Fashion is a notoriously unsustainable industry. Up and down the supply chain, the industry has long struggled to employ ethical manufacturing processes. Garment workers remain among the most marginalized and underpaid populations in the world, and nonrecyclable materials continue to be used for fast-fashion consumption at a rapid clip. Producing new collections every season presents more and more problems for the environment, as the production of clothing is highly toxic.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. As consumers become more intentional about where and how they spend their money, eco-conscious brands are working to provide sustainable alternatives that people can feel good about supporting. These mission-driven companies are changing the narrative surrounding sustainability and fashion, proving that you can flourish in the industry and still treat the planet and its billions of inhabitants well.
With more options than ever before, it’s an exciting time to be a sustainable shopper. If anything, the hardest part is knowing which brands to try out first. That’s where the experts come in.
Ahead, 10 leading voices in the sustainability space share their must-have items and what makes them so special. From sunglasses made out of upcycled plastic bottles to chic leather alternatives, there’s truly something for everyone.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Rachael Wang, Stylist and Creative Consultant
“I’m excited about Aera, a new B Corporation pending startup making leather-alternative luxury shoes that prioritizes social and environmental impact, public transparency, and accountability balancing profit and purpose. I can’t wait to wear their beautifully made slides all spring and summer.”
Sabrina Rose, Sustainability Analyst
“Two Days Off (TDO), a Black-woman-owned and carbon-neutral brand, uses biodegradable textiles and ships plastic free. TDO’s founder and former climate scientist, Gina Stovall, also launched a blog for the brand with insightful posts on sustainable fashion and inspiration behind TDO’s collections.”
Alyssa Hardy, Senior News Editor At InStyle
“If you’re going to buy into sustainability, it’s really about quality, preservation, and transparency. I love this fun Pura Utz necklace because, one, the jewelry is so playful, but two, you can really tell it’s about the love the artisans put into each piece. There’s a story to it, and it’s something you will keep forever.”
Aja Barber, Writer And Fashion Consultant
“I feel a bit cheeky liking my own stuff, but if I’m honest, this is the sweater I wear the most. Plus-size people don’t get enough options for nice, ethical clothing. When I set out to do this collaboration, I wanted to show it’s not actually that hard to do.
I had heard a lot of brands make a ton of excuses. Like, just say you don’t like fat people, but please stop pretending it’s rocket science. My jumpers travel with me everywhere. The black one — the first one I made — has been worn well over 100 times. It’s definitely seen the most amount of action out of anything in my wardrobe, though the blue is a strong contender as well.”
Elizabeth Teo, Zero Waste Cutie Founder
“For chic and sustainable sunglasses, I’d recommend Genusee. They are based in Flint, Michigan, and make eyewear frames from recycled plastic water bottles that were a result of the Flint Water Crisis.
They are also women-owned, and they upcycle 15 water bottles with every purchase and create jobs in the community for the structurally unemployable, individuals with disabilities, and individuals coming out of incarceration.”
Kathryn Kellogg, Going Zero Waste Founder
“Two of my favorite shops in the Bay Area are Hello Vintage and Rocket Reuse. I love shopping vintage because fashion is cyclical. Looking for a pair of high-waisted wide-leg jeans, I found the perfect pair of raw denim from the ’70s. Into cottagecore? Gunne Sax. Crop tops? Bolero sweaters from the ’50s are a treat.
And, as a big bonus, if you take good care of items, you can resell them for the same cost you bought them. It’s incredibly sustainable for both your wallet and the planet. Something that makes me sad about current fashion is that we’ve really lost a lot of craftsmanship. Most pieces today won’t last for another 60 years.”
Arti Jalan, Forage and Sustain Founder
“Chic loungewear meets sustainability at Harvest & Mill, a brand that is entirely USA grown and made and 100% carbon neutral. My respect for this brand runs deep, as they have literally thought about every aspect of sustainability, choosing to work with the natural colors of organic cotton to lessen toxic dye usage, and only with small, independent American factories, farms, and mills that support local communities and neighborhoods.”
Callia Hargrove, Backstory Consulting Founder
“I’ve been living in baby tees lately, and I love that this one feels like the vintage ones I’ve always loved and is made with hemp. Back Beat Rags has been a longtime favorite of mine, and it’s been amazing watching them branch out and develop new conscious and sustainable styles without losing their cool factor.”
Jhánneu, Sustainability Content Creator
“I love that [Girlfriend is] a size-inclusive brand that fits well on all body types. They create products with the planet in mind by using a lot of recycled materials in their clothing.”
Priscilla Nuno, Personal Sustainability Stylist & Styled By PNC Founder
“A great denim jacket should be in everyone’s capsule wardrobe. This light-wash oversized jacket is made with certified recycled cotton and technology that reduces its carbon footprint and water usage.”