When we step into a store or browse an online catalog, we see finished pieces of clothing that are eagerly awaiting our attention and adoration. We rarely stop to consider how the piece arrived there. Before an article makes it onto your body, it already has a story to tell, from the soil where the cotton was grown, the back on which the wool grew or the flowers that produced pigments. From creative visions in the minds of designers to skillful stitching in the hands of artisans, each piece has traveled a journey to arrive in your closet.
This path can either be a mindful chain of events, with minimal impact to the environment, or it can be a detrimental, toxin-filled clash of mass production. So how can we tell the difference? Are terms like “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” just marketing terms, or is there a change in the fashion industry that we should be supporting? Luckily, there are companies that are making it easier to shop mindfully. We’ve gathered items from some of our favorite companies that are focusing on both fashion and the planet and are happy to explain their paths.
Study New York: Stripe Twist Dress, Ethica ($110)
Banishing any antiquated notions that eco-friendly fashion has to be boring or bleak, Ethica is an online store boasting fresh and fashion-forward items. A gathering of ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable fashion designers, you can shop freely, knowing that each item has been chosen because of the designers’ commitment to these principles.
Visit the website to browse for women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry and shoes, with explanations as to why each item is ethical. The sections include: sustainable materials, vegan, handcrafted, made in the U.S.A. and “Trade Not Aid.” As explained on the Ethica website, “While charitable gifts can provide immediate and invaluable relief to individuals or communities in need, the goal of commerce in the context of ethical fashion is more long-term: to create sustainable employment opportunities that have the potential to permanently lift people out of poverty.”
The brands included in the Trade Not Aid category employ artisans in fair-trade environments, with the long-term goal of nurturing their skills and empowering their communities to prosper. Feel good about your purchase and your figure in the Stripe Dress by Study NY. This body-hugging dress is both comfortable and flattering, in chic and effortless silhouette.
Nettie Kent Tasman Ring, Helpsy ($150)
Helpsy is another online marketplace of curated, conscious designers who make it possible to shop ethically without sacrificing beauty or style. Items are searchable by their Helpsy Quality: cruelty free, upcycled, vintage, made in small quantities, non-disposable and eco-conscious materials, to name a few. According to the website, “Helpsy was founded on the belief that design-forward, cutting-edge fashion can have a positive social impact — 100 percent of the time. Sometimes, it just takes a discerning eye and a little hunting.”
We didn’t have to hunt long to find this Tasman Ring by Nettie Kent. The raw, untreated lapis was purchased from a closed Colorado mine and is naturally mixed with other minerals, giving it the interesting blue and grey color. Each ring is one-of-a-kind and handcrafted in their Brooklyn-based studio. The ring is polished with natural wax, giving it the deep golden glow.
S.S. COALATREE, COALATREE Organics ($54)
A company that’s going a step further than using sustainable materials, COALATREE Organics is passionate about developing a lifestyle, not just a brand. They’ve created and maintain an organic farm in New Castle that produces fresh produce and livestock that is donated to the community, promotional events and their society members.
As outdoorsmen, they put an emphasis on the importance of creating a space for their team to plant and harvest the garden, fish, float the river, skateboard and play in the Colorado outdoors. Proving that conscious clothing can be stylish, they offer a selection of men’s jackets, tops, bottoms, T-shirts and accessories. One of our favorites is the S.S. COALATREE. This short-sleeve, button-up shirt features wood buttons and is created from 100 percent organic cotton, with a whimsical nautical pattern, perfect for sunny afternoons sailing around the Dillon Reservoir.
3 Way Tank, Indigenous ($82)
Knitting clothes is a time-honored tradition in many cultures that Indigenous Apparel is committed to fostering. Creating garments from only all-natural fibers and low-impact dyes, their partnerships with artisans create fair-trade relationships that benefit the individuals and their communities. The company has developed the Fair Trace Tool, a mobile-enabled technology that allows customers to see how the article of clothing was created, from the materials used to the artisan who sewed the piece.
This transparency helps to raise consumer awareness and a connection between consumer and artisan. Offering both women and men’s fashions, we were drawn to the 3 Way Tank, a tank top created from 100 percent organic cotton that can be worn three different ways, allowing you to purchase one tank, instead of three, resulting in overall less environmental impact.
TALON Polo, Ecoths ($55)
If you’re still unsure about what “sustainable” clothing and “ethical” garments are, Ecoths makes your connection to an end result easy to grasp; for each article of clothing purchased, three meals are provided to a person in need at their local food bank. The company developed their GOOD SAM program to support local food banks around the country and donated 15,550 meals in May 2014. They are continuing with this successful effort throughout the year and aim to donate more than 40,000 meals total in 2014.
The men’s line combines urban fashion elements with rugged outdoor influence. Crafted entirely of 100 percent natural elements, you’ll look good and feel good wearing the clothing. The TALON Polo is created from 100 percent organic cotton and could easily be worn day or night, thanks to the contrasting white stitching, giving it a polished and pulled-together finish. Find the Ecoths line at Summit Canyon Mountaineering in Glenwood Springs.