Stylish, trendy and good for the environment, sustainable streetwear is taking the world of fashion by storm.
Long thought to be too plain or lacking in style, streetwear brands that utilize eco-friendly resources to produce sustainable clothing are revolutionizing the way companies produce the garments we wear.
However, not every brand has embraced eco-based best practices, so we cut through the chaff to answer the question: What clothing brands are ethical? We answer these questions and more so that you can look AND feel good while doing your part to help Mother Earth.
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of the planet (after oil production) thanks to what’s known as ‘fast fashion consumption.’ This term applies to poorly mass-produced products that are sold globally for a really cheap price. Fast fashion is a real threat to not only the environment and human health but also to farmers and factory workers who are poorly paid.
Eco streetwear companies are utilizing sustainably grown fiber crops, sourcing recycled materials to craft their clothing and utilizing eco-friendly processes with the materials that comprise the clothes they sell. These are but a few of the distinctions that set them apart from other clothing manufacturers.
This major sea change is in stark contrast in the way most clothiers do business.
Consumers who wanted to be good environmental stewards previously had few options when shopping. Being environmentally minded meant purchasing clothes from second-hand shops or thrift stores.
Now, the “green” movement has come to fashion – and in a big way. Sustainable clothing has now expanded towards reducing the amount of clothing discarded to landfills while simultaneously reducing the eco-impact of chemicals used to produce high demand fiber crops like cotton.
More and more, sustainable fashion is becoming the new “norm” and more companies will pivot towards profitability to meet the needs of customers as the global community comes together to address climate issues.
We present our guide to the best eco streetwear and ethical streetwear brands that are making a difference on behalf of the planet.
Catching A Fish In Norway (CAFIN)
100 percent fairtrade, 100 percent organic and 90 percent carbon-neutral are the business metrics of Catching A Fish in Norway (CAFIN).
Based in London, the brand premiered as a collection of creatives (illustrators and graphic designers) to showcase their talents with clothing as their canvas. The brand continues to grow as it collaborates with young designers to create “premium quality and environmentally friendly streetwear.”
As winners of the 2018 Impact & Innovations Award, CAFIN encourages individuals to join their efforts to bring about “a radical tide changing the way fashion is sourced, produced and purchased.”
Noah is a brand that is raising awareness of the damage being wrought on our waterways around the world through their line of eco-based streetwear.
The reverse side of the care label on each of Noah’s garments features a factoid about the damage humans are doing to the ocean. For example, there are over 500 “dead zones” in the world’s oceans; areas where pollution has made life completely unsustainable.
In 2019, Noah joined 1% for the Planet, pledging one percent of annual sales to a global network of grassroots environmental nonprofits. Additionally, the company has a number of ongoing charitable initiatives in human rights, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement and disaster relief.
This year, Noah, which is based in New York City, has chosen a group of specific partner organizations to support the four areas of concern addressed in their SS20 Lookbook. The organizations being supported all work in the area of ocean health, a cause that is indeed close to their Long Island roots, noting “the ocean is too much a part of who we are to ignore the terrible threats it faces worldwide.”
Just like a sibling that looks out for his fam, Olderbrother takes great care to create clothing that is good for people and the environment.
Free of heavy metals, salts, and toxins, which are commonly used to manufacture most clothing, you won’t find these materials in the Olderbrother line of sustainable streetwear.
Olderbrother uses colors that spring from hibiscus, sustainable wood bark or turmeric to play across their design palette – revealing playful themes and variations in the elemental beauty of the cloth.
Their eco-conscious clothing includes “organic cottons produced on Japanese farms, unique blends of wool and woven rice paper, and linen from the flax fields in Japan’s cooler climates – once the source of Imperial ceremonial robes.”
They also eschew conventional labels, producing clothing that is gender-neutral and noting that they make universal garments, equally tailored to fit men, women, and people. Self-definition guides their business practices and their personal lives as well as the Olderbrother community.
You gotta give props to any company that performs spot checks on its production facilities to ensure everyone is following their high standards of sustainability. that’s but one standard of a well-rounded program that makes Nudie Jeans one of the most eco-friendly streetwear companies whose high standards of sustainability are among the best in the industry.
Sustainability is the core process and a priority, and a key factor in the decision-making process, both strategically and operationally. Nudie Jeans diligently strives to improve operations daily, seeks innovations in materials, provides a living wage to everyone along the chain of production and recently launched a second-hand clothing program as part of their repair and re-use initiative.
The 4Rs: Rae-made, Rae-cycled, Rae-duced, and Rae-burn are the hallmarks of this London-based manufacturer of sustainable and intelligent fashion crafted for a global audience.
Christopher Raeburn works with surplus fabrics and garments to create its distinctive, military-inspired and utilitarian designs, and their Rae-made pieces are limited editions that are rae-built in England.
Raeburn raises awareness with consumers and business partners by hosting monthly events, discussions, and workshops to educate the public about its practices and how we all can be better stewards of our valuable natural resources.
“I think as a designer you have an obligation to consider what you are doing and why; ultimately, we want to make strong, sustainable choices that provide our customers with a completely unique and desirable product,” says founder Christopher Raeburn.
Believing that you don’t have to sacrifice style for sustainability, Outerknown is a Supreme-inspired brand co-founded by 11-time world surfer champion Kelly Slater and John Moore.
Outerknown makes 100 percent cotton T-shirts, supports fair-trade suppliers, and is known for even turning reclaimed fishing nets into nylon board shorts. Outerknown has efficiently turned surf culture’s love of the ocean into a sustainable fashion brand that lives by that very same creed.
“We’re surfers who grew up with surf brands, but we grew out of logos and we want to wear clothing that’s made better and looks better,” says Moore about the company’s design approach.
Like many companies on this list, Outerknown knows that working to sustain people is just as important as sustaining the planet. The company is also dedicated to ensuring safe working environments and fair compensation for the people in their global manufacturing community.
The container that holds the food your pet eats today could be the fashion you wear tomorrow, thanks to RiLEY STUDiO, a London-based start-up that is turning trash into high fashion.
They are on a mission to change mindsets and make conscious consumerism the norm by creating a wardrobe of gender-neutral staples that are kind to the planet. The company believes in a circular future, where people and the planet work together to create equilibrium. That decision propels the company to put eco-innovation and sustainability at the heart of everything they do.
Their clothing lines are made out of wood pulp, organic and waxed cottons, plastic bottles and other recycled waste products, and recover yarn, which is manufactured out of textile and recycled wastes. They also embrace using natural fabrics that have biodegradable properties.
“The fashion industry is a dirty bastard” pretty much sums up this company’s philosophy and world view towards ethical streetwear and sustainability.
OrganicBasics is on a mission to design clothing that is made to last by investing in quality fabrics and workmanship – but also means designing with simplicity and function in mind.
OB works across the entire supply chain and assesses the life cycle footprint of a single product – from raw material production to textile manufacturing – through to the consumer phase. OB offers a line of basic wear and activewear for women and men made from TENCEL, SilverTech, recycled materials and even has an exclusive line of recycled cashmere products.
By partnering with an organization called Chooose, OB is reducing its carbon footprint by investing in Gold Certified CO2 reduction projects. These programs invest in creating wind farms in textile-producing nations where the impact in carbon reduction is immediate and impactful.
Hempy’s manufactures premium, Made In The USA, hemp t-shirts, hemp jeans, hemp board shorts, hemp men’s vests, hemp belts, hemp hats of all kinds, hemp beanies and hemp accessories.
Since most clothing is now made overseas due to burdensome tariffs on American-produced textiles, Hempy’s is breaking the norm by manufacturing clothing that is not only eco-friendly but also supplies American workers with family-sustaining wages.
Saying that our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and what we choose to put against it all day long matters, Hempy’s believes that natural fibers are far better than petroleum-based synthetic fibers for us to live and play in all day.
Hempy’s clothing is sewn right here in the USA, enabling the San Diego-based company to maintain a high level of quality control. It also permits them to pay fair living wages and control environmental issues surrounding the manufacturing and sourcing of all of their raw materials.
You can feel good about Hempy’s products on your body since Hempy’s strives daily to provide a sustainable future for all residents of the planet.
Hemp truly is one of the best environmentally friendly products on the planet. Hemp uses far less water to produce raw materials and is perfect for revitalizing the soil and killing weeds.
Satta clothing also offers a wide range of products made entirely from hemp, including clothing that is comfortable and beauty products that are healthy for your body. Inspired by nature, Satta makes products that are good for the mind and the body.
Satta follows core principles and vows to only make things that “embody simplicity, functionality, and sustainability in an effort to give back to their community and to facilitate ritual and connection to each other and the natural world.”
A relatively new player in the eco-friendly streetwear game, Nothing New is a sneaker manufacturer whose aim is to positively impact the planet while educating people about sustainability issues.
As its name attests, the company only makes products from recycled materials. The upper is constructed from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastics, while its other components are made from recycled cotton, rubber, cork, and even old fishing nets.
Placing a priority on producing products that do good over those that look good, clean lines, vibrant colors and luxury quality products are built from sustainable materials. By raising the bar on what customers expect from brands, Nothing New is contributing to a movement to bring about change that impacts the planet.
Nothing New offers a financial incentive for its customers to do their part in protecting the environment. Nothing New provides $20 discounts on new pairs of sneakers to anyone who sends back their used sneakers. Depending on the condition of the sneakers, Nothing New will clean and donate them or break them down and put the materials back into its recycling supply chain.
Toad&Co has skin in the sustainability game but none that comes from animal sources. Toad&Co is a vegan manufacturer whose products are designed to perpetuate ecological and social good.
Toad&Co sources a number of eco-friendly materials as well as sells renewed products, all of which are shipped in reusable packaging. The company also provides an “eco cheat sheet” to highlight what materials are eco-friendly and which ones are harmful to the environment.
Toad&Co has a set of strategic goals the company is implementing over the next few years, including the Planet Access Company (PAC) training program, which is set to train 1,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the next five years.
They have partnered with Search, Inc.to co-found PAC, a state-of-the-art warehouse that trains and employs adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. PAC currently supports individuals with disabilities annually with paid, train-to-work opportunities, including product assembly, order processing, and materials handling.
PAC also offers a transition program for high school students to help set them up for success once they graduate. All of the profits from PAC are invested back into Search, Inc. and the well-being of PAC employees.
Los Angeles-based Jungmaven is unique since it only uses one material for its streetwear: hemp.
As farmers find ways to make money so they can keep on doing what they love, Hemp streetwear is poised to be a major player in the vitally important profitability of American farmers.
In the fight to promote the plant, Jungmaven produces a wide range of 100% hemp garments alongside a number of hemp-cotton blend pieces for those of us still transitioning to the hemp lifestyle, which experts say is the new wave in fashion’s future.
The company notes hemp has over 25,000 uses, is a clean, natural product that also possesses restorative properties, is soft while strong and non-narcotic. Most importantly, hemp has the potential to mitigate climate change by absorbing more carbon dioxide than trees and other plants.