There are countless small eco-friendly fashion brands operating all around the world. The message they want to send is that eco-friendly doesn't have to mean poor style. They incorporate all the latest trends, include lots of gorgeous materials, and yet their popularity is still not as big as it could (or should) be.
Luxury designers have been less eager to jump on the eco bandwagon for fear of compromising their brand's quality. Mass chain stores have been lagging as well for fear of extra costs that they might attain by going green.
Adapting to environmentally and socially friendly practices is not as hard as it could be. They can include one or more of the following measures: Using solar power energy instead of electricity, using organic materials, enforcing sweat-shop free labor, using recyclable materials, not using animal skins, among many other things..
We've searched far and wide and have come to realize that four of the most popular global fashion brands, have actually taken a number of measures to become environmentally friendly. The best thing is, most of these brands won't break the bank. You've most likely heard of all of them, and maybe even own some of their items, but we bet you didn't know they were this green!
One of the most affordable yet stylish casual wear brands, American Apparel is one of the leading eco-friendly fashion brands in the world. All the items are made in the USA, operating within a small circle of buildings so as to reduce their carbon footprints, and the factories are sweatshop free. Cotton items are made from 20% organic materials, and they're aiming to increase that to 80%. They have also introduced organic dyes in some of their collections. They also recycle over 1 million pounds of scrap fabric every year, even using some of them to make underwear, scrunchies and hair bows!
The company houses a state-of-the-art solar panel installation on the roof of their LA factory, generating power that contributes to up to 15% of their energy's needs.
Levi Strauss & Co.
The biggest forerunner in the eco movement when it comes to jeans is Levi Strauss. They use organic cotton and dye their jeans using a natural indigo solvent. They also recycled buttons and zippers. This year, they created a movement called Water<Less jeans. This method uses less water than conventional practices, and reduces the amount used in the washing and finishing process. The method, which has been proven highly successful, reduced water consumption by 28%. In other areas of the brand, water consumption was reduced to as much as 96%!
The Levi Strauss & Co. headquarters in San Francisco is remodeling to include but not limited to recycled denim insulation, daylight harvesting light fixtures, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and recycled or locally sourced furniture.
After going under attack for reportedly slashing (to make them unfit for wearing) and throwing away unsold clothes from some of their outlets, H&M sought out eco-friendly alternatives to restore their image. The brand came under fire for being wasteful and environmentally – as well as socially – unwholesome.
H&M promised to commit to a more environmentally healthy practice when it debuted an eco-friendly line called Garden Collection in 2010, and a newer one called Conscious Collections for this year. In these collections, materials like organic cotton and linen, Tencel and recycled polyester were used. They've also promised to use more eco-smart materials and enforce more environmentally sustainable fabrics.
So this might not be as budget-friendly as the above mentioned brands. In fact, much less so. However, we believe Stella McCartney deserves praise for being the luxury label with probably the most eco-friendly practices.
Stella McCartney, the designer, has been a lifelong vegetarian, and is a strong animal activist. She is adamant about not using animal skin, such as leather or fur, in her designs. Her brand has ascended to the quality and design level of the biggest international brands, and it has never compromised its values. The label includes women’s ready-to-wear, accessories, lingerie, eyewear, fragrance and organic skincare.
The designer's involvement with social and environmental awareness has been recognized through the following awards: Organic Style Woman of the Year Award (2005), the Green Designer of the Year at the ACE Awards (2008) and was honored in 2009 by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
– Alya N. Al-Othman. Image: H&M