Plaza collapsed (a building that housed various garment factories and other businesses) and more than 1100 garment workers were murdered, thousands of others were injured. I use the word murder, rather than killed because murder charges were brought against the people connected with the building collapse due to their negligence and abuse of human rights.
I cannot say for certain that the Rana Plaza Collapse is the only reason sustainable brands are being more conscious about garment workers’ rights but it was definitely a watershed moment in the collective consciousness of the fashion industry.
Below is a list of five brands that I feel are doing sustainable fashion the right way and not just cherry picking aspects of sustainability that are convenient for them. If you have read this blog before then you know I am a huge fan of vintage clothing that takes inspiration from the styles of the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. For this reason I picked out items from each brand that have that specific vibe and added vintage photos of similar looks. All of the corresponding websites will be linked at the end of the post.
PHOTO VIA VETTA’S INSTAGRAM I LOVE THE DIVERSITY IN MODELS THEY USED HERE
TEENAGE GIRLS IN A 1947 CATALOG MODELING SIMILAR JUMPSUITS
Vetta not only takes great pains to be eco-friendly AND socially responsible but they sell 5 piece mini capsule collections that can be mixed and matched to create a month’s worth of outfits! This is perfect for people that are on a budget but do not want to sacrifice quality or style. Another awesome fact about Vetta is that one of the factories that they use gets 70% of it’s energy from solar power.
AN UPDATED VERSION OF THE CLASSIC MIDCENTURY PLAYSUIT – PHOTO VIA VETTA’S INSTAGRAM
MCCALL PATTERN OF VINTAGE PLAYSUITS
LIFE AFTER DEATH DENIM
PHOTO VIA LIFE AFTER DEATH DENIM
Mary Bruno is a veteran of the garment industry who specialized in the design, production and marketing of denim for many years. She started Life After Death Denim after being fed up with the lip service many brands would give regarding sustainability. She felt that sustainability has to be the driving force of the brand not just a small part of it. Life after death denim is committed to using recycled fabrics and trim as well as chemical free washing and reduced water waste. In February of 2016,twenty garment workers in Cambodia fainted all within minutes of each other due to the chemicals being used in the production process. The fact that Life After Death Denim is vigilant about omitting harmful chemicals from the production process is a hallmark of their sustainable practices.
ACTRESS ALI MCGRAW IN A SIMILAR LOOK
Pictured above are Martina Zeta and Martha Hernández, they are artisans from a group of indigenous people called the Triqui that reside in Oaxaca, Mexico and some surrounding areas. The sign reads “I made your clothes”. The photo is from Ethnikka Mexico’s Instagram account.
PHOTO VIA ETHNIKKA MX’S INSTAGRAM
Ethnikka Mx sells traditional indigenous garb made by artisans of various indigenous communities in Mexico. All of the embroidery and the fabrics are handmade using ancestral techniques. They ship worldwide and offer free shipping within Mexico. A quick browse through their Instagram account will reveal that they really pride themselves on being purveyors of slow fashion. I was unable to find a website for them (I found one with a similar name but I did not see the same products) so I assume they do all of their transactions via Instagram Direct Messaging.
DOLORES DEL RIO, ACTRESS FROM THE GOLDEN AGE OF MEXICAN CINEMA, WEARS A TRADITIONAL EMBROIDERED BLOUSE.
EUFROSINA CRUZ, TRAILBLAZING WOMAN”S RIGHTS ACTIVIST FROM OAXACA WEARING BEAUTIFUL TRADITIONAL EMBROIDERED GARB
This Amour Vert jumpsuit is made of Tencel (fabric made from wood pulp using recyclable solvents) which is sustainable, shrinks less, wrinkles less and collects less odor and bacteria so you don’t have to wash it as much. Amour Vert partners with American Forest in a program where they plant a tree for every t-shirt they sell. They have also supported 21 reforestation projects thus far, 97% of their product is made within a few miles of their San Francisco office and they use non-toxic dyes in the production process. They also make a point of visiting the factories often to ensure the workers are being treated well and being paid fair wages.
FACTORY WORKER DURING WORLD WAR II IN A SIMILAR LOOK
VINTAGE PATTERN OF 1940’s OVERALLS
THIS SPIN ON THE SAME LOOK PAIRS THE JUMPSUIT WITH A GORGEOUS RED GINGHAM BLOUSE, RED EARRINGS, BUMPER BANGS AND WINGTIPS
CLASSIC WRAP DRESS FROM THE ELEGANTEES COLLECTION
Elegantees was was founded in New York and used to give a portion of their profits to organizations that were helping victims of human trafficking. Now they have moved beyond this model and have a sewing center in Nepal that employs women who have been rescued from human trafficking. These women are paid a fair wage (more than 2-3x the local minimum wage which is enough to live on) and work in fair living conditions. They do not live at the sewing center as indentured servants but rather commute from their own homes. As far as the environmental impact of the production process is concerned, I did not find enough information on that. I read that they use organic cotton but this is a bit controversial in my eyes. Organic cotton is grown without harmful chemicals but it needs quite a bit of water to be grown, same as non-organic cotton. Cotton in general is jut too water intensive in my eyes but I decided to include Elegantees on the list because human trafficking is such a huge problem that so few people are aware of or apathetic to that I really felt that their efforts to rescue (they partner with a non-profit that takes women out of the hands of human traffickers) and employ women who have been through this horrifying reality really needed to be praised and news of their existence is worthy of being disseminated.
BETTIE PAGE THE QUEEN OF PINUP IN A SIMILAR DRESS
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LIFE AFTER DEATH DENIM
*Greenwashing: disinformation spread by an organization or corporation with the intent of presenting an environmentally responsible public image.