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.
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