What we wear matters.
When you choose to gallivant to the beach in that fedora and pair of saltwater sandals, you’re making a statement and showing off a part of your personality. Yet, from hat to shoes, what we choose to put on everyday affects a lot more than our outward appearance. How you feel in those clothes matters too. If you’ve ever spent a winter season in a wool sweater you know what I mean.
My husband and I recently moved into a new home and I figured this was the perfect time to cast a critical eye on my wardrobe and give my closet a major overhaul. The mission wasn’t about paring down or finding the right hangers and shoe-boxes though goodness me, I do love an organized closet.
Before we packed up the boxes, I finally fessed up to the truth I’ve known for years — what I wear dramatically affects how I feel both on the inside and out.
My closet project began with a simple mandate: Discard anything uncomfortable to the touch or uncomfortable to wear.
A gorgeous coat with the roughest collar on earth? Into the pile. An oh-so-cute skirt that’s oh-so-hard to move in? Into the pile. A button up shirt with the tendency to come frequently unbuttoned? Definitely into the pile. From itchy to ill-fitting, I gave it all the final heave-ho.
At the end of my culling mission I was left with clothes that fit well and felt good: not only can I move freely in everything, all the pieces are all made of textures and fabric that feel good on my skin. Win-win.
But I couldn’t stop there. The clothes felt good to the touch yes, but now I wanted what I put on to feel good to my heart too. What I did next has been the hardest and most gratifying thing I have ever done for my wardrobe. So, what I did I do?
I eliminated my attachment to fast fashion.
Fast Fashion: the cheap, of-the-moment-garments that many large retailers churn out at a frenetic pace.
Like most people on the planet, I’ve been tempted to purchase those trendy pieces a time or two (or twenty). In my college days, when I couldn’t afford the nicer retailers, many an outfit included those easy-to-layer basics or that must-have seasonal item from Target or Forever 21 since it was affordable (read: too cheap to pass up). Scoring a pretty summer dress for the price of a large latte felt like a steal! Even as I started to earn more money as a college grad I still gravitated to those retailers since trying a new trend wouldn’t break the bank.
But as I went through my closet this time I finally got real with myself. It had always felt like a steal because in a way, it was stealing. The unsafe factory conditions steal the childhood from the young factory workers; all that dye run-off steals clean water from our environment; and so on. I care about safe working conditions for all employees and proper earth stewardship. If what I wear expresses who I am, then who am I to be wearing something that stands only for a brand’s bottom line?
To set the record straight, I’m not a total purist. Yes, I still own and wear things from the brands I’m criticizing. I don’t have that perfect wardrobe – yet. But as I make new purchases in the future, I’m committed to the idea that what we buy matters, just like how we feel matters: whether in our hearts or on our skin, or both.
With that in mind I set about discovering companies that are doing it right. Their collections are on trend, beautifully made, and produced with an eye on ethics and sustainability. Below, I’ve curated a list of some of my new favorites to share with you. These companies are working hard to change and improve the clothing industry. They are telling the real story of where our clothes come from and bringing transparency to the manufacturing process. They are increasing the use of sustainable materials and supporting fair and safe labor practices. They make quality items that feel good to the touch, and good to the heart.
Some things to note:
You may see companies state that they are GOTS Certified. But just what is GOTS?
GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard, which is a basis for evaluating companies on the quality of their products through the entire textile supply chain, from raw materials to manufacturing and labeling.
Why is organic cotton so special? There are never any pesticides or herbicides used in organic cotton. And that matters because those pesky products can end up in our water supply or on our skin.
When looking at the textiles, note if the garment is made with naturally occurring and thus more sustainable, fibers. For example, choose clothes made of materials like cotton, silk, bamboo, and wool.
Founded by Kirsten Dickerson and Sophia Lin, Raven & Lily employs marginalized women from Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and the United States at fair trade wages and gives them access to a safe job, sustainable income, healthcare, education, and provides a real chance to break out of poverty. Raven + Lily is a B Corporation and member of the Ethical Fashions Forum’s “Current 10 Founding Source Partners”. They are also certified by “Green America” as an environmentally and socially responsible business.
For more jewelry and accessories that support marginalized women see 31Bits.
The word cuyana means “to love” in Quechua, a native South American language. Each piece Cuyana makes is imbued with their love for quality, timelessness, and beauty and the hope that your closet fills with only items you truly love. Each collection carries the story of the country where it as made and the artists who made it. With a focus on quality materials and craftsmanship, Cuyana’s motto can be summed up with the idea that we should focus on having fewer, better things.
Cuyana Favorite: City Walk Panama Hat in Black
For more sustainable head ware, see Yellow108.
Inkkas is a shoe company founded on the principles of fair trade, authenticity and social consciousness. This socially responsible B Corporation produces from a family owned and operated workshop out of Lima, Peru. Using recognizable South American textile designs, each pair of kicks is made to order by hand from locally sourced materials. Sales directly support the Peruvian artists and makers with a portion of profits donated to the OneShoeOneTree Project, which in partnership with Trees for the Future, efforts to repopulate areas of deforestation by planting one tree for every pair of shoes sold.
Inkkas Favorite: Slate Slip-on
For more shoes with a conscious see TOMS.
Ricefield Collective is an ethical fashion start-up based in Ithaca, New York and Ifugao, Philippines that features hand-knitted accessories using locally sourced natural fibers. This budding business is passionate about preserving a way of life for the women of Ifugao who’s families have been on the land (a UNESCO heritage site) for over one thousand years. Each sale of a knitted hat directly benefits the women and their families, enabling them to continue their precious way of life. It may be a bit too hot in the Northern Hemisphere to wear these knits now, but they would be just perfect for stocking stuffers or holiday gifts come wintertime. Think Christmas in July! Watch the Kickstarter video that started it all on their website here.
Ricefield Collective Favorite: Seedling Slouchy
For more fine accessories that support a fading way of life, see MYak.
BeGood Clothing was founded on the idea that creating a premium product and minimizing environmental impact need not be mutually exclusive. To that end, BeGood has set out to design and produce sophisticated, high quality basics made of clean materials like !00% organic cotton. In addition, BeGood partnered with the non-profit organization, Evidence Action, to provide purified water across Kenya and Uganda. For every sale made, BeGood will make 12 gallons of water safe to drink in places where contaminated water is the norm. To sum up their mission, BeGood strives “to make the responsible choice, the desirable choice.” They’ve nailed it.
Favorite: Market Blouse in Navy
(enter code: 645×97 to get $15 off your first order!)
Ok, it’s your turn. How can you incorporate more mindful fashion choices into your wardrobe? What are some of your favorite sustainable and ethical clothing and accessories companies?