First things first: you don’t buy sustainability. Aditi Mayer, a journalist and sustainable fashion honey we adore, put it super well, “Conscious consumerism is important, but you don’t have to buy sustainability, it’s a lifestyle.”
Sustainability is not just about the choices we make about the products we buy, but also how we engage with consumer capitalism overall.
Choosing sustainably-made pieces when you actually need something is a good thing, but throwing your entire wardrobe out and replacing it with new buys from the below brands is decidedly not. Our mantra? Less but better.
The world of sustainable and ethical fashion can be a confusing, complicated and sometimes very beige and hemp-focussed place. We’ve talked about how nailing down what ‘sustainable’ even means can be difficult in our sustainable shopping guide, but nevertheless we want to showcase some brands that are making an effort, and also making clothing you, y’know, actually want to wear.
Each of these brands is practising sustainability in different ways, whether that’s avoiding animal products, using deadstock or recycled fabrics, or ensuring transparent supply chains and fair labour practises. What they have in common? Making us feel slightly better about having them in our wardrobes.
Aulieude is a Melbourne-based label making absolutely dreamy clothing from sustainable fabrics. Think relaxed mid-length dresses, excellent crop tops with the right amount of ruffle and minidresses that can be worn in multiple ways. We love a multifunc piece.
Collections have featured linen (uses far less water than cotton to produce), Tencel (derived from sustainable wood sources) and Cupro Jersey (made from regenerated cotton fibres). They’re also a vegan and plastic-free brand—all Aulieude packaging, tags and garments are 100% biodegradable and recyclable.
Recycled rubber soles, organic cotton and weave uppers and a recycled eco-lite footbed? Be still my beating heart.
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly socially responsible alternative to your beloved Vans or Converse, look no further than Good News. The company not only uses environmentally and socially progressive materials, but also donate deadstock and shoes that cannot be sold to the homeless and refugees in need. Plus the designs and colourways are extremely fashion-forward. Think of these as an upgrade, not just an alternative.
Created by Liandra Gaykamangu, a Yolngu woman from North-East Arnhem Land, Liarnra Swim is deadly swimwear label that’s not only an excellent choice for supporting an Indigenous business but also boasts some excellent sustainability creds.
The business has evolved to feature 100% biodegradable packaging, newer swim styles are made from recycled plastics, and their production is based in Bali under ethical working conditions. The designs, which are really cute, are also named after inspirational Indigenous women. Hell yeah.
It almost feels redundant mentioning Ref in a sustainability fashion article. But we like their clothes, so we’re going to do it anyway. Reformation makes stunning dresses, denim and now *shoes* too. RIP my wallet, I guess. In producing these covetable clothes, Reformation commits to using deadstock fabrics, more sustainable materials and processes that minimise chemical and water use.
Ref clothes do come at a slightly higher cost, and accessibility to sustainable options is something that needs to be considered. Shout-outs to our fave Jia Tolentino, who mused over the cult-fave brand in her piece for The New Yorker, “Reformation logic: if buying those four pieces would have saved thousands of gallons of water, then, by declining to buy them, I had put six hundred and two dollars in the bank.” Un-RIP my wallet?
Let’s say you’re not a Ref gal (or a Ref boy, or a Ref-NB cutie). Kirrin Finch is the sustainable fashion world’s answer for those of us who simply don’t want to rock a wrap dress. The brand uses sustainable and natural material to make menswear-inspired womenswear (think excellent blazers, button-ups and pants). They’re designed to fit a range of female and non-binary bodies and support LGBTQIA+ organisations through donations and events. We have no choice but to stan.
Hara The Label
Absolute legend Allie Cameron launched the now cult-fave Hara The Label after seeing first-hand the havoc that the fashion industry is wreaking on the planet during a trip to India. particularly the chemical runoff and plastic use.
Determined to make a solution instead of adding to the problem, Hara The Label was born. The excellent underwear and matching sets are all naturally dyed, cut, sewn, packaged and shipped in Melbourne, Australia, so you can feel good about avoiding international air freight too!
The sustainability fashion gods were really smiling down on us when Everlane began shipping to Australia. A v established player in the sustainable and ethical fashion world, Everlane wooed us first with their silk shirts, but the brand is also now killing it with high-quality denim, cashmere and wool pieces, all made with an ethos of sustainability in mind.
They’re also committed to radical transparency: have a dig through their website and you’ll find a wealth of information about their factories including video tours. Big #WhoMadeMyClothes mood.
When it comes to jeans, one of the best choices is vintage and secondhand denim, but if you’re still in the process of hunting it down, check out Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA)-accredited label Denim Smith.
Created by Vinh Le and Leonie Rutherford, together the two have 40 years of experience in the denim industry. Suffice to say, it’s good shit. You can even visit their showroom and factory in Brunswick East to see your jeans being made. Knowledge is power.
For those who don’t know, denim is a thirsty business—3,781 goes into making just one pair of Levi 501s, to give you an idea—but if you still want to nail that thirst trap pic of your butt, can we suggested clothing it in jeans that are kind to the planet?
Enter Boyish Jeans, your cool-gal denim brand that’s also trying to keep the planet cool. They use about a third of the water normally required to make a pair of jeans and have you covered for everything denim. No, quite literally. Their coveralls are very good. Most pieces are under $200 too, so while not cheap-cheap, they’re classic staples that will end up with a really decent cost-per-wear. And… make your butt look very good. Obviously.
Cool gal favourite Paloma Wool, of course, had to be on this list. Hitting the sweet spot between graphic design, art and photography the brand is a project by Paloma Lanna, whose aesthetic informs each piece. The brand values are also something we can get behind: Paloma Wool focuses on transparency when it comes to their manufacturing and all pieces are made in Barcelona.
A socially responsible and sustainability trailblazer, Patagonia has been committed to making great things that are kinder to people and the planet well before Hydro Flasks were a must-have accessory. Patagonia has built a tonne of sustainable and ethical practices into the business across elements from textile mills to farms to factories.
Oh yeah, their clothes are also extremely chill and they have one of the best logo designs in the biz. We stan a B Corp in this house.
If you’re looking for a clean white sneaker with a enviro-creds, it’s hard to go past French brand Veja. It’s also hard to go past Veja if you’re looking for a new statement sneaker, tbh. [link to Jamie’s piece]
Different models feature different environmentally conscious materials like recycled materials and wild rubber and organic cotton, and they’re made in Brazil where many of the aforementioned materials are locally sourced.
House of Sunny
East London-based label House of Sunny makes the kind of clothing you want to wear right now, but also can imagine wearing forever. From excellent flares in minty corduroy to amazing coats, all their products are made in small sustainable runs in two seasonal collections per year.
Slower fashion means more time for sourcing sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods. They also don’t use fur, leather, skins or silk and the wool they use is from producers with good animal husbandry.
Does anyone else have the image of Egyptian cotton as very decadent in their minds? It just sounds so exxy and regal. Unfortunately, since 2001, there’s been a 95% decline in demand as big corporations have chosen cheaper options.
Kotn is a sustainable fashion brand that’s working to rebuild the Egyptian cotton industry from the inside. The Certified B Corp works directly with farming families in Egypt and also funds schools for their farmer’s children. Love. It. What we also love? The quality garms. Kotn nails it with perfect cuts with just the right amount of subtle design details.
Lead image via @reformation.