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Our guide to sustainable brands

Our guide to sustainable brands

If you’ve been reconsidering your shopping habits this year, it’s likely that the subject of sustainability has crossed your mind. Maybe you’ve whittled down your vast wardrobe to a few core pieces that will see you through the years to come, or decided to make more ethical clothing investments. 

Or maybe you’re new to the sustainability game, in which case you’ve arrived at a good time.  With a number of fashion companies being called out for their unethical and unsustainable production methods, it seems that fast fashion’s rise to the top might be falling just as quickly. In fact, fashion industry insiders have predicted that consumers with smaller disposable incomes are more likely to buy fewer items more carefully, rather than splashing out on lots of cheaply made items. 

You’ve probably heard us preaching the benefits of spending a little more money on good quality clothes that will last you longer, but knowing which brands and which items fit that description can be just as valuable. We spoke to Thread stylist and sustainability expert Artemis Crowley to highlight the best sustainable brands to look out for, and what they do to deserve the title.

Basic Rights

Basic Rights manage to toe the line of feeling both retro and contemporary, which makes them with people at either end of the style spectrum – especially our stylists. Whether you err towards ‘50s cool or if comfortable modern dressing is more your thing, Basic Rights’ looks have you covered – plus, they’re developed with sustainability in mind.

The philosophy

Basic Rights’ designs have limited runs, so rather than producing thousands of garments and hoping they sell like fast fashion brands do, there’s less chance of waste product and more of an incentive for fans of the brand to bag the styles while they last. 

The items to look for

The Rubbish Collection is a range made from end-of-roll fabrics or recycled yarns that would otherwise end up in landfill. Manufacturing new fabric is one of the most polluting aspects of the fashion industry, and The Rubbish Collection develops an average of just 14 units per style, making them a limited edition purchase that’s better for the environment.


Colorful Standard

If you’re looking for good quality organic clothing at a reasonable price point, you’d be wise to give Colorful Standard a closer look. As the name suggests, the brand is an expert in developing colourful, timeless pieces that won’t go out of style, and just get better with wear. 

The philosophy

Each style comes in 38 colours and is made in Portugal using organic cotton. They’re pre-washed, meaning they won’t shrink when you put them in the machine, and 5% of the brand’s proceeds go to FC Masi Manimba, its football club and foundation in the Democractic Republic of Congo. Full transparent details of Colorful Standard’s ethical production and charity work can be found front and centre on their website.

The items to look for

If your t-shirts, sweatpants, and hoodies are falling apart after being on heavier rotation than usual this year, it might be because they were made cheaply using synthetic fibres. Colorful Standard’s genderless pieces are designed to last, and slot in next to everything else in your everyday wardrobe.

Ecoalf

If you’re into Scandinavian style and want to shop the look more sustainably, look no further than Ecoalf. You can’t get more front-and-centre with your green principles than putting them in your brand name, and they maintain that transparency throughout their product development.

The philosophy

To help shoppers make informed purchasing decisions, Ecoalf has published a sustainability rating for many of its products. Highlighting the brand’s use of recycled and low-impact materials, the ratings tick the boxes for transparency, consumer interest, and accountability all in one.

The items to look for

The Because Collection has saved over 63 million litres of water, recycled over 200 million plastic bottles and 100 tonnes of discarded fishing nets, and developed over 300 fabrics with different types of waste. Plus, 10% of the proceeds fund Ecoalf’s Upcycling the Oceans project. It’s a collection of comfy basics that highlight the need for more sustainable production methods.

Grenson

Photographed: Grenson Fred ($395)

Medieval cordwainers were drawn to Northampton thanks to the county’s thriving tanning industry, and in 2020 Grenson is upholding the area’s shoemaking traditions and maintaining its reputation for creating top quality products.

The philosophy

It takes eight weeks and 200 processes to make a Grenson shoe, and once you’ve worn yours in, they’re with you for life. Its designated repair service works around the moulded sole so your repaired shoes will be returned to you just as comfortable as they were when you sent them away. 

The items to look for

Most of Grenson’s shoes are ‘Goodyear Welted’, meaning the shoes are strong and will last a long time. It’s a process that was developed in the mid-1800s (Grenson themselves have been making shoes since 1866), and involves a number of processes to ensure the longevity of the shoe. Its leather collection is what made them their name, but they now develop vegan lines too.

Knowledge Cotton

Knowledge Cotton is another one for the Scandi-style lovers. It develops stylish, functional clothing from organic cotton and recycled fabrics, with 95% of its entire range being vegan-approved. 

The philosophy

The Nordic brand’s principles are rooted in nature. As well as planting trees to offset the carbon footprint of its production methods, Knowledge Cotton boasts a range of certifications including Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), the Global Recycling Standard (GRS), and Organic Content Standard (OCS). It’s also a certified carbon neutral company with an objective to become 100% carbon neutral throughout its entire supply and distribution chain by 2025. 

The items to look for

Knowledge Cotton produces ranges for everyday wear, but its outdoor collection truly highlights its sustainability principles. The Save Water concept is developed to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable, offering full protection from the elements. It’s made from 100% recycled polyester with a state of the art dyeing technology that eliminates water from the dyeing process. 

Nudie Jeans

Photographed: Nudie Jeans Nudie Lean Dean Jean ($139)

Nudie Jeans come in such a variety of fits and colours that there really is something for everyone. Their reputation as one of the best denim brands around is in part to do with this wide and versatile range, as well as its top-quality, long lasting products. 

The philosophy

Nudie Jeans are 100% organic denim and Fairtrade and recycled cotton. The brand is upfront about its sustainability measures in the materials it uses, the production methods, its products, and its policies. One of the ways Nudie Jeans supports sustainability post-production is through its ‘free repairs for life’ service. It also runs a reuse platform  selling clean and repaired pre-worn denim.

The items to look for

Whatever your denim needs, Nudie Jeans will tick the box. But its selvedge denim, known as ‘slow denim’ owing to the act of wearing in the dry material, is one to watch. It’s Nudie Jean’s key product made from Japanese Kaihara denim with a recognisable orange edge.

Oliver Spencer

Oliver Spencer’s beginnings as a tailor are clear in the care taken in the design of each timeless range of styles made from beautiful fabrics that feel luxurious to wear. It’s one of the few brands that prioritise sustainability in the production of smart and smart casual clothing that will fit perfectly into your existing wardrobe.

The philosophy

The brand has made sustainability a big part of its process, with a focus on carefully sourced materials, ‘eco-friendly’ packaging, and great quality clothing. Its aim is to “make the best menswear possible... in a way that is beneficial to the wearer, all those involved in making a garment, and our planet.” 

The items to look for

Though Oliver Spencer excels in everything from t-shirts to tailoring, we love its sustainably made shirts for any occasion. As the website states, “A good shirt pays dividends,” and that’s clear from the quality, fit, and cut of Oliver Spencer's collection. 

Patagonia

Photographed: Patagonia Retro-X Bomber Jacket ($176)

Patagonia is a pioneer of ethical and sustainable clothing made to last. You probably know the brand for its warm coats and functional footwear favoured by outdoor enthusiasts. But luckily for us the practical outdoor trend has firmly established its place in our day-to-day wardrobes, so everyone can enjoy a taste of Patagonia’s top-quality garments.

The philosophy

As well as a transparent breakdown of the ethical and sustainable production used for each of its items, Patagonia offers a repair and reuse programme, uses GOTS certified cotton and recycled fabrics, and is actively involved in environmental activism, fighting for change to protect the planet.

The items to look for

Patagonia encourages consumers to think twice before they buy – even going so far as to take out a Black Friday ad in the “New York Times” with the tagline “Don’t buy this jacket.” It highlighted its Common Threads Initiative encouraging people to lighten their carbon footprints and consume less. So we won’t tell you which items to look for, but if you’re in the market for any clothing that’s useful, long-lasting, and multifunctional, you could do much worse than Patagonia.

Veja

Photographed: Veja Campo Sneaker ($138)

French sneaker brand Veja has become a firm favourite with everyday guys, celebrities, royals, and just about everyone in between. Its minimal style has instant brand recognition and a timelessness that makes them easy to wear with everything from suits to sweatpants.

The philosophy

Veja is best known for using recycled plastic bottles to make its shoes. They’re made with raw materials from organic and agro-ecological farming, where people are treated fairly and without using chemicals or polluting processes. The brand is transparent about its production line, provides extensive information about its supply chains, and doesn't advertise so there is no marketing expense accounted for in the price of your trainers.

The items to look for

Whether you’re into a splash of colour to like to keep things minimal, Veja offers a great selection of vegan shoes in its increasingly wide range of sustainable styles. They’re made with care so will last much longer than the average pair of white trainers.

Discover even more ethical and sustainable brands with Thread’s sustainability filters.


Words: Ella White
Styling: Artemis Crowley