Sustainable clothing. The term isn’t something you hear too often, and when you do, you may feel ignorant — has the item been made with organic cotton? Is it compostable? Patagonia and Reformation, two of the most renowned sustainable clothing companies, are known most for their style and high quality. Considering how important reversing (or slowing) climate change is to the preservation of our way of life and lives, sustainable clothing should be widespread and become a household term.

The textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world after oil. Fashion’s carbon footprint includes the pesticides used in the production of cotton and other fabrics, the toxic dyes that are used and then incorrectly discarded, as well as the significant amount of pollution generated in the processing and shipping of garments. In basic terms, the cotton t-shirt you’re wearing from whatever unnamed retail store played a role in melting an ice cap. It is time that other clothing companies take note of what sustainable brands are doing to help the environment.

Reformation was created by Yael Aflalo, who embarked on her journey in the fashion world in 1999 by working at her first brand, Ya Ya. She was devoted to this job until she learned how the industry was detrimental to the environment and the horrible working conditions that factory workers in China were susceptible to. In an interview with Racked, Aflalo said, “I also went to China to visit a factory, and I had this moment where I realized this is really a polluted environment … I started to make the connection: This is me, I’m making clothes and I’m a big part of this.” She soon left Ya Ya and started Reformation in 2009. In the beginning, the company practiced sustainability by solely refurbishing vintage dresses they purchased. However, as they expanded, they were able to buy sustainable materials to make their own original clothing. Now, Reformation prides itself on making sustainable clothing out of previously produced deadstock (clothing that was never sold or used by customers), carefully selected fabric and repurposed vintage. The company itself is very transparent about the clothing they produce. Each piece online provides information regarding its carbon and water footprints so customers truly get to see the difference they make in the environment by purchasing reformation versus clothing from a standard retail company. For example, the RefScale for the Barb Top is labeled as having 9.0 pounds in carbon dioxide savings, 1.0 gallons of water savings and 1.1 pounds of waste savings.  

Patagonia is another sustainable clothing company that stands out in the transparency they exercise with their customers. On their website, Patagonia openly discusses the journey that their company has taken regarding their transitioning to increasingly sustainable materials. In their clothing, Patagonia solely uses recycled polyester and 100 percent organic cotton that they produce themselves without pesticides. Patagonia’s sustainability efforts are initiated by their customers’ existing passion for nature. This is why they also actively play a role in environmental campaigns that the company itself is passionate about, such as protesting dams in the South American region of Patagonia. Furthermore, the website provides information on grassroots campaigns all over the country that Patagonia supports, which work to alleviate the damage of climate change.

Beyond Reformation and Patagonia, there are other companies that are also well-known sustainable options such as Alternative Apparel, Amour Vert, DL 1961, Eileen Fisher, Everlane, PrAna, Threads 4 Thought and Tribe Alive.  

With sustainability comes a higher price. But, if the amount of sustainable clothing options are increased, the demand will decrease and price will fall. Therefore, in the meantime, we must support sustainable brands and purchase vintage when looking to save money.

We are all guilty of sustainable ignorance and steps must be taken to deter the irresponsibility revolving around the fashion industry. Clothing companies should feel inspired by the widespread success of Reformation and Patagonia and look to these companies as an example to model themselves after. Climate change is not waiting, and neither should we.  

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