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Conscious style: the top five sustainable fashion brands

Can we dress to impress and choose clothing with a clear conscience? Here at Alpha Lifestyle, we take a look at the top five fashion brands that are putting the style into sustainability.

Each year, a staggering 80 billion new pieces of clothing are consumed globally. In the era of fast fashion, a global infrastructure has been created in which clothes are made quickly, bought cheaply and disposed of rapidly in a cycle designed to perpetuate continuous consumer demand.

Although the garments we purchase online or in the store may be relatively inexpensive in economic terms, the global impact of fashion comes at a considerable cost. It is estimated that the apparel and footwear industries produce 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fashion also ranks as the third highest polluting industry in the world and the second largest consumer of water.

However, some pioneering brands are developing sustainable approaches to fashion which allow consumers to make style choices that are ethical and environmentally friendly. With innovative manufacturing processes and game-changing business models, our list of the top five sustainable fashion brands will help you look fabulous and feel good about it too.

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1. Rothys: walk this way

It’s staggering to consider that every minute, one million water bottles are sold across the globe – more than 525 billion each year. If you consider that 91% of the world’s plastic does not get recycled, the waste of raw materials in a world of limited resources is continuing on an epic scale. Thankfully, in its own way, the world of conscious fashion is beginning to fight back.

Based in San Francisco, California, Rothys is an innovative shoe manufacturer producing fashionable flats for everyday use made from recycled plastic bottles (along with other recycled materials). To date, Rothys has transformed 30 million plastic water bottles into a range of comfortable, washable and stylish shoes for women and kids.

At Rothys, sustainability is at the forefront of every business decision. It owns and operates its own factory in Dongguan, China, to ensure that ethical and environmental working practices remain at consistently high standards. A direct order company, Rothys sends out its shoes in sturdy boxes made of recycled cardboard to ensure there’s no “box-in-box” packaging waste.

So if you’re looking to reduce your environmental footprint and find some hip-and-happening shoes, a pair of Rothys is definitely is a step in the right direction.

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2. House of Sunny: slow fashion

House of Sunny is a womenswear brand demonstrating that when it comes to 21st-century style, fast fashion is not the only game in town. Founded in London in 2011, House of Sunny takes a rather different approach, producing smaller, more sustainable runs of collections that are designed to last.

In fact, House of Sunny produces just two collections per year, allowing the team to spend more time sourcing sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods. This process includes frequent visits to overseas production partners to check standards in ethical and environmentally friendly working practices.

Animal welfare is another priority at House of Sunny: the label doesn’t use fur, leather, skin or silk and only sources wool from producers with good animal husbandry practices. Waste is kept to an absolute minimum by using left-over materials to create accessories, care labels and swing tags.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the garments themselves. Each item is crafted to become “a wardrobe stable with an artisan twist” that will last season after season. Creating beautiful clothes while developing a model for what a modern, sustainable fashion house could be, House of Sunny is a shining example of conscious style.

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3. Misha Nonoo: modern minimalism

Misha Nonoo is a New York-based fashion label producing women’s ready-to-wear collections that combine style and sustainability in equal measure. With celebrity fans that include Gwyneth Paltrow and Pippa Middleton, Misha Nonoo is pioneering on-demand manufacturing processes in which goods are only produced when they are required rather than in large batches so as to reduce unnecessary waste.

The brand has also developed an approach which places female empowerment and sustainable resource use at its core. One of Misha Nonoo’s stated aims is to “stop the stress of dressing so that the modern woman can spend more time pursuing her passions”.

With this in mind, it has developed its signature Easy 8 collections, which allow busy women to create 22 outfits with just eight items of clothing. All of its pieces are designed in a minimalistic aesthetic that can be styled in multiple ways and for diverse occasions.

When you buy a Misha Nonoo piece, you also know that it has been produced according to high ethical standards. The label regards as “non-negotiable” the fact that it will only work with factories which meet a strict range of ethical criteria including paying a fair local wage, no use of child labour and the provision of a healthy working environment.

In 2016 Misha Nonoo became the first fashion label to exclusively use social media as a “venue” for its fashion shows. Reducing the environmental footprint associated with physical shows, the label debuted its Spring/Summer 2016 collection on Instagram and its Fall 2016 collection on Snapchat.  If you’re looking to wear with care, Misha Nonoo is the perfect place to start.

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4. For Days: closing the loop

Pioneering the fashion industry’s first 100% closed loop system, For Days is an innovative t-shirt company has put the concept of zero waste and the circular economy at the very heart of its business model. Based in Los Angeles, California, For Days has created a membership-based approach in which customers can recycle their used t-shirts and swap them for new ones as and when required.

In essence, the For Days premise is so simple that it’s surprising it hasn’t been tried before in the fashion industry. Customers buy a lifetime membership for a one-off fee of $38, $108, $210 or $310 which entitles them to one, three, six or ten items from the For Days catalogue respectively. Naturally, all t-shirts are made from 100% organic cotton sourced in the US and dyed using environmentally friendly processes.

The really disruptive part is what happens next. When, for whatever reason, you’ve had enough of a particular t-shirt, you can simply return it via prepaid mailer and choose a new item for just $8. Once the item reaches the For Days manufacturing facility in Los Angeles, it is broken down into pulp that is mixed with new fibres to create yarn which, in turn, is used to make new t-shirts.

Is For Days a glimpse of the sustainable future of the fashion industry? Founder and CEO Kristy Caylor has described the circular clothing model as a way to “liberate ourselves from the burden of ownership”, offering a sustainable alternative to the predominant model of consume-and-discard. For Days says it offers “a membership of insanely great life choices”. At Alpha Lifestyle, we couldn’t agree more.

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5. Threads 4 Thought: it’s cool to care

Threads 4 Thought is a fashion and active wear company with a simple yet far-reaching motto: “wear the change you want to see”. Founded in New York City in 2006, the brand is helping conscious customers to do exactly this by minimising its impacts on the environment, setting high ethical working standards throughout the manufacturing process, and giving back to in-need communities.

From joggers and hoodies through to pullovers or crop tops, Threads 4 Thought is committed to using low-carbon sustainable materials in all its products. For example, it uses recycled polyester made from recycled plastics with a carbon footprint 50% than standard polyester. Also in the mix you’ll find GM-free organic cotton grown without pesticides, and Lenzing modal, a carbon-neutral fibre made from beech tree bark which grows back naturally so that the tree is never cut down.

As well as working only with factories that adhere to the highest ethical and environmental certification standards in the industry, Threads 4 Thought is committed to making a wider impact on the global community through its long-term partnership with the International Rescue Committee. In 2016, Threads 4 Thought helped to raise $200,000 for the International Rescue Committee to support its work helping people to rebuild their lives after humanitarian crises around the world.
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In summary: clothing with a conscience

Threads 4 Thought believes that “every time you buy a product or  support a brand, you’re casting a vote with your wallet”. That’s a philosophy which we believe in here at Alpha Lifestyle.

We hope the small selection of brands above shows that fashion can indeed be sustainable if manufacturers and customers are willing to embrace change and think longer term about the impacts of their choices. From New York to Beijing or Sydney to Singapore, conscious style is a look that’s winning hearts, changing habits and turning heads in equal measure.

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If you have any thoughts or questions about this article – or any sustainable fashion brands you’d like to recommend – we’d love to hear from you. Please drop us a line at: lifestyle[at]thisisalpha.com