What does sustainability mean and why is everything “sustainable” so expensive? To sustain something means to support it. In the fashion industry, sustainability often refers to supporting the environment and those making clothing.
According to the UN, 10,000 liters of water are required to produce enough cotton to make a single pair of jeans. This is equivalent to the amount of water one person drinks over the span of ten years. However, those working in dangerous and hot sweatshops would probably need to hydrate more.
Although it may seem convenient and cheaper to purchase clothing from Forever 21 or Shein, this instant gratification leads to long-term deterioration of our planet and the health of those crafting your clothes. It’s true, at times sustainable clothing can be more expensive compared to fast fashion brands. However, sustainability also means consciously shopping by purchasing fewer items of higher quality that you love, rather than buying an abundance of items that are “just okay” because of a BOGO sale.
With this information in mind, here are 7 stylish brands that will have you rethinking sustainable clothing brands’ notoriously high prices.
Photo credit: chnge.com
CHNGE is a gender-free clothing brand committed to sustainable and ethical practices. The brands’ graphic tees, sweatpants, and sweatshirts advocate for topics including self-love and growth, women's rights, climate change, and an end to discrimination. Their clothing is produced in a Fairtrade Factory in Tirupur, India, where workers receive a living wage while working in a safe environment. Overtime is voluntary and workers will receive double their hourly wage.
CHNGE is also committed to combating the fashion industry's vast amount of carbon emissions by offsetting 48.5 lbs of CO2 for every shirt produced. This is equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted from their supply chain, along with consumers' first 50 washes and dries. Urban Outfitters, a leading brand in fast fashion, is known for their Project Social T Skateboard Skeletons Tee, which is $39. This is nearly identical to the price of CHNGE’s Happy Loved Pieced graphic tee, priced at $35.
Photo credit: nu-in.com
Started in 2019, this primarily women’s clothing brand features a wide range of pieces, including activewear, denim, dresses, skirts, and blouses. Nu-in promotes conscious fashion, which they believe to be the cure to decades of fast fashion. Rather than constantly purchasing new clothes to keep up with each season's trends, Nu-in designs their high quality clothing to encourage consumers to invest in fewer, but timeless pieces.
Nu-in consciously chooses materials that promote water conservation and better livelihoods for those producing the material. While water-dependent regular cotton uses toxic pesticides that harm those manning the crops, organic cotton is toxin free and uses 88% less water. Nu-in also uses recycled polyester, made from melting and spinning used plastic, as well as seaqual, a fiber crafted from ocean waste.
Photo credit: kotn.com
Kotn’s apparel consists of minimalist and high-quality pieces for men and women, created with the philosophy that less is more. Sourced from ethical cotton farms in Egypt, their natural fibers are crafted into clothing with limited waste, recycled water, non-toxic certified dyes, and plastic-free packaging.
In partnership with a local nonprofit, Kotn has created the ABC’s Project to ensure that children in Egypt’s farming community have access to a high quality education. A portion of every Kotn purchase is reinvested to fund and build schools in the Nile Delta and Faiyum, Egypt. The brand is also a strong activist for gender equality, empowering girls by implementing a 2:1 girl to boy student ratio in the schools.
Photo credit: wearpact.com
Built on the mission to create “Earth’s favorite clothing company,” Pact is a brand that features kids', baby's, men's, and women's clothing, along with bedding and bath goods. Their products are made in Fair Trade Certified factories, marking their commitment to protecting the environment and providing their employees with sustainable wages and safe working conditions.
Pact has also partnered with Give Back Box to help non-profits. Customers can pack any gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories into a cardboard box and ship it for free. The clothing will be sold by the program’s participating charities, who will use the revenue to fund community-based programs. Customers are also reducing their carbon footprint by reusing an old box.
Tentree is a men's and women's clothing brand committed to environmental sustainability. Along with pledging to plant ten trees for every purchase, their Climate+ program makes it easy for people to offset their carbon emissions created by their lifestyle. You can subscribe to one of their various subscriptions, including the Individual or Family Package, Long Showers, Food Delivery, and Binge Watching, where Tentree will plant the amount of trees required to offset the carbon emitted. Subscribers can register their trees to track their growth as well as view Tentree's blog for updated photos of the planting sites. Planting sites include Kaffrine, Senegal, Biak, Indonesia, Mahabana, Madagascar, and Abra Malaga, Peru.
Photo credit: nudiejeans.com
Nudie Jeans was built on the company's passion for dry denim- rarely seen in the fashion industry nowadays. Rather than purchasing a pair of prewashed and faded jeans that are bought looking worn in, Nudie Jeans are untreated, preserving the denim’s dark indigo color. This means that no two pairs of Nudie Jeans are the same. Throughout the break-in period (6 months of constant use without laundering), the untreated jeans will uniquely crease, fade, and fold based on the wearer's lifestyle.
Nudie Jeans is committed to providing fair working conditions for their employees through every step of the production process. As a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, the third party non-profit performs its annual Brand Performance Check on Nudie Jeans to consistently ensure and progress the brand's commitment to fair working conditions. In line with the brand's commitment to transparency, these evaluations are available to the public online.
Photo credit: girlfriend.com
Girlfriend Collective is a women’s activewear brand whose values center around transparency and environmental support. Their compressive leggings and bras are made from post-consumer plastic water bottles and the brand’s tees and tanks are constructed with cupro, a fiber created from waste from the cotton industry.
After using toxic dyes and chemicals, many fast-fashion facilities dispose of their wastewater in streams and rivers. This method harms the environment as well as the people and crops who rely on the water source. In contrast, Girlfriend Collective uses eco-friendly dyes and cleans their wastewater before releasing it. For comparison, the brand's bestselling Compressive High-Rise Legging is $78, while Lululemon’s Align High-Rise Pant ranges from $98-$118.
As active consumers in the fashion industry, we have the power to influence how companies create their products. Although we may not be direct proponents of fast fashion, constantly shopping at stores such as Zara, American Eagle, and Hollister is increasing the demand for unethical goods. We have the power to determine if our planet and its people will continue to suffer from the detrimental effects of fast fashion, or if we'll make the switch to promoting an industry of high quality and ethically crafted clothing.