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Sustainable Fashion for Teens: Which Brands Should You Buy?

Beauty & Style

You might not realize it at first, but the fashion industry is incredibly damaging to the environment. With the rise of fast fashion, that problem has only continued to grow, making it more important than ever to turn towards sustainable fashion brands instead. However, with the number of brands that claim to be "sustainable", it can be difficult to see which are telling the truth and which are only touting sustainability for marketing purposes.

What Are Sustainable Fashion And Fast Fashion?

But first, what exactly are sustainable fashion and fast fashion?

Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing that is produced very quickly according to current trends. As a result, fast fashion is often very unsustainable as the clothing is disposable and manufactured without much thought to the environmental impact—the focus is simply on churning out more profits by keeping up with the rapidly changing trends.

On the other hand, sustainable fashion, also known as slow fashion, is any form of fashion that focuses on reducing environmental impact. This also includes fashion that focuses on animal welfare, social justice, and other important issues.

Why You Should Buy From Sustainable Brands

Sustainable Brands Are Higher Quality And Last Longer

Sustainable brands often are of higher quality because they aren’t rushing to meet the demands of certain trends. As these brands also pay more attention to using sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, and linen, sustainable clothing tends to last longer in your closet, instead of easily wearing and tearing until you can no longer wear them.

Sustainable Clothing, Unlike Fast Fashion, Doesn’t Focus On Trends.

Although it may feel nice to have clothing that fits with the current trends, once the trend is over, you might feel like you can no longer wear that article of clothing. With sustainable clothing, you can choose articles of clothing that you know you’d want to wear no matter what. That way, you can create your own unique sense of fashion instead of simply going with the current trends.

Sustainable Brands Are Better For The Environment

Sustainable brands focus on reducing environmental impact. As a result, the clothing from those brands helps preserve natural resources. In particular, the fashion industry uses about 93 million metric tons of water each year, which is half the amount we consume every year—sustainable brands account for a much larger portion of this number than fast fashion. Millions of trees are cut down every year to create many materials used in fast fashion, such as rayon, viscose, and other fabrics. Beyond this, the fashion industry also contributes over 53 million metric tons of clothing to landfills every year. While sustainable materials like organic cotton degrade quickly, synthetic fabrics used in most fast fashion clothing can take hundreds of years to break down.

Sustainable Brands Are Less Likely To Take Advantage Of Underpaid Or child Workers.

To keep fast fashion cheap, many fast fashion brands rely on severely underpaid and overworked laborers, including child laborers. The majority of these workers are also surrounded by very dangerous working conditions that contribute to health problems.

How Can You Identify Sustainable Fashion Brands?

Now, you might be wondering which popular brands are sustainable and good for the environment. This can be complicated to untangle because so many fashion brands have been calling themselves “sustainable” that it’s become more difficult to tell which brands are genuinely sustainable.

However, finding fashionable yet sustainable brands to buy from doesn’t have to be difficult. The most important things to pay attention to are the materials used in most articles of clothing from a particular brand. Natural, organic materials use much less water to produce and degrade more quickly, so they don’t contribute to the waste production of the fashion industry nearly as much as synthetic materials. Clothing made from wool, silk bamboo, linen, etc. are a fantastic alternative to polyester or nylon clothing.

What Are The Most Popular Sustainable Fashion Brands?

Now, we’ve compiled a list of popular sustainable fashion brands—they definitely won’t let you down!

  1. Levi’s

Levi’s is a very popular denim brand that has been working to increase sustainability (I love jeans, so Levi’s is a personal favorite of mine). They’ve created a number of programs focused on reducing the impact they have on the environment. In particular, Levi’s has reduced the amount of water they use by 4.2 billion liters and recycled 6 billion liters of water since 2011. Some of the goals Levi’s has for the future include 100% sustainably sourced cotton and 100% renewable energy in facilities by 2025. So far, they have shown dedication and transparency with regard to the steps they are taking to increase sustainability.

  1. Adidas

Adidas, a very popular brand for activewear, has been focusing on ending plastic waste. They’ve been partnering with Parley Ocean Plastic to use recycled plastic and natural fabrics in its clothing. Adidas also created the first running shoe that emits less than 3KG of CO2. They’ve started the Made to Be Remade program, where customers can return products once they’ve been worn down and have them recycled into something new. In terms of future goals, they are aiming to replace virgin polyester with recycled polyester by 2024 and use sustainable materials in 9 out of 10 of their products.

  1. Reformation

Reformation has been very transparent about working towards more sustainable practices, and they have a ton of on-trend clothing! Something I love about Reformation is the RefScale they include for every product on their website. The RefScale calculates the total environmental impact of an article of clothing, including pounds of CO2 emitted, gallons of water used, and pounds of waste generated. Reformation has also been giving back the resources that they use by installing water filters for houses in Honduras and contributing 140 million gallons of fresh water to rivers and wetlands in California and Colorado. Reformation has also been certified as Climate Neutral, which means they are 100% carbon neutral.

  1. Patagonia

Patagonia has also been working towards increasing the sustainability of products. They’ve created a number of programs, such as the Take-Back Program, which recycles clothing, and the Living Wage Program, which works towards providing a living wage for workers. At the moment, 87% of fabrics have been created with sustainable materials and 100% of the virgin cotton has been grown organically. In general, Patagonia has also been incredibly transparent with the materials they use and what they’re working on in terms of improving sustainability.

What Now?

It’s not easy to completely revamp your habits when it comes to buying clothes, but these four sustainable fashion brands are a great place to start. The fashion industry has had a very negative impact on our environment for a long time, but by making changes to your own life, we can make a huge difference.

Angeline Zhao
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Angeline Zhao is a tenth-grader at Phillips Academy Andover. She loves journalism, competition math, teaching, and playing card games. Angeline often spends hours overanalyzing books and binge-watching shows like Gilmore Girls and Brooklyn 99.