Part of trying to have an "ethical wardrobe" is to reduce your consumption. So, this page isn't telling you that you should shop. It's telling you that my overall goal is to "make do" and only buy what I need. Am I am superhuman extreme minimalist? No. I lead a fairly normal life and I replace wardrobe items and impulse buy stuff I don't need just like a lot of people. This list is to remind myself of brands I put some faith in, if I have to buy something new.
My first choice will always be to re-use. It's getting harder and harder these days, since so much of what's currently on the market is shoddily-made crap, so you end up with shoddily-made crap at your resale and thrift stores these days. Quality used and vintage is getting harder and harder to find, unfortunately.
I support clothing swaps, resale shops (like Buffalo Exchange, Beacon's Closet, Plato's Closet) and thrift stores first before buying new. But I know you can't always find what you need and sometimes you just don't have the time.
So, here's what I'm personally comfortable buying. I'm listing the following for each, so you know why!
What I like about them:
Brand: Baggu (cotton totes and nylon shopping bags and pouches)
Vegan? No, but they have vegan options. Much of their stuff is canvas or nylon.
Eco? Some recycled or organic cotton depending on the bag/season; efforts to limit waste
Labor Standards? Cotton is "ethically made in China"
What I like about them: I have two of their canvas duck bags, which I find really versatile since you can wear them as a cross-body, a shoulder strap bag or by the shorter handles. (They're on the blog somewhere if you search for "Baggu".) I also have a Baggu backpack but I didn't find it terribly comfortable so I stopped using it. Those duck bags though - totally use those all the time.
Brand: Clydes Rebirth (jewelry)
Vegan? No, but it's jewelry so much of it is anyway
Eco? Uses deadstock or recycled materials
Labor Standards? Handmade by Merl!
What I like about them: I love that it's a small company run by one of my favorite ginger cat ladies. I also just love the designs - I have an Addie and an Edna and I always think about getting a Rosalyn or Cecil, too.
Brand: Everlane (apparel)
Vegan? No, but they have vegan options. Watch out for wool, silk and leather.
Eco? Some organic cotton.
Labor Standards? Transparent about the factories they work with
What I like about them: That transparency is their tag line; that their stuff is well made and doesn't fall apart right away. (I have a few Everlane shirts and you can see them if you search this blog for "Everlane".)
Brand: Insecta (shoes, bags)
Vegan? YES - the entire brand
Eco? They used salvaged material for the shoe uppers; soles are recycled rubber
Labor Standards? TBD - I thought they used to have something other than "handmade" in Brazil (which can mean anything) in their About Us section - I'll follow up!
What I like about them: I have a pair of Scarabeus shoes and they're really comfortable. (You can see them if you search this blog for "Insecta").
Brand: Keep (sneakers)
Eco? Not that I know of.
Labor Standards? "Use factories audited by international, third-party non-profits" and "a Keep representative is on the line of every production"
What I like about them: I've had a pair of black neoprene Homers and a pair of black canvas Ramoses and I love both. The neoprene material made those sneakers pretty much waterproof and I'm bummed they don't have them any longer! I am a big fan of dark soles on black sneakers so I like that they sometimes have that option (and I wish they'd have it more).
Brand: Maggie's Organics (leggings, apparel, socks)
Vegan? No, but they have cotton vegan options. Watch out for wool.
Eco? If you read through the manufacturing chain information, you'll see some efforts in this area (organic cotton vs conventional, waste in processing methods, etc).
Labor Standards? Maggie's has been transparent about who they work with for years. You'll find several pages on this - Behind the Label, Transparency, 3rd Party Verification ; Maggie's has always struck me as a small company that really understands the issues (and tries to educate their clientele), trying to be as transparent and mindful as possible. If you click on the Behind the Label link, you can select the product you're interested in and they'll walk you through how the textiles were sourced and dyed and where it was made!
What I like about them: I have a bunch of their black leggings, cotton running socks, black cotton crew socks. Their leggings aren't super thick and have a slightly high waist but I love them. The socks are great and you'll always find a few pairs of Maggie's socks or leggings on my Xmas wish list. (If you search for "Maggie's Organics" on this blog, you'll find a bunch of instances where I'm wearing Maggie's, usually leggings.)
Brand: Make It Good (apparel)
Vegan? No, but the options are overwhelmingly vegan.
Eco? Not that I found overtly listed in their About Us or product descriptions, though I recall tht they used to have a note about it.
Labor Standards? Portland, OR-made and textiles are USA-sourced
What I like about them: I have several dresses and shirts by this brand. I find them easy to wear and pretty versatile.
Brand: Mary Meyer (apparel)
Vegan? No, they have a lot of wool in the fall/winter seasons but I can usually find either cotton or other material in the spring/summer lines and sometimes the fall/winter too
Eco? Nothing specifically noted.
Labor Standards? Originally all of it was made in Brooklyn, NY but they now have some items made in India as well. All items are marked appropriately. I don't see any info on the labor standards for the India manufactured items and haven't yet emailed about them (the first time I saw this was on their Fall 2016 stuff).
What I like about them: I like that they're mostly black and other neutrals, that they have geometric or tie-dye patterns, bleach-splatters, etc. (I have a dress, a shirt and some t-shirts by MM, which you can find by searching "Mary Meyer" on this blog)
Brand: Mata Traders (apparel, jewelry)
Vegan? No, but has vegan options (mostly cotton and jersey). Watch for bone in the jewelry.
Eco? They have a Green America certification but I haven't looked any further into it.
Labor Standards? Works with artisan/and sewing cooperatives
What I like about them: I have had a few Mata Traders dresses in the past few years but I think I only have one in my closet these days. I have a few pieces of metal and wood jewelry by them as well. All get good use. Most of their dresses are still fit-and-flare and I'm anxiously waiting for them to come out with more A-line or tent dresses in the future. They did have one last year that sold out before I tried to buy it and they mentioned that they would be making more of that shape in the future. But if you like to have a waist, you'll probably like what they have now.
Brand: Mat & Nat (bags, shoes)
Eco? They do use both PVC (bleah) and PU (better), as well as more sustainable materials like cork and rubber. They claim to use PU when possible but I'm not sure when they do so for their bags since they won't tell you what is PVC or PU on the website. I double-checked my own bags and sure enough, my black Eeha M&N bag is made of PVC, which I didn't realize when I bought it. I thought it was PU by look and feel. They don't list whether the bag is PVC or PU (or even cork!) on their website, but they do list that the lining is recycled nylon. I also checked the shoes - and they do tell you what's PU. I have these M&N Hall shoes and they're PU. At any rate, I have a soft spot for this brand since it was one of the first durable vegan bag lines out there but at this point I'd only buy stuff in-person so I could check materials or if they started accurately listing materials on their website.
Labor Standards? They have come out with more-defined labor standards recently here. SA8000 standards.
What I like about them: One of the first durable vegan handbag lines out years ago. Their hardware has improved some (years ago every zipper I had on a M&N bag broke) but isn't perfect. I like that they're attempting to improve with transparency in labor standards and hopefully they will become more transparent about their materials as well.
Brand: Nicora Johns (shoes)
Eco? Some recycled plastics and textiles.
Labor Standards? LA-made! USA!
What I like about them: I actually don't own any a pair of Nicoras yet but I did try on the silver metallic Sallys when they had them at Mooshoes NYC and they were super super comfy. (Even though they look pointy and I'm a wide-width Barney Rubble foot.) I love that they are careful about making the shoes in LA and conscious about materials.
Brand: PO-EM (shirts, dresses)
Vegan? Not explicitly but I've only seen cotton garment on the site
Eco? Natural dyes for color.
Labor Standards? Work with fair trade artisan cooperatives.
What I like about them: Roomy, nubby cotton dresses with pockets. I tried one on at Bhoomki in Brooklyn and then bought two more off the PO-EM site. These are my go-to summer dresses. (You can see them by searching for "PO-EM" on this blog.)
Brand: Vaute Couture (coats, apparel, hats)
Eco? Yes, lots of organic and recycled fibers and textile R&D.
Labor Standards? Made in NYC or Chicago, usually. Ethical labor standards are key for this brand and they are always noted.
What I like about them: Originally know for their vegan holy grail - warm winter coats that aren't exclusively poly-fill nylon puffer coats, this brand now has apparel, hats and their famous toasty vegan coats. I own three coats and a dress by this brand. They also have fantastic pre-sales that help fund the upcoming season, so you have the opportunity to get 50% early in the season.