Like many zero-waste students and advocates, I'm all for buying clothing second-hand. It saves you money and helps contribute to a circular economy.
However, I recognize that not everyone will want to buy their clothing exclusively second hand, and that there are some things many people may prefer to buy new, like sneakers and underwear. That's why I like to stay aware of and promote brands that are doing their best to minimize their impact on the planet, while providing livelihoods for workers in developing countries.
Here's a roundup of a few of my favorites at the moment:
I stumbled upon PACT when I was looking for an ethical underwear brand, since I have a few pairs now that are showing some signs of wear and tear. Pact makes exactly what I'm looking for: simple, sleek, organic cotton panties in neutral colors. They also make other underpinnings and loungewear, like leggings, tights, tees, tanks, and sweats.
They use exclusively organic cotton in their products, and all farms and factories in their supply chain are Fair Trade certified by the Global Organic Cotton Standard, which means in addition to the obvious things like a living wage and no child labor, they provide benefits to their workers like transport to and from job sites, company sponsored meals, and health plans.
I'm so happy this brand exists. They make classic sneakers that have a similar feel to the ever-popular Converse, but they use organic cotton, vegan rubber, and their factories are certified Fair Trade. But what I really love about them is that they don't stop at the Fair Trade certification, which arguably has some flaws and holes in it. They make it their priority to ensure that, in addition to paying workers a living wage and guaranteeing safe working conditions, which should be the base line for any factory worker, they are giving workers a voice and helping to improve their social living conditions.
Also, their sneakers are damn cute!
My husband, who is Welsh, introduced me to Hiut denim, which was founded in Wales and whose jeans are all produced in Cardigan, West Wales. Their aim is to bring more denim manufacturing back to their town, which used to produce denim en-masse. My husband owns two pairs of their denim, and bought me a pair this Christmas. They produce short runs of awesome denim, and stand by their quality - they do repairs and replace faulty product for free.
Because they are still small and struggling to meet minimum fabric order quantities, they are unable to use organic fabrics as yet, which they are honest about on their site. However, their aim is to one day be 100% organic. I like their transparency on this issue. I also like that their styles are minimally washed, which saves on the tremendous amounts of water that are used in most denim manufacturing.
As always, when choosing to buy clothes new, choose wisely, choose quality, and assess whether it's something that you really need. And when you do make a purchase, try to support brands whose values line up with yours.