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Since the inception of veganism, new and old brands started meeting the demands of vegan consumers. These demands have grown from the exclusion of animal-based products (i.e: leather, wool, and silk), to more ecological, and equalitarian ideals.
Vegans are aware of the environmental and social harms of conventional cotton, and polyester. On one hand, we have the most water-intensive and dirtiest crop in the world, and on the other, the most toxic manmade material on the planet.
If you want to make an impact, choosing what to wear is powerful.
Not only do you keep your skin healthy by avoiding contact with clothes produced with dangerous chemicals, yet you also contribute to the wellbeing of our planet and people. I come to you as someone who’s wife is very ‘sustainable’, and ethically oriented. She’s passionate about sustainable and ethical clothes, or as we call it, conscious vegan fashion.
Needless to say, she wants to overhaul my closet — and do so slowly. Unfortunately, that will happen slowly over time because it’s quite expensive to do so.
What Is Conscious Vegan Fashion?
Sadly, fast-fashion is the most popular form of fashion on the planet. It’s trendy, discardable and cheap clothing that takes inspiration from high-fashion and is brought to high-street stores at rampaging speed. Every season, thousands of styles are sold very cheaply, and in each season billions of dollars are made. With cheap clothing also comes short-lasting garments that break down after a few washes, as well as far more pressing concerns.
When you use your hard-earned money to buy a t-shirt for five dollars or a pair of trousers for $19.99, you’re having an impact on the following things: environment, third-world country workers and animals.
Fast fashion’s impact on the planet is immense. In fact, it’s the second-largest polluter of water next to animal agriculture. The two most used fabrics in fast-fashion are polyester and cotton, both highly toxic.
Polyester derives from fossil fuels, thus its contribution to global warming is no secret. In addition, it can shed microfibers that result in the increasing levels of plastic in the ocean, which affects wildlife and the entire food chain. Cotton, on the other hand, uses up too much water and relies heavily on pesticides to grow. These methods result in increased risks of drought, soil erosion, and severe water stress caused by intense crop irrigation.
Needless to say, these effects are multiplied by the need to meet demand.
Third World Country Workers
There’s also an effect on workers in developing countries. People were found to work in dangerous, and filthy conditions for extremely low wages and without basic human rights. Further down, farmers risk their lives by using carcinogenic chemicals with drastic effects on their overall health.
I would urge you to watch the documentary True Cost so that you can visualize the disgusting conditions human beings like you and me work in.
Land & Marine Life
Besides the obvious use of wool and leather, the reliance on cotton and polyester also endangers animal life. The toxic dyes released into waterways and the accumulation of microplastics in the ocean put animals’ lives at risk.
Not to mention the fur animals (i.e: beavers, chinchillas, dogs, cats, and foxes) kept in awful conditions inside fur farms, driving down the costs of production and price; making it more affordable than faux fur.
Who Are The Biggest Players?
The two biggest players in the fast-fashion industry are H&M and Zara. Both companies have been around for more than 50 years. H&M hit $21B in annual sales, while Zara hit $18B in 2018. And while they’re the key players in fast-fashion, there are other big-name brands in the scene.
Competitors like UNIQLO, GAP, Primark and TopShop are also billion-dollar companies, and new competitors are emerging in the fast-fashion scene. Missguided, Forever 21, Zaful, are just a few names.
How To Lessen The Impact On The Planet
There are three things you can do the minimize the impact of fashion on the eco-system. The first thing is buying way fewer clothes because ultimately it goes to waste. Secondly, you can buy second-hand clothing (non-polyester), and prevent more waste from getting redirected to the landfill. And lastly, you can buy conscious vegan clothing, and prioritize quality over cheapness.
Even among “vegan” brands, you’ll find there’s a lack of conscious effort to minimize waste and take a more sustainable and ethical approach to fashion. Many brands market themselves as being vegan, but they’re selling clothes with fabrics (i.e: conventional cotton and polyester) that still have a negative impact on wildlife.
Plant Faced is an ethical vegan brand out of London, UK. They’ve been featured in major networks like Vegnews and Marie Claire, and their clothing screams alternative veganism. While they’re not solely for men, they have a wonderful collection of sweaters, t-shirts, and hoodies that blend with the tattoo thematic, setting you aside from the crowd.
They employ numerous different tactics to minimize their impact on the environment, such as:
- Using eco-friendly, water-based inks;
- Relying on paper instead of plastic in their packaging;
- Promoting fair wages across their entire supply chain;
- And using organic cotton for most of their clothes.
Most of their clothes are also Fairtrade, Fairwear and WRAP Certified. In most cases, annual checks ensure brands abide by the principles of ethical fashion. You have an auditor that visits the factories and conducts face-to-face meetings with farmers, workers, union members, managers, and committees. And also checks financial documents and contracts.
This audit does not strip or grant you the certificate immediately, but it helps the brand conform to certain criteria. Since Plant Faced has three different certificates in place, I would imagine different criteria suit different pieces of clothing. While I would prefer to see the Fairtrade certificate across the entire products, I do believe this is a trustful company.
If you’re interested in learning more about this brand, read the about us page for more information.
Organic Basics offers high-quality sustainable basics for men (and women), made from organic or recycled materials.
They started by creating organic cotton men’s underwear in Turkey, with strict GOTS restrictions. Restrictions that remain today. They never use chemicals, pesticides, insecticides or genetically modified seeds. Also, they ensure the payment of a living wage across the entire supply chain. Most of the factories they work with are in countries within the European Union (Portugal, Austria, and Italy); with the sole exception being Turkey.
Organic Basics also combines Silvertech technology with some of its clothes. Technology that reduces the need to constantly wash clothes by adding small traces of silver into the fabric, which eliminates the formation of bad odor bacteria.
Aside from using organic cotton, Organic Basics also uses recycled nylon, recycled wool, Tencel and a very small percentage of elastane. Nylon is a form of plastic, but it uses 80% less water and causes 90% less CO2 emissions when compared to virgin fabrics. The only sinful component in my view is recycled wool, but its use is minimal, and I wouldn’t kill off this brand for that… yet I would look at items not containing recycled wool.
Also, the impact plastic has on wildlife is still there, but it’s dramatically reduced due to:
- Silvertech technology present in some of the fabrics, and
- Elastane generally represents about 6% in most pieces of clothing.
Additionally, Organic Basics uses 100% recycled packaging, which is very positive.
Etiko is an ethical, sustainable, vegan-friendly and Australian brand that sells shoes, in addition to clothes and accessories. What I like about Etiko is how transparent they are in both their environment and impact statements. They are also Fairtrade, GOTS and B Corporation certified. This means you can trust their modus operandi and even access their overall impact score.
Unlike Organic Basics, they are 100% vegan and only make use of certified Organic Cotton to create their apparel, as well as shoes. Etiko does not use animal glues. Plus, it sources natural rubber from rubber trees in Sri Lanka, which are sustainably sourced and biodegradable. In addition, they are mindful of packaging, and thus use cardboard and paper in areas where plastic is not of mandatory use. When forced to use plastic, they use biodegradable and compostable plastic made from plant-based materials.
Aside from the positive environmental and animal contribution, Etiko is also proud of their moral achievements. Although the bottom of their supply chain is in countries where labor rights are generally poor, Etiko is not like most. Two of the three factories they work with are Fairtrade certified, and the sourcing of organic cotton and rubber is also Fairtrade (and FSC) certified so that farmers are paid living wages to provide for their families. Their footwear factory in Sri Lankan is yet to be certified, but it’s in the works, according to their website.
All in all, an admirable brand that appears to do much more than just sell for a profit.
Toad&Co’s is another company that takes pride in its eco-friendly and ethical approach to clothing.
Although not 100% vegan, Toad&Co uses a wide array of sustainable materials to craft their clothes. In fact, you can find clothes crafted using organic cotton, hemp, Tencel, Lenzing modal, and other recycled materials. In other words, Toad&Co also created clothes with vegan consumers in mind.
At the same time, Toad&Co also uses Nylon and less vegan-friendly fabrics like wool, even though I believe the eco-friendly fabrics outnumber the former. In addition, Toad&Co takes a unique approach to packaging. They’ve partnered with Limeloop to offer consumers an option to order reusable packaging. Basically, it’s a reusable bag made from vinyl recycled from billboards, and it requires you to eventually return the package to the shipper.
Note that this option is only available in the United States, and it is optional. For those who do not choose this option, you will receive polybags made from 50% post-consumer recycled materials.
Toad&Co also sells renewed apparel. By relying on military-grade washing machines and professional sewers, they transform damaged, excess and returned Toad clothes and re-sell them. This is excellent for those who don’t mind to use 2nd hand clothes in order to minimize waste. Aside from that, Toad&Co together with Search Inc co-founded Planet Access Company, a state-of-the-art warehouse that employs up to 70 individuals with disabilities, to provide them with training, wages, and equal benefits.
Could be More Transparent
Toad&Co seems to guarantee that their workplace code of conduct is being met across their entire supply chain, in order to promote fair labor and rightful working conditions. According to the information on their website, they also seem to perform yearly audits everything is ethically produced and sourced. Toad&Co seems trustworthy, but I can’t say for sure if they’re 100% ethical because the information is too vague. Plus, the brand is not 100% vegan, since it sources wool from non-mulesed sheep.
Overall, they do a lot of things right, but I would love to see more explicit information about their supply chain. The reason I’ve gone with them is that you’re also able to find high-quality vegan clothes made from sustainable materials.
Soul Flower sells ethical and sustainable hippie clothes. What’s impressive about them, is how in-depth they go about their principles of ethical and sustainable production by providing an ecological guide for each component they use.
Aside from the small traces of spandex supplying their clothes with flexibility, the majority of their fabrics are either organic, recycled, or upcycled. Furthermore, Sunflower also relies on low-impact dyes to create their unique designs. Although most of their clothes are Fairtrade and GOTS Certified, those that are not are still handpicked to ensure similar practices and philosophies are employed in the production and sourcing process. In addition, some of their clothes are crafted in their home soil, USA.
Soul Flower also seems to be very vegan-friendly, by not including animal elements in their clothes. In addition, they also create handmade products in very small bulks. Products that go beyond clothing, and may also be interesting to you from a fashion perspective.
So far… Soul Flower seems to generally comply with sustainable and ethical practices, and I haven’t found a clue suggesting otherwise. They also reduce waste and pollution by reusing paper, boxes, and envelopes in their packaging. At times, people receive reused cardboard boxes with markings from previous use. Last but not least, they ship their products using USP carbon-neutral, which shouldn’t come at an additional cost for you.
WAWWA is the second brand that claims to be vegan. And although I must compliment them for making a user-friendly and very appealing website, I believe it should have more information on it, besides vaguely stating their fairtrade status and advocating for a living wage. I don’t want to come off as a boycotting youngster, but at the same, I feel like they should have gone further in-depth.
This being said, they’re doing some things right. Let’s start with their plant-based packaging, made from a 100% compostable material that takes 30 days to compost in an industrial composter, and 60 days in a home compost system. This material is derived from a waste product from Sugar Cane manufacturing. If I’m not mistaken, that material is called bagasse. If done ethically, using waste for production provides sugarcane farmers with additional income, which is very positive.
From what I’ve gathered, WAWWA only makes clothes from organic or recycled materials, and indeed, they are fully vegan. Although I can’t completely verify whether or not they’re Fairtrade Certified, the use of materials in their clothes does seem to comply with sustainable practices.
Just like WAWWA, not much information is shared by Alternative Apparel, other than the fact they are WRAP-certified. A certification that promotes fair labor and humane working conditions. So… what is actually interesting about Alternative Apparel? Well, just like other “conscious” brands, they’re adopting more eco-friendly options. For instance, the use of Organic cotton, Post-consumer recycled polyester, Eco-friendly dyes, and Eco-friendly packaging.
Given this, it only seemed right to include Alternative Apparel as a “vegan-friendly” brand. Butt his being said, I can’t say I’m happy about the first garment I found. Especially when it’s called Eco-Jersey.
It contains 50% polyester, 38% cotton, and 12% rayon, which isn’t exactly eco-friendly. To find more eco-friendly options, you have to click on “organics” to be able to find a more sustainable alternative. But even so, the choice is limited at best.
Again, another eco-friendly item that contains “polyester” and “cotton”:
Maybe it’s recycled polyester and organic cotton. That should be the case, but If we dive into the organic section, we can actually see the details labeled out properly.
If you plan to buy from Alternative Apparel, do it from the “organics” section because the items seem to be properly identified. Lastly, I do want to say that while it’s cool to see these companies offering vegan-friendly alternatives, it’s also difficult to trust them when they are everything but vague.
Yes, Alternative Apparel has vegan-friendly options, but they’re the last option I’d consider for conscious apparel.
This might sound surprising, but my first impression of Pact is… “amazing”. Why is that? Almost 100% of Pact’s clothes are made from GOTS or Fairtrade certified organic cotton. In fact, 50% is Fairtrade certified, while the remaining is GOTS certified. Given this information, it’s safe to assume that PACT is conscious of their approach to fashion.
In addition, Pact can also deliver organic clothes at really affordable prices. While they’re honest about the use of elastane in certain items, the entirety of their products contains organic cotton, and you still have a panoply of options available if you want to avoid all forms of plastic. If I haven’t said it already, Pact is also fully vegan.
This being said, I found a piece of information that wasn’t disclosed on their website. A customer of Pact said this on Trustpilot: ” I bought my husband 6 pairs of pact underwear. They came wrapped individually in plastic! This is unnecessary in my opinion and is part of the problem, not the solution.”. Yes, Pact needs to work on their packaging, but that may also have an impact on the prices… which is probably also what sets them apart.
Other than the use of plastic for packing their products, and the odd complaints about their customer service & slow shipping — I believe Pact has something special going on.
Tentree is an exciting brand, and certainly more progressive than most. They got featured on Business Insider and coined as the company that planted 30 million trees, and still marching for 1 billion trees before 2031. In other words, their goal is to become the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet. So what is Tentree doing besides planting trees?
Well, Tentree clothes contain a blend of sustainable fabrics, and so far the only exception to the rule was the only jacket I found in their store. But even so, that jacket was made from 97% organic cotton and 3% spandex.
Here’s a list of the eco-friendly materials Tentree sources:
- Organic cotton
- Cork Trims
- Coconut Buttons
- Recycled Polyester
- and Linen.
As far as ethical manufacturing goes, Tentree has a lot going on.
On one page they have a list of their current manufacturing partners and the country and city where they are located. In this list, they identify their partners with different certificates which include:
- WRAP certified;
- Fairtrade Foundation;
- Fairwear Foundation;
Additionally, you can find other partners with BSCI and SA8000 certificates. Other than that, non-certified partners are audited by third-party members and Tentree themselves. In total, they have 23 partners, of which:
- 2 are WRAP certified;
- 7 are BSCI certified;
- 2 are SA8000 certified;
- 4 are Fairtrade certified;
- 1 is Fairwear certified;
- 12 received third-party audits;
- 14 have received a visit from Tentree;
Tentree appears to have everything organized, but at the same time, they don’t say how often they conduct these audits. Nonetheless, the information they reveal here is superior to most, and it should tell you that they’re doing progress.
What Can You Take Away From This List?
Well, as you can see, despite the different ethical and sustainable claims — it’s still difficult to prove that a company is 100% legit. Some are profoundly obvious to figure out and don’t seem to care much, but others are somewhat transparent and show great promise.
In my opinion, Soul Flower and Etiko are the two most sustainable and ethical brands in this list, but I can’t say I’m excited about their products. I believe that crafting high-quality products comes at an expense, and every company is struggling to find a solution that people would buy in a heartbeat.
From what I can tell, the perfect conscious vegan-friendly brand doesn’t exist. I was excited for Pact when I found out they use polyester in their packaging. And perhaps the same could be said for Tentree since they don’t state what they use for their packaging.
You have to find the brand that better fits your criteria and go with it. And most importantly, it’s not like you’re only going to buy from one brand, you just have to make sure ONE product fits your criteria.
Thank you for reading this blog post, and I hope you like the list of conscious vegan-friendly brands!