Shop With a Clean Conscience


Euan Prentis

Alternative Apparel, on Lafayette Street, SoHo. The fabric-first clothing brand produces 70% of its high quality garments through sustainable processes and materials.

Kate Holland, Contributing Writer

April 24 will mark the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse. Christened Fashion Revolution Day in remembrance of the 1,100 Bangladeshi workers killed in the collapse, the upcoming anniversary is a stark reminder of our responsibility as consumers to support ethical consumerism and fair trade practices.

The mindset of a conscious consumer begins with finding sustainably and ethically-minded businesses. The designation “sustainable” refers both to workers’ rights and environmental sustainability in fashion. Fast fashion, or low-budget fashion retailers such as Forever 21 and H&M, is rarely sustainable.

These companies often outsource their labor while paying little attention to workers’ quality of life. In many developing countries, minimum wage requirements for textile workers are either nonexistent or largely ignored by companies, which means that the American minimum wage cannot be enforced for Bangladeshi employees under American employers. These outsourced production sites also produce some of the worst chemical and textile pollution in the world without facing scrutiny from American organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency or Greenpeace.

Supporting stores that employ sustainable manufacturing tactics can ameliorate the fashion industry’s long-held struggle with ethical production. Here are some places you can shop at this spring to support the movement toward sustainability.

Eileen Fisher, SoHo

Boasting sustainable fibers and certified dyeing, Eileen Fisher dedicates an entire platform to the sustainable fashion revolution, including segments for fair trade and human rights. Eileen Fisher sells high-end women’s clothing — much of it made in the United States — reminiscent of Ann Taylor and Chico’s, with pieces like the Organic Cotton Boyfriend Jean ($178) and the Organic Linen Windowpane Box-Top ($178).

Reformation, SoHo

Reformation claims to have saved 178 million gallons of water, 2.1 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 141,000 pounds of textile waste in 2016 alone. They also have a guide for recycling old clothes on their website. A cross between Anthropologie’s bohemian housewife and American Apparel’s moody schoolgirl, Reformation’s pieces — like the Prestin Top ($78) and the Fifi Skirt ($98) — are perfect for NYU students.

Alternative Apparel, SoHo

Branding themselves “soft, simple, sustainable,” Alternative Apparel is an affordable, cotton-based clothing line that features a simple style with a lot of stripes, like the Fifth Label Deep Valley Top ($44), and comfy lounge tops like the Maniac Eco-Fleece Sweatshirt ($58). With style endorsed by Blair Waldorf of “Gossip Girl,” Alternative Apparel offers a fresh take on the sustainability movement.

Kaight, Brooklyn

A boutique free from the bourgeois pretension typical of Manhattan boutiques, Kaight has an entire line using purely organic fabrics and pesticides. The boutique also has a notable line of apothecaries, featuring products like rose + juniper aromatic hair mist ($18) and 100% soy candles ($24).

Cloth, Brooklyn

Capitalizing on the ultra-chic runway look, Cloth is a Brooklyn boutique with an edgier spin on the loose-fitting runway fashion with the Cotelac Paisley Dress ($182) and the Nico Stripe top ($124). Cloth’s website is usually sold out of most pieces, not only indicating that they’re on the up-and-up, but also that their clothing line is less accessible to people who don’t have time to go to a physical store.

Check out these stores for an environmentally responsible option during your next shopping trip. It may be intimidating walking the high-fashion streets of Manhattan, waiting for Style Watch or Humans of New York to catch you in your sweatpants, but remember, nothing will look better this season than a clear conscience.

Email Kate Holland at [email protected]