👗 For most of my life, my only consideration when picking out new clothing was whether I liked the way a piece looked and fit. I had no idea that there are other important considerations -- even life and death situations -- to think about when selecting the fabrics that touch our bodies... both during the day and while we sleep.
In the next few minutes, I'm going to fill you in on 3 important things to think about when shopping for new clothing that go beyond the way it looks and feels. Then I'll give you a list of some ethical, sustainable fashion brands to consider that don't break the bank. These are the ones I'm looking at when investing in new pieces for me and my daughter.
1️⃣ The first consideration is the harmful chemicals that are used in the production of the materials that go into apparel and home furnishings. Chemicals that have significant potential to cause negative health impacts.
What clothing labels don't tell you is what chemicals were used in their production. Unfortunately the manufacturer is NOT required to fill you in on that small “detail.” But it's actually a big deal about which few people are aware.
We often think of cotton as the most "natural" choice for clothing. The numerous chemicals, however, used to conventionally farm cotton and then to process and dye the thread and finish the fabric are raising serious concerns from scientists and doctors about the adverse effects they have on our health.
Conventionally-produced cotton, polyester, rayon, etc. fabrics are actually extremely toxic! Here's what you should know:
❌ Conventional cotton is grown with genetically modified seeds and sprayed heavily with Roundup (in which the primary ingredient is glyphosate, linked to cancer... I've written multiple posts on this in the Simplified Natural Living community
) and other toxic pesticides.
❌ Clothing manufacturers then coat their fabrics in seriously toxic chemicals at several different stages, from coloring fabrics to finishing pieces.
❌ Many textiles also contain chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals), ammonia, and/or other harmful chemicals.
❌ Add to that heavy metals, PVC, and resins, which are involved in dyeing and printing processes.
❌ These chemicals persist in the fabric even after manufacturing.
Think of exposing all of that to our bodies 24 hours a day! 😳 I don't know about you, but I don't want to be encased in formaldehyde all day every day!
Is there a way to avoid all of this? YES!!! And here's how to do it:
Buy GOTS certified organic cotton, wool, or other natural fiber clothing.
The Global Organic Textile Standard
ensures 𝗻𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗼𝘅𝗶𝗰 𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗺𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘂𝘀𝗲𝗱 throughout the entire process of turning the fiber into fabric. This means there will be no chemical off gassing or surface irritants.
GOTS also looks at the labor conditions of those who farm and process the textiles. If we want to be conscious consumers, we also want to be considering these factors as well. More on this topic below!
At present, GOTS-certified is the gold standard. Definitely look for this seal on any new clothing you buy. If GOTS isn't available for a particular item you're looking for, all is not lost. There are some other good certifications that will get you part of the way there.
Buy OEKO-TEX certified clothing.
The OEKO-TEX Standard 100 standard
screens for harmful substances present in the finished textile product. It tests only the end product, not the processing. It does NOT mean the fiber was organically grown or the processing of the fiber into fabric was done using organic methods.
A step up from this is the OEKO-TEX Made in Green standard, which also ensures the product has been manufactured using sustainable processes under socially responsible working conditions.
Buy clothing made with cotton from BCI partner farms.
The Better Cotton Initiative
(BCI) is a not-for-profit organization that exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in, and better for the sector’s future. Through BCI and its partners, farmers receive training on how to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals, and apply decent work principles. BCI Farmers implementing this system are licensed to sell Better Cotton.
2️⃣ The second consideration is the exploitative labor practices that are often found throughout garment supply chains. I'm talking about the forced labor, hazardous child labor, and debt bondage that exists on farms, in factories, and in many other production locations, both in the United States and around the world.
When buying clothing, I definitely do not want to be contributing to the labor exploitation of children or adults in any shape or form. If this is a topic about which you could use additional education, please visit The Fashion Connection's "Be Educated" page
to learn more about human trafficking in fashion and read country-specific examples.
3️⃣ The third consideration is damage to the environment. Both farming and manufacturing can be deadly for our environment if sustainable practices are not implemented.
The fashion industry consumes enormous quantities of water. Cotton, for example, requires large quantities of irrigated water for peak production. Up to 20,000 liters of water are needed to produce just 1kg of cotton. Huge quantity of fresh water are also used in the dyeing and finishing processes. As reference, it can take up to 200 tons of fresh water to produce 1 ton of dyed fabric. These generate tremendous pressure on this precious resource, already scarce,
The fashion industry creates water pollution. In most of the countries in which garments are produced, untreated toxic wastewaters from textiles factories are dumped directly into the rivers. Another major source of water contamination is the use of fertilizers for cotton production, which heavily pollutes runoff waters and evaporation waters.
The fashion industry leads to significant amounts of waste. In our modern times, clothing has become readily disposable, leading to huge amounts of waste. A family in the western world throws away an average of 66+ pounds of clothing each year. Only 15% is recycled or donated. The rest goes directly to the landfill or is incinerated. In addition, synthetic fibers such as polyester, used in 72% of clothing, are plastic fibers that take MANY years to decompose.
The fashion industry also leads to increased soil degradation, higher greenhouse gas emissions, microfibers ending up in our waterways, and rainforest destruction
. You can read more about these and how to not contribute to them at Sustain Your Style
👕 One could literally write for days on the three considerations I've highlighted above. Once our eyes are opened to these issues, the question then become whether there are clothing brands out there that are healthy for our bodies, the workers who produce the apparel, AND the environment.
💵 AND that won't break the bank!
Do such brands exist??? 🤷♀️
Here are some good ones that are worth checking out!
- Organic, GOTS Certified, fair trade, eco-friendly
- Super-soft basics for the whole family that are long-lasting. Not only are the garments GOTS-certified organic and fair trade, but they’re also universally flattering and comfortable for year-round wear.
- I buy everything from dresses to yoga pants to underwear and bras from this site! It's also a great place for kids' apparel.
- Get 20% off your first purchase through this link!
- Online boutique (+ with a popup store in Washington, DC) carrying GOTS-certified fashion forward clothing and accessories crafted with ethical, sustainable principles.
- Watch the video interview I did of Michelle Jaffe, the owner of Jolie Kai, about sustainable fashion and the mission behind her boutique!
- Get 20% off your first purchase at Jolie Kai with this link. Or enter the code HHH20 at checkout.
- Here's a snapshot of my visit to Jolie Kai. I'm wearing the uber-comfortable Malange dress in navy blue. It's become a staple in my wardrobe!
- GOTS-certified, OEKO-TEX-certified, Fair Trade, Eco-Cert, sustainable
- Eco-friendly clothing from organic ingredients, including cotton, bamboo, and hemp. Wardrobe of unique colors and gorgeous styles. Affordable pieces that are perfect for work, a night out, or even lounging.
- This is a UK-based company that delivers for free in the UK and for a flat rate of $15.35 to the U.S. and Canada (at today's exchange rate).
- GOTS-certified underwear and bralettes
- UK brand with free shipping to the U.S. for orders over $65.
- GOTS-certified basics brand based in Germany.
- On a mission to make sustainable fashion accessible to men, women, and children by keeping prices low, making quality basics that everyone has in their wardrobe, and constantly improving the sustainability of its products and supply chain. Available in sizes XS-L.
- GOTS or OCS-certified, fair trade, recycled wool, responsible down
- Men's and women's everyday basics, travel-ready styles, and activewear, made sustainably
- Most items under $100.
- Ethically made, organic (not GOTS-certified), B corp, eco-friendly, gives back to the environment
- This earth-first apparel brand celebrates its commitment to our planet with ethically crafted and sustainably designed products, all while planting 10 trees for each item purchased.
- Clothing less than $90. Winter coats up to $268.
- B Corp, organic, safe & fair labor standards, working exclusively with small Egyptian family farms and their families
- Known for clothes made from soft and remarkably breathable Egyptian cotton, KOTN makes wardrobe staples in a fair and safe production environment. Working directly with farmers, the brand pays fair prices for cotton and assists suppliers in making the switch to organic.
- Clothing less than $100/piece.
- Unique, functional, and hard-wearing GOTS-certified clothing for children.
- Designed in Sydney, Australia and made in a Sedex-approved factory ensuring living wages and safe working conditions for workers.
If you are aware of additional companies that are producing apparel in ways that are healthy for our bodies, the workers, and the environment, please let me know! I'd love to give the members of our community as many options as possible!