6 Clothing Companies That Every Engaged Consumer Should Support

All of us Revolution
I’m excited to welcome a pair of entrepreneurs as today’s guest bloggers.  I’ve been following Shannon Whitehead and Kristin Glenn for a while now.  They are  building their own ethical clothing line from scratch.  They share their joys and struggles on their blog, www.allofusrevolution.com.

A couple of weeks ago, Kelsey left a comment on our blog asking if we had a list of our favorite ethical/fair trade clothing companies. I’ve put a lot of effort into being an engaged consumer myself, and I’ve learned that there is opportunity to buy new clothes designed and produced in a socially-conscious way. You just have to look a little harder.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some of my favorites:

The Autonomie Project is a fashion and footwear company, offering stylish sweat-shop free and eco-friendly t-shirts and accessories. It works exclusively with independent cooperatives and sweat-free facilities located all over the developing world. The apparel is made out of organic cotton and other environmentally-conscious materials and is 100 percent vegan. Autonomie wholesales to stores all over the United States and the online store can be found here.

NAU is a sustainable urban and outdoor apparel company based out of Portland, Oregon. My favorite thing about this line is the company’s philosophy and mission. More than just apparel, the brand promotes a lifestyle and a certain type of person. Although not yet 100 percent organic, or even fully-sustainable for that matter, Nau strives to get as close to “good” fashion as possible — and continues to work towards it. The clothes are beautiful, with both men’s and women’s lines.

Raven + Lily is a non-profit studio dedicated to empowering impoverished women through design partnerships and micro-enterprise opportunities. Every item is handcrafted by a woman in the developing world, who works in safe conditions and has a say in the functioning of production and design. Raven + Lily specializes in home decor, jewelry, accessories, baby clothes, stationary, and bath products, and all can be browsed through here.

Maggie’s Organics offers a variety of basic apparel, from tank tops to t-shirts, but spices things up with a variety of fun socks, legwarmers, tights and scarves. All the materials that Maggie’s uses are chosen to restore, sustain and enhance the resources from which they are made. Online shoppers have the option to buy only cooperative-made garments, available upon request. The online store can be found here.

HOLSTEE is a men’s and women’s apparel and accessories line that is dedicated to designing with a conscience. The company takes into account the impact it has on all people, the planet and the product’s quality (many for-sale items are designed from recycled trash). Ten percent of all HOLSTEE revenue is used to fund entrepreneurs in the developing world through Kiva micro-lending. The HOLSTEE online store is here.

Patagonia is the best example of a large corporation trying to do good, as Kelsey has mentioned in a number of past posts. The company has implemented a great deal of Merino wool, Synchilla (fabric made from recycled soda bottles) and organic cotton into their apparel selection, which is a drastic improvement over the likes of synthetics and polyesters. Patagonia has also led the crusade in corporate responsibility and transparency, which you can read more about here.

I know it’s not always easy shopping with the world in mind. But as a general rule of thumb, when you can’t shop organic or fair trade, think local. It’s almost always better to shop at the boutique down the street that promotes the use of local fabrics than shopping at the corporate powerhouses. Consignment and thrift shopping is a great way to help reduce the landfill, too.

Fingers crossed, we’ll have {r}evolution apparel to add to this list next year. Yet another opportunity to buy sustainably and with the earth in mind. The more we start to become conscious about what we purchase — the closer we’ll get to making the world a better place for all of us.

Shannon Whitehead and Kristin Glenn are the founders and designers of {r}evolution apparel, coming 2012. They blog about sustainable fashion, consumption, minimalism and environmental awareness at www.allofusrevolution.com . You can also follow them on Twitter at @AllofUsRev.

Lauren says:

Hey guys! I work for Raven + Lily and I wanted to share the new website with everyone. It is http://www.ravenandlily.com
We have transitioned from a non-profit to a for-profit studio. Read our blog + let us know what you think about the change! blog.ravenandlily.com

Sara L says:

thanks for this list, kelsey! i profile a few more great brands on my blog if anyone is interested… it’s always good to hear about more companies trying to make a difference.



chris says:

any suggestions for business-y sustainable clothing?

Kelsey says:

Chris, I rarely if ever dress business-y. Let me know if you find some place that works. Actually, NAU and Patagonia probably have some biz casual stuff.

Helen says:

I am pleasantly surprised to hear about Patagonia’s mindful practices! I’ll be more forgiving of their steep prices knowing they actively avoid polyesters and synthetics. I’ve noticed that thrift shopping has become fairly trendy as of late, which is an encouraging step in the right direction for our landfills. Do you have any fair trade/ethical shoe companies worth checking out? Besides Toms, of course.

The sites you have on here are great however, few of us can afford a tee shirt that runs between $50 and $150. How can people with a more modest income shop for new items with a good conscience. There must be a more affordable alternative that is still fair trade and eco friendly. How about listing some of those?

Kelsey says:

Gloria, It’s possible now more than ever before, especially for T-shirts. I highlight great companies like SustainU, Forgotten Shirts, and Cotton of the Carolinas in this post -http://whereamiwearing.com/kelseyscloset/ . They all have T-shirts in the $15-$30 that will last twice as long as a typical cheap T-shirt from Wal-Mart. Hope that helps! – Kelsey

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