Minimalism is one of the biggest movements to have come off of the 1950s’ era of modern art. Lately it has enjoyed a second renaissance of sorts, this time veering away from its visual art roots and evolving into an entirely new life philosophy.
Nowadays, minimalism can mean anything from shunning excess consumerism, adopting a Marie Kondo approach to curating one’s home, to committing to a zero-waste lifestyle.
In the world of fashion, minimalism is more than just an aesthetic term. Beyond clean lines and simple shapes, minimalism can mean any of the following:
- Keeping a capsule wardrobe by choosing only the barest minimum clothing pieces to store in your closet
- Knowing who makes the clothes you’re wearing and how they are made (that is, are they ethically and sustainably made?)
- Investing in slow-fashion pieces that are timeless, durable, and are likely to outlast the changing trends and seasons (as opposed to cheap but poorly made fast-fashion clothing and accessories)
Ready to go “less is more” for the environment? From everyday wear to work clothes and even innerwear, here are 11 sustainable fashion brands to get to know.
Who they are: Canada-based brand that sells ethically and sustainably made, direct-to-consumer clothes
Known for: Comfy, timeless, and durable wardrobe basics made of 100% Egyptian cotton
Kotn makes wearing your everyday staples a luxurious experience with breathable Egyptian cotton (also called “white gold”)—minus the expensive price tag.
How does Kotn manage to keep costs down? Using a direct-to-consumer distribution process, it works directly with almost 700 cotton farms in Egypt, where the factories that turn the raw materials into finished products are also located. From Egypt, their products go straight to their headquarters in Toronto and are sent off to their retail stores.
Perhaps the best part about buying Kotn is knowing that you’re supporting a company that treats and pays its people fairly. Kotn is also B Corp certified, so you’re sure it values the planet more than it does profit.
2. Amour Vert
Who they are: Sustainable and ethical clothing house that makes clothes and accessories in small batches
Known for: Chic, comfy clothing basics made from sustainable fibers and raw materials.
Most clothing companies only go green after the fact, but Amour Vert is different. In fact, Amour Vert—French for “Green Love”—has had the environment in mind when it was conceived by husband-and-wife team Christoph Frehsee and Linda Balti in 2010.
Amour Vert’s commitment to sustainability cuts across all aspects of its operations and production. Here are just a few ways the company is keeping its environmental impact in check:
- Limited production: Amour Vert makes products in small batches to keep its waste to a minimum as well as to maintain high quality standards
- Sustainable and responsibly sourced raw materials: The company doesn’t just stop at using renewable fabric and materials (like Tencel, Cupro, organic cotton, and mulberry silk), it also makes sure that these are made by environmentally responsible mills and factories.
- Tees for trees: Amour Vert matches each shirt you buy with a tree planted in North American forests. This scheme has resulted in more than 300 thousand trees.
Who they are: California-based clothing company that makes quality clothes in limited quantities
Known for: Simple, classic, and well-made wardrobe essentials for women
Sadie Beaudet noticed that there was a clear gap between how men’s and women’s clothes were made. Where typical women’s clothes were ill-fitting, trend-driven, and of poor quality, men’s clothes had a classic, timeless look and feel.
Beaudet and cofounder Jeremy Roberts launched Tradlands in 2012 to fill this gap. With a focus on quality, the clothing startup released their catalogue of thoughtfully made women’s wear that defied trends and were made to withstand hundreds of laundry cycles.
Besides putting a premium on making quality clothes, Tradlands also places high value on the environment and the people who make its clothes. The company’s collection features clothes made from silk, cotton, and Tencel, produced in limited batches by artisans and ethical facilities.
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4. Beaumont Organic
Who they are: British company that makes organic and ethical clothing
Known for: Contemporary, conscious women’s clothing
If you’re a fan of tops, bottoms, and dresses made of organic, fair-trade and eco-friendly fabrics, then this ethical ladieswear brand is right up your alley.
Beaumont Organics’ collections feature versatile pieces that you can wear day or night, or whether you’re dressing up or down.
Unlike most fast-fashion labels that release an average of 24 collections each year, Beaumont Organic only releases two, significantly reducing their waste and consumption.
5. People Tree
Who they are: Japanese fair-trade online garment retailer
Known for: Handcrafted contemporary, versatile clothing pieces made of responsibly sourced fabrics
In the almost three decades that it has been in business, People Tree, a pioneer in sustainable fair-trade clothing, has perfected making products to the highest environmental and ethical standards. Here are a few ways they are winning:
- using fair-trade certified and sustainable raw materials and fabrics—such as organic cotton, Tencel lyocell, linen, wool, and denims that takes 87.2% less water to make
- partnering with artisans in developing countries, who make clothes using traditional hand skills like weaving, embroidery, knitting, and jewelry-making
- empowering workers and farmers by giving women the same pay rate as men (and providing paid maternity leave) and providing pension, health insurance, and good medical facilities
People Tree regularly collaborates with celebrities and models in order to put fair trade and ethical fashion in the spotlight. Some of People Tree’s supporters include UN Women Goodwill ambassador Emma Watson, Jo Wood, and Vivienne Westwood.
6. Jan ‘N June
Who they are: Hamburg-based sustainable, fair and transparent eco-friendly fashion and lifestyle label
Known for: Stylish, affordable, and well-made men’s and women’s garments made of renewable and recycled fabrics
This German clothing and lifestyle brand is proving that going eco-friendly doesn’t have to be expensive, nor does it have to mean compromising style or comfort.
Jan ‘N June’s products are made from a mix of repurposed and sustainably sourced materials, including:
- organic and recycled cotton
- organic linen
- recycled polyamide from discarded fishing nets and marine plastic
- Tencel® Lyocell fibers
- Recycled polyester from PET bottles
- Tenowa (an acronym for “textile-no-waste”)—production leftovers repurposed into yarns and lilac satin
- Non-petroleum based cellulose and bio-acetate
Who they are: American clothing, footwear, and accessories brand with a focus on radical transparency
Known for: Affordable, high-quality, ethically and sustainably made modern basics that buck style trends
Everlane designs and creates timeless, trend-defying pieces with exceptional quality, sourcing the finest materials to ensure that each item serves you for years. The company is also transparent about who makes its clothes, a strategy that works to their advantage since they make sure to adhere to the highest ethical and environmental standards.
Celebrities who have been spotted wearing Everlane include Meghan Markle, Angelina Jolie, Sienna Miller, and Emma Roberts.
8. Eileen Fisher
Who they are: American designer of timeless, well-made, and ethical clothes, shoes, and accessories
Known for: Everyday clothes designed for women of all sizes
Simple lines and shapes characterize Eileen Fisher’s style philosophy. Putting a premium on style and comfort, it’s an all-inclusive brand that has sizes and silhouettes for every woman, from petite to plus.
Sustainability is also at the forefront of this fashion brand. Aside from using organic linen and cotton jersey, Eileen Fisher also uses recycled nylon, cashmere, and polyester for its clothes, as well as responsibly sourced wool.
9. Hackwith Design House
Who they are: American ethical fashion brand offering high-quality, limited-edition pieces at affordable prices
Known for: Environmentally sustainable womenswear that feature classic designs, thoughtful details, and excellent workmanship
Women who love to practice sustainability and minimalism will feel right at home with Minnesota-based clothing brand Hackwith Design House’s philosophy to clothes making.
Going against the fast-fashion grain, HDH only releases one new design weekly for a season. Most of its clothes are made from recycled fabrics, from a local, family-owned fabric store that gives second-hand fabric and run-off textile waste a new life.
Founder Lisa Hackwith, who started the brand in 2010 as a one-woman show, understands the effort it takes to produce a single garment. This awareness led her to make sure that she treats and pays her people fairly.
10. The Very Good Bra
Who they are: Australian zero-waste lingerie and sleepwear brand
Known for: Comfortable bras that ensure the perfect fit ( it comes in 24 sizes!) and can be disposed of safely at the end of life
So far, most of the brands on this list are outerwear manufacturers. But hey, it’s equally important to make sure what you’re wearing underneath your clothes is eco-friendly too, right?
Enter The Very Good Bra. Born out of a Kickstarter campaign in 2018, The Very Good Bra is the brainchild of Stephanie Devine, who wanted to show the world that a zero-waste bra is possible.
Two years later, Devine is still at it, and now has expanded her line to include undies, as well as sleep and loungewear. Working only with GOTS-certified fabric like Lenzing Tencel, tree-rubber elastic, and organic cotton, the biodegradable raw materials in The Very Good Bra ensure you can compost your bra and undies once they’ve reached the end of their life.
11. MUD Jeans
Who they are: Carbon-neutral jeans maker based in the Netherlands
Known for: Good quality, ethical jeans
Jeans are a staple in anyone’s closet. However, they’re not the most eco-friendly. It takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair, and the dyeing process also contributes to waterway pollution.
Fashion industry veteran Bert van Son witnessed first-hand how dirty and unethical the clothing business can be, and was determined to change that when he founded MUD Jeans in 2013.
For MUD, being sustainable meant taking out the leather patch from its design, making jeans with 577 liters of water (instead of the industry standard of 7,000) and 69% less carbon emissions.
The company also has a take-back scheme in place, recycling worn-out jeans to turn into fabric for new jeans.
There you have it, your sustainable minimalist wardrobe starter pack. Have a favorite brand that you want to tell us about? Leave a comment below!
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