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We’re in a time when the future of our warming planet is a concern to all of us. How can we slow environmental destruction with what we buy? The answer is conscious consumption: carefully considering what we’re buying and from whom. This is where sustainability comes in, a buzzword that brands of all sorts like to throw around. The key is finding out which are truly sustainable fashion brands and which are merely jumping on the bandwagon to lure you in, with little substance to back their claims up. We’ve reviewed a number of products and selected five of our favorite sustainable brands across different product groups, including beauty, fashion, and accessories. The list is below – but first, a brief explanation of sustainability and its criteria.
What makes a brand sustainable?
From clothing to skincare to watches, there is no shortage of brands seeking environmentally conscious consumers. But how to tell which ones are truly sustainable?
Let’s begin with fashion. Check to see if your favorite sustainable fashion brand is transparent about their business activities. Do they have a section of their website dedicated to their sustainable practices and policies across all aspects of their operations, from production to shipping? Is it easy to find? The ‘factory-to-door’ journey is vitally important. Every step of the way — from whether or not the people manufacturing the products are paid fair wages, to how a piece of clothing is dyed — should be clearly explained.
There are other ways to check sustainability, too. Truly sustainable clothing brands are driven by environmental values (rather than adding them on as an afterthought to chase extra sales). For brands that have sustainability sections on their website, look for independent, third-party assessments of the brand’s production processes and working conditions. This ensures that claims are unbiased and commitments are legitimate.
Review the components your favorite sustainable brands use to make their products. If it’s a sustainable clothing brand, are the materials organic or recycled? For other products, check the components and their sourcing. Durability is important, too. The longer the product lasts, the less frequently it will need to be replaced. This, in turn, reduces landfill and the waste stream. Check that the item is recyclable, too.
Is all of this too much trouble? When the goal is helping to save the planet, it’s worth a little extra effort. To help, we’ve taken a look at a range of sustainable brands for more conscious consumption.
The goal of Los Angeles-based Nation LTD is to become a carbon negative company – one that helps rather than damages the planet – by 2023. Along the way, these minimalist on-trend fashionistas are ticking off the essential credentials of a truly sustainable clothing label, with details all easily available on their website. There’s everything from certification of the factories this young brand uses in Peru by WRAP, Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, to the option of carbon-negative delivery of your chosen pieces. Recycled cotton is used – and Nation LTD has even cut back on the number of samples it sends out to retailers to cut down on waste. No compromise on style, either.
Organic, vegan skincare is the promise of innovative Stockholm beauty brand Estelle & Thild. The name is a clue: they’re the children of founder Pernilla Rönnberg, who knew about the skincare business from the inside as a CEO. She founded Estelle & Thild precisely because she was considering what sort of world her children would grow up in. The offer here is great results using organic ingredients, certified for sustainability by Ecocert, whose stamp of approval is not easily earned. Instead of a conventional skincare regime that may include a large number of chemicals, Estelle & Thild provide what the brand describes as the luxury of a sustainable beauty regime that’s also effective, using their all-organic skin care, body care and makeup products.
Solios is the young Montreal-based watch company with a deceptively simple goal: “to reconcile design, elegance and sustainability”. Founders Samuel Leroux and Alexandre Desabrais are lifelong watch-lovers and their range today is minimalist in concept, so the look will last season after season. There’s a wide selection of solar-powered watches, meaning your consumption of batteries is cut to zero. What’s just as important is that Solios Watches is a certified B Corp, legally obliged to consider the impact of what they’re producing on those who make their watches, on their suppliers, community at large and the environment as a whole. Part of that for Solios is donating a portion of their profits to the Rainforest Trust.
Billy Tannery was set up to use a discarded by-product of the food industry – goat skins – to produce a range of elegantly designed, British made leather bags, wallets and accessories. Tanning leather can have an adverse effect on the environment when harmful chemicals are used, as they so often are. Billy Tannery founders Jack Millington and Rory Harker took over a small farm building in the Midlands to set up a micro-tannery, using traditional methods of vegetable tanning to turn what was in essence a waste product into beautifully textured pieces. They have partnerships with other small British firms and use the expertise of Northampton’s Institute for Creative Leather Technologies to help with their sustainable processes. It’s an inspiring story, and one that’s crafted into every handmade piece that they release.
There’s an idealistic goal behind Brazilian sneaker company Cariuma: nothing less than attempting to “reinvent the sneaker game” as they put it. First off that means their designs are enduring silhouettes, rather than crafted to last just the one season. Durability of sneaker and of its style really is the name of the game here. As they note: “fast fashion really isn’t sustainable”. Cariuma is a certified B Corp, with all of the obligations – on environmental impact and fair working conditions – that implies. It’s in the apparently small things that Cariuma’s difference shines through. The company makes sure that every piece of rubber not used on an outsole is recycled to use on the next pair, and that none of the organic cotton it uses goes to waste. All that, and a real minimalist ethos means this is a sneaker brand without the compromise, of any sort.