Image Credit: EVERYBODY.WORLD
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It’s not news that teens today are heavily influenced by social media. And with influencers and celebrities constantly promoting new items, it’s very easy for teens to buy into the latest trends and get wrapped in a cycle of constant consumption.
This is where fast fashion thrives. It mimics celebrity culture and high fashion’s emerging trends at a quick speed and affordable price, so teens can look trendy, express themselves, and fit in.
It might seem like a win-win, but this mass-production of clothes comes at a very high environmental cost.
The speed at which fast fashion delivers new products to market is completely unethical and unsustainable. In order to accomplish the rapid churn of new styles, brands produce textiles out of toxic, water-wasting materials while underpaying employees to create clothes that literally fall apart after just a couple of washes.
Thankfully, it’s been found that Gen Z resembles a more health-conscious, socially aware and environmentally responsible generation. In a 2019 First Insight survey, Gen Z respondents were more likely to say that they make shopping decisions based on sustainable retail practices than Millennials and Generation X. At the same time, a 2020 Vogue Business survey shows that more than half of the young people surveyed would still continue buying from Boohoo, even after learning about its unethical standards. The dilemma seems to be that teens want to be responsible consumers, but battle with the social pressure of being trendy.
It’s teens who will inherit the consequences of the fashion choices we make today. Why not make it a little easier for them to make the right choice?
What to look for in sustainable fashion for teens
Natural fibers: Stay away from non-biodegradable and plastic fabrics, like polyester, which is made out of fossil fuels. Most fast fashion brands love this material due to its cheap production — a 2021 research by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) found that the average item of a fast-fashion brand is at least half plastic. And many don’t utilize recycled materials.
We recommend you look for natural fibers such as organic cotton, with certifications such as USDA Organic or GOTS. Even better, shop from brands which have transparent field-to-factory programs that support cotton farmers on their journey to healthier soil.
Recycled synthetics: The same report above shares that “88 percent of the items listed on some websites contain ‘virgin’ plastics.” If you are opting for synthetic fabrics, consider brands that utilize recycled polyester and nylon, as they produce fewer carbon emissions than their virgin counterparts.
Fair labor and transparency: Once you’ve nailed down the fabric type, you also want to make sure the manufacturing execution is up to par. We suggest you favor brands that are transparent about where their product is made and those that pay fair wages and ensure a safe workplace. Certifications like Fair Trade and SA8000 make it easier for you to buy from brands that prioritize these crucial elements. And soon, the “Made in Los Angeles label” will for sure mean it was made ethically, thanks to the passage of SB-62!
Gender-neutral designs: More teens are rejecting gender norms and identifying themselves as non-binary, which has manifested change in the fashion industry with more clothing brands creating designs without the confines of gender. Below, we have several brands that offer flattering designs with gender-inclusivity in mind.
Sustainable packaging: Look out for brands that use packaging that contains recyclable or biodegradable materials, like recycled cardboard or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper.
With that, here are our favorite brands that create fashionable clothes for teens. We guarantee you no longer need to compromise trendy styles over sustainability.
Launched in 2018, For Days uses high-quality, sustainable materials such as organic cotton and/or recycled materials to create its zero-waste basics. The brand ensures every item is 100% recyclable, and it minimizes waste with initiatives such as reusable packaging and company-wide carbon offsets. For Days created a SWAP program, allowing its customers to swap out anything, anytime, no matter the condition, and get a discount on new purchases. Every item customers send back gets recycled and turned into brand new clothes, making it a closed-loop system.
Levi’s has been committed to ethics and sustainability from the beginning, from its Worker Well-being program to its Waste<Less and Water<Less processes, as well as its robust chemical management system, making for denim that is safer for your health. While it does offer high-end Levi’s Made and Crafted items, most of Levi’s jeans are super affordable.
Bleuet sells bras geared towards tweens and young girls who are beginning their puberty journey. Its sizes range from 8-22 and it offers support for AA-C cups. You can find bras made out of sustainable and organic fabrics, such as bamboo and cotton. All of the brand’s scraps get turned into scrunchies. Bleuet only works with manufacturers who offer fair and sustainable wages, reasonable hours and a safe working environment.
Athleta, Gap’s inclusive athletic wear brand, is a certified B Corp, which is working its way toward more ethical and sustainable processes. As of 2020, the brand has been working on ensuring that 80% of its materials are made with sustainable fibers and that 25% of its products use water-saving techniques. You can learn more about their sustainability practices and goals here, and just make sure to check the fabric before purchasing to make sure it’s eco-conscious!
Warp + Weft is a family-owned company that’s been in the denim business for three decades. It is also committed to ethical practices, fair wages, reasonable hours, and positive working conditions for all its people. Its pre-teen denim selection comes in many different colors and styles.
Converse has transformed its iconic high-top sneakers with its Renew collection. It is made with about 12% recycled rubber scraps from the footwear manufacturing process, coming in multiple eye-catching, trendy styles.
Rothy’s has been one of the go-to brands for sustainable flats over the past several years and now makes sneakers as well. Rothy’s transforms single-use plastic water bottles into its signature thread to craft all of its products. Under its insoles, Rothy’s uses algae-based strobel boards, while its insoles contain 30% plant-based oil and recycled rubber. Rothy’s knits its products to shape to minimize production waste, resulting in 30% less material waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods. Every single shoe it makes is fully machine washable.
ASOS offers a curation of environmentally conscious and affordable clothing, accessories, and living items that are made using recycled or sustainable fibers.
Based in Los Angeles, Big Bud is a clothing label that specializes in unisex, everyday goods. The majority of its knits and woven fabrics are locally made in the Los Angeles area. It also uses low-impact and non-toxic dyes, and any screen printing ink it uses is water-based.
Founded in 2016, EVERYBODY.WORLD designs its gender-neutral basics out of 100% recycled cotton and biodegradable materials. The brand reprocesses cotton waste to become the yarn that it knits into fabric. Its garments are cut, sewn, dyed and printed in Los Angeles. EVERYBODY.WORLD is dedicated to fair wages, pushing boundaries in textile sustainability, and collaborating with creative minds to make its streetwear clothing.
Founded in 2014, CAFIN is a Fair Trade and eco-friendly streetwear brand based in London. It collaborates with young, up-and-coming designers to use Scandinavian values of ecological well-being and create premium quality, ethically made and environmentally friendly streetwear. CAFIN’s designs are made using certified organic Indian cotton.
Known for its dungarees, Lucy & Yak creates colorful and funky apparel out of eco-friendly materials, including recycled polyester. Its garments are handmade in India and some of its products are made using low-impact dyes. Two pairs of its original dungarees are made with fully traceable organic cotton. And its packaging is made out of recycled materials.
Known Supply is committed to humanizing the apparel industry. Each piece is hand-signed, inviting the customer to type the name of the maker on the brand’s website and learn more about the maker. It sells comfortable streetwear with positive graphics that are suitable for older teenagers. Every Known Supply product is made at facilities it operates, including a couple in India, Uganda and Peru.
CHNGE, which uses its platform to discuss topics such as gender, sexuality, disability, acne and albinism, creates sleek, sophisticated yet edgy and loud streetwear using 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. Its clothing is produced at a Fairtrade Factory that provides social insurance and health service options and double overtime. The brand is also committed to ensuring carbon neutrality in its production, offsetting 48.5lbs of CO2 for its supply chain and your first 50 washes and dries. Its packaging is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and 100% recycled plastic polybags, and is 100% recyclable, is printed using water-based inks.
Founded in 2014, Infantium Victoria designs high-end organic and vegan fashion for pre-teens and teenagers. Its clothing reflects a deep fascination for romantic themes and nostalgia and is made with only organic materials that are sourced, produced and distributed sustainably. Infantium Victoria’s functional yet elegant clothing ranges from 6 months to 16 years.
Shopping secondhand is also an excellent option when it comes to both sustainability and affordability. Check out this post for our recommendations for where to look for secondhand items. Poshmark and Depop are great places to start.