Sure, everyone knows and loves TOMS for their buy-a-pair-give-a-pair policy, and H&M’s getting a good reaction to its organic cotton line, but where else can you buy fashion fairly? The crunchy stuff abounds, but that appeals to a niche market, at best (sorry, hippies). As an alternative, we’re enamored of a few small lines making ethical, stylish stuff, along with some bigger players introducing sustainable micro-collections. Here are the best ones:
1. Industry Of All Nations: That hip, esoteric name says it all. The two-year-old Los Angeles-based men’s and women’s line has focused on using eco-friendly practices since launching. IOAN just released the perfect, super-soft tee for women, made from their own “clean cotton.” The all-organic tees are dyed without petrochemicals, and the process represents no threat to soil or waterways. Even the plants used in the dyes are native to or naturalized in the area of Southeast Asia where the plant is housed.
2. IOU Project: We’ve been tracking the IOU Project since their launch last spring. The company works with traditional Indian artisan weavers and Italian craftsmen to bypass machinery to create all their men’s and women’s clothes. Besides employing various highly skilled yet dying breeds, the company lets regular people take control of the one-of-a-kind goods to host “trunk shows,” earning 20% of the profits.
3. Reclaim to Wear by Topshop: The first collection launched this month, so Topshop’s initial stab at ethical production hasn’t yet garnered the press or widespread awareness of, say, H&M’s organic initiative. That said, the collaboration with Reclaim to Wear (or RTW — get it?!) comes from an equally good place, creating pieces made entirely from leftovers of previous collections.
4. Edun: Okay, so Ali Hewson and Bono’s ethical, stylish clothing company isn’t much of a secret, but it deserves to be on this list nonetheless. By focusing production in sub-Saharan Africa, the label encourages trade in the region while holding its factories there to a high standard of conduct.
5. Lemlem: Lemlem, the brainchild of supermodel Liya Kebede, also looks to traditional African weavers for inspiration and the company’s final product. Kebede, originally from Ethiopia, founded the label after learning that her country’s weavers were losing their jobs due to a declining demand for their fabrics.
6. People Tree: Arguably one of the first labels to marry fashion and sustainability, the British company has predicated itself on that concept since its founding in 2001. With numerous awards to its name and the occasional celebrity representation (Emma Watson designed a capsule collection for the brand), People Tree is a model for all the ethical fashion that’s followed it.