The fashion industry is notoriously unkind to the earth, and is known to be exploitative of both people and resources. For anyone who is trying to make more conscientious and sustainable choices, clothes shopping can be frustrating. Cold weather clothing is especially a challenge for vegans, because so much of it uses animal products as a form of insulation. This is the area where, in the past, I most often had to compromise on my attitude towards sustainability. But things are definitely improving.
While the shift towards sustainability is going slowly, too slowly in fact, there are many brands making great strides and creating stylish options that are also environmentally friendly and accessible for vegans. This list is a small sample of the eco-conscious options out there. Even Gucci is releasing a line of vegan, eco-friendly shoes. Happy shopping and stay warm!
Save Our Scruff is a Toronto based not-for-profit animal rescue that helps find foster and forever homes for in-need dogs from all over the world. They also work to raise awareness about pet and animal population control and run spay and neuter clinics. If you’re like me, and not in a position where you can adopt or foster a pet, buying Save Our Scruff merch is a great way to support their cause and their pooches. Their growing collection features t-shirts, sweaters, joggers, hats, decals and totes. The clothing designs are understated, but attractive and stylish and are made from 100 percent ethically sourced cotton.
Ten Tree is an earth forward clothing brand that, in addition to planting ten trees for every purchase, is committed to finding and using the most sustainable materials and processes available. Their line isn’t entirely vegan (they have some wool products), but much of their clothing is made from plant-based materials like recycled polyester, organic cotton and hemp. They also use a fibre called Tencel, which is made from wood pulp. The clothes have an earthy kind of vibe to them, with a lot of rich, autumnal tones that match Ten Tree’s environmental stance. And as the temperatures fall, you’ll definitely want to grab one of their quilted crews to keep yourself warm.
Better Outerwear for a Better Planet is the slogan for Norden Project, a Montreal based clothing company that specializes in sustainably made coats, jackets and vests. Their line does not use fur, feathers, leather or any other animal by-products in the production process, and instead utilizes only recycled and repurposed materials. They also have a buyback program as well. You can get a $100 discount if you trade in a coat from the one of the eligible brands listed on their website. The traded in coats are cleaned, repaired and donated to the Welcome Hall Mission in Montréal.
Atelier b, based again in Montreal, is the fashion brainchild of designers, founders and friends Catherine and Anne-Marie. Their entire line is manufactured in their studio (or close to it) using sustainable materials produced under fair labour practice, with much of it coming from local sources. Their clothing isn’t all vegan, but there are plenty of options made from with plant-based fabrics. If you have any interest in things like pattern making and hand sewing, they also offer courses at their Mile End workshop.
Outerknown is a cozy and comfortable sustainable clothing line started by professional surfer, Kelly Slater, that, while being known for its surfer ware, also has a solid offering of more fall appropriate attire. From sweaters to blanket shirts, Outerknown has been crafting fine quality clothing that embraces renewable fibers and organic materials. They were also the first brand to pursue Fair Labour Association accreditation, which, in an industry that is known for its exploitation of workers, is a big deal. Not everything is vegan, but there is plenty of cotton and polyester options to choose from.
Kotn is an increasingly well-known Canadian clothing company that endeavours to merge classic design with sustainable practices, while also honouring and elevating the people who make the clothing. Their business model emphasizes that the farms they work with are partners in their success and they heavily invest back into the communities and families involved in the manufacturing process. To date, they’ve help fund ten schools and built seven schools in Egypt. The clothing itself is made with non-toxic certified dyes and is shipped in plastic free packaging. They have flagship stores in Toronto and Montreal, but you can of course buy online as well.
Frank and Oak
Uber-successful clothier Frank and Oak has become one of the foundational Canadian fashion brands. They’ve been at the forefront of the sustainable clothing movement since their founding in 2012 and they continue to be trailblazers when it comes to environmentally friendly design ideology. Some of their current initiatives and practices revolve around reducing packaging materials and plastics used in shipping, implementing more carbon offset programs and using more renewable energies in their offices and stores. Not everything is vegan – there is some products that are made with wool – but all the materials used in each item are clearly listed.
Happy Earth is an eco-conscious, climate justice focused clothing brand that sells sweatshirts, graphic tees, joggers and more. Their line features simple, but stylish graphics that don’t sacrifice aesthetics to promote environmental activism, and prices are very reasonable for the quality of clothing. Their products are plant based, plastic free, made from certified organic cotton, and using a low-emission process that also minimizes water use. A portion of their sales are also directed to an environment cause of your choosing, such as planting trees, reducing emissions or cleaning up trash.
Armed Angels is a brand that focuses on circularity in their manufacturing process, a concept that the fashion industry rarely embraces. This means that their clothes are recycled from textile waste, and converted into new fabrics – a process that seems like it would be a standard practice, but sadly it is not. Their website has a very comprehensive breakdown of their environmental and humanitarian stances, but in summary, their clothes are free of toxic dyes and bleaches and made under fair and ethical labour circumstances. They do use wool in their product line, though I couldn’t find any items on their website that actually did – regardless the materials are noted in detail on each product.
There is no waste in nature – that’s one of the maxims of Story mfg, an eco-conscious brand whose line is unisex, anti-fit, and infused with a vintage aesthetic. Story has its own unique and quirky style that is quite a bit different than other vendors. If you’re looking for something that is a bit more bespoke that also respects the environment, while supporting and uplifting workers, this is the brand for you. It is also a completely vegan line. Their detailed list of natural dyes and the thorough explanation of how each is used, is also super educational and interesting.
Organic cotton farming is the base on which Pact builds their brand. The cotton Pact uses is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard, meaning that it’s grown without toxic chemicals, using significantly less water, and in a manner that respects the soil, the ecosystem and the people. The result is a clothing that is super soft, cozy and comfortable, and if you want to up your cozy game, they also sell bedding! If you’re in the U.S. they have a Give Back, Wear Forward program. Just send Pact your gently worn clothing and they will distribute to one of several local charities.