As summer saunters in, wreaking havoc on weather patterns, crop health and our moods, one of the usual distractions (yes, even during lockdown and climate catastrophe) is fashion. Especially summer dresses. But which are the sustainable clothing brands bringing gorgeous dress designs to us wannabe ethical consumers? And while most of the focus of this blog is on American companies, we’re going to look at some of the best European brands in the sustainable fashion world. This is just the beginning – we’re planning a series on various global sustainable fashion brands, so stay tuned for that!
- What Makes a Clothing Brand Sustainable?
- Epic Sustainable Clothing Brands in Europe
- 1 // Armedangels | Germany
- 2 // Birdsong | United Kingdom
- 3 // CLOSED | Germany
- 4 // Dedicated | Sweden
- 5 // ECOALF | Spain
- 6 // Komodo | United Kingdom
- 7 // Les Sublimes | France
- 8 // Lucy & Yak | United Kingdom
- 9 // Muse & Marlowe | France
- 10 // Noumenon | The Netherlands
- 11 // Pangaia | United Kingdom
- 12 // People Tree | United Kingdom
- 13 // SKFK (Skunkfunk) | Spain
- 14 // SZ Blockprints | United Kingdom
- 15 // Twothirds | Spain
What does sustainable clothing mean, really? We could sew our own clothes from recycled material, or we could buy secondhand clothing. Or we could dole out some cash and opt for fashionable but sustainable clothing that have been produced by brands that are conscious of their effect on the environment. That’s what this post focuses on.
What Makes a Clothing Brand Sustainable?
Companies that create clothing in a responsible way are the companies we will be focusing on. Responsible on behalf of the planet, please note! Not on behalf of their bottom line:)
1 // High Quality
Brands should produce clothing of the highest quality possible. This ensures that they last long – over many, many years – and is basically the antithesis of fast fashion. Waste is one of the biggest problems created by the fashion industry, and by opting for high-quality pieces, we can make them last longer and therefore keep them away from the landfill. We also reduce our own frequent consumption of fashion items.
The flip side is that the price will be higher, but that is expected for good quality pieces that fit well and last long.
2 // Responsible Sourcing & Manufacturing
Sustainably sourced materials, such as responsibly grown cotton and hemp or recycled plastic and recycled nylon, etc, are essential. As is responsibly manufacturing (i.e. use electricity from a renewable source, ensure use of safe dyes and coloring, absolutely no dumping of waste products into local water sources, etc). The key is to have a environmentally responsible cradle-to-grave process for the products, and make sure the business is not contributing to any problems to the environment, local and global.
3 // Fair Trade
Treating all the employees well and paying them, at minimum, living wages, is also an important characteristic of sustainable brands. There is no success of a business without involving the local community, and helping them progress in a fair and progressive manner is important for a conscious brand.
4 // Eco-friendly Packaging & Retail
The end stage of fashion products is all the plastic used for its packaging and storage. Sustainable brands do not use harmful materials with a high carbon footprint. Eco conscious companies use alternative packaging materials, or recyclable materials, and work on minimizing their carbon footprint along the entire supply chain.
5 // Certification
Luckily, organizations such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Fair Wear Foundation, etc make things much easier for us consumers by certifying the companies. Of course, there are certifications and there are certifications (sigh), but the most authoritative and trustworthy of the organizations are well known and ought to be listened to when assessing sustainable brands.
Here is a long list of sustainable fashion brands by the UK edition of Elle magazine.
Epic Sustainable Clothing Brands in Europe
In the spirit of discovering new sustainable clothing brands, here are are some of the top sustainable clothing brands in Europe. (We also have a post on European home decor brands.) We’ve mostly looked at beautiful dresses that these brands have brought out (cos that’s where the mood is now). Enjoy!
1 // Armedangels | Germany
Armedangels use sustainable materials such as organic cotton, organic linen, organic wool, recycled polyester, Lenzing Modal® and Tencel, and have been GOTS-certified since 2011 (GOTS is the Global Organic Textile Standard). They also work with the Fairtrade and Fair Wear Foundation to implement fair working conditions in their supply chains.
2 // Birdsong | United Kingdom
Birdsong started as a ‘protest’ against fast fashion and the hyper-consumption culture. They use ethical, sustainable or reclaimed fabric and eco dyes. The collections are designed and made by women who face barriers to employment.
3 // CLOSED | Germany
Closed is refreshingly honest. They clearly state that they are not an eco-label, simply because they don’t believe it’s possible for companies with quarterly collections “to be 100% sustainable.” I agree – and admire them for stating this. Regardless, they are a family business pursuing traditional craftsmanship, and trying their best to be as sustainable as possible. Check out the details here.
4 // Dedicated | Sweden
Dedicated is another brand that’s so straightforward about the state of affairs in fashion. “Despite all the talk about fashion becoming sustainable, this is still an industry built on inhuman working conditions, pollution, and toxic chemicals. And the textile sector now accounts for 8-10% of global CO2 emissions.
“We didn’t wanna be a part of that, so we chose another path. Today we’re working with GOTS and Fairtrade certified cotton, GRS recycled polyester and natural fibers such as Tencel Lyocell. Creating collections that care for the farmers, as much as the environment.”
5 // ECOALF | Spain
ECOALF follows the principles of sustainability, innovation and sustainable design. They use recycled fabric and organic fabric, and are very mindful of the environmental impact of their production chain. Read more here.
6 // Komodo | United Kingdom
Komodo’s products are all cruelty-free (and some are vegan as well). Among their choice of eco-friendly fabrics are green PU coating and recycled PET from plastic bottles. They make great use of their platform and support organizations such as 1% for the Planet and the Sumatran Orangutan Society.
7 // Les Sublimes | France
Les Sublimes’ collections are sewn in a production atelier, so that’s cool. They use natural, recycled and innovative, botanical fibers, and make sure to stay away from hazardous substances, harsh chemicals, dyes, toxins and processing agents. Organic is the key phrase here.
8 // Lucy & Yak | United Kingdom
Lucy & Yak sell ethically and sustainably made garments made from organic fabric. They focus on making a positive environmental and social impact (and make sure to pay their supply chain employees a fair wage).
9 // Muse & Marlowe | France
Muse & Marlowe use GOTS-certified organic fabrics for their dreamy designs and they also reuse fabric offcuts to make new products. They also make sure to use eco-friendly packagings (compostable envelopes, biodegradable wrapping papers and stickers) for their orders. They manufacture in France and Portugal.
10 // Noumenon | The Netherlands
Noumenon uses recycled cotton, organic cotton, ramie, lyocell and modal, among other materials, all procured from GOTS and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified suppliers. Their clothes are all vegan and cruelty-free, and the ink used for the prints is environmentally friendly. Orders placed locally in Amsterdam are delivered in recycled packaging by the 100% electric company car BIRO.
11 // Pangaia | United Kingdom
Pangaia is basically a materials science company, and uses bio-based fibres and materials from recycled plastic bottles to create their garments. They also use natural botanical dyes combined with antibacterial peppermint to help the clothes stay fresh for longer. And, don’t worry: they’re on top of the fair trade principles and ensure complete supply chain transparency. They don’t make dresses, but have gorgeous colors in their t-shirt collection.
12 // People Tree | United Kingdom
People Tree is synonymous with sustainable and fair-trade fashion. They are committed to a transparent and traceable supply chain, and many of their products have Fairtrade certification. They use GOTS-certified organic cotton and organic cotton denim, as well as Tencel.
13 // SKFK (Skunkfunk) | Spain
SKFK is Fairtrade certified, and use organic organic cotton, recycled polyester, lyocell (biodegradable), linen, and hemp for their clothes. Their sustainable credentials extend to using renewable energy, using carbon-neutral UPS shipments and biodegradable packaging. They believe in slow fashion and only design two collections a year with exclusive garments and prints.
14 // SZ Blockprints | United Kingdom
SZ Blockprints makes ethical garments for men, women, children and the home, incorporating a traditional block printing technique from India. The pieces are handmade, and the company donates a portion of its profits to the SZ Foundation, which works to support vocational training and empowerment programs for women.
15 // Twothirds | Spain
Twothirds are ocean-friendly, and only use organic and recycled materials (such as GOTS-certified organic cotton and recycled wool) and also semi-synthetic fibers such as Tencel. Nearly all their products meet the Oeko-Tex 100 standard, which means they are free of harmful chemicals. They use wool, but merino wool that is sourced from Argentina where sheep are not mulesed (Mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech of a sheep to prevent parasitic infection. This is extremely painful for the sheep.) Twothirds also uses cork instead of leather, so that’s good.
So, there you go – a dip into the wonderful world of sustainable clothing options. I hope this was useful, and it opens up more options for when you need to purchase your next outfit. As always, it’s better to not buy something new. Opt for secondhand clothing. If that’s not possible, then opt for sustainable clothing that has minimal impact on the environment. And opt for quality over quantity, provided that is a reality for you. Make the best choices possible – for yourself and for the planet. We’re all one and the same:)
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NOTE: All brand photographs belong to the respective brands/businesses.