The sustainable fashion community is host to a number of companies that do some great work trying to make the industry a more honest and socially responsible place. The retraced editorial team wanted to share some of our favorite examples with you! 😃
"Best in Class" is a new blog series where we highlight some exemplary examples of companies implementing a variety of transparency and sustainability initiatives. This week, we're diving into the sub-topic Communication Initiatives. Transparency can't exist without communication. The depth and creativity of communication can vary among companies and their various campaigns. This week we share 9 fashion brands (in no particular order) with strong and unique communication strategies.
Patagonia is focused on reducing its footprint and encouraging consumers to do the same. In 2011, the company stirred things up with its controversial ad , posted in The New York Times on Black Friday, telling people: “Don’t Buy This Jacket”. The ad succeeded in raising awareness for its Common Threads Initiative - a means through which Patagonia could be consistent and authentic with their message of counteracting overconsumption. The way Patagonia has communicated and promoted this is one of the key aspects of the company's success.
Patagonia also uses all its platforms to reach individuals driven to join them in environmental action and conscious consumption. From the Activism page at their website, lifestyle stories on social media, participatory events organized all over the world, to the Fairtrade campaign asking people how their clothes are made - Patagonia has perfected its communication strategy to target a committed and inspired audience.
ARMEDANGELS is an ethical fashion brand from Germany that focuses on combining fair working conditions and sustainable, high-quality materials with beautiful design. To prove its values, the Cologne-based brand is partnering with several independent organizations like the Global Organic Textile Standard, Fair Wear Foundation, and Fairtrade. Their products have detailed descriptions that state what they are certified for, what the materials are, as well as the name of the supplier. While browsing the website, visitors can also learn more about the different sustainable fibers used in the clothing they use. (Ever wondered what Kapok fiber from the "Wonder Tree" is all about?). ARMEDANGELS is also stepping up as an educator in the fashion industry by launching clever campaigns such as #DetoxDenim to inform customers on the impact of chemical and water use in conventional denim production.
American clothing and accessories retailer Banana Republic is working hard for a better republic. Both on a community level and company level, Banana Republic aims to reach equality and defeat systemic discrimination through its P.A.C.E. program. At the same time, the company has strong responses to social movements such as #BlackLivesMatter by setting short and long term goals and explaining exactly what they will do to improve their practices, products, and partners. Banana Republic is also looking out for the future of our planet by integrating sustainability into design and manufacturing decisions to reduce the environmental impacts of each garment. This is communicated on their website, via their "Better Republic" Campaign where you can read what they are doing now, what their next steps are, along with some easy-to-read charts showing how close they are to reaching their goals already. (Other brands under the Gap Inc. umbrella - Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, etc - are also committed to more sustainable manufacturing targets)
Organic Basics, like their name suggests, produce simple underwear, activewear, and other clothing essentials. However, there is nothing 'simple' about the depths of transparent information that the Copenhagen-based company communicates through their sustainability initiatives. The B-Corp brand not only commits to offsetting 100kg CO2 per order, but they have also developed their own Impact Index. This quantitative impact measurement tool is used to compare their production approach with traditional industry practices. The Index calculates the water, energy, waste, CO2 emissions, and chemical footprint of each product. A quick tour of their sustainability webpage will also point to an extensive sustainability report and a wealth of information about their suppliers and their manufacturing practices. Their latest initiative includes offering a low impact version of their website. This takes into consideration the emissions of using the internet, data transfer, and ultimately the amount of electricity use. Organic Basics' low impact website imitative hopes to reduce data transfer through the optimization of various website rendering techniques, lower power consumption, compressed data, and more. (Check out their Low Impact website manifesto)
Closed, the denim and apparel brand from Hamburg, Germany, are happy to share information about their sustainability practices. Their website has a ton of interesting information. From a detailed listing of their materials to interesting insights about their manufacturers, and even a 30-page sustainability report, the company is driven to communicating their devotion to environmental protection. (Fun fact: They work with a Milan-based Denim weaving mill called Candiani,, also dubbed "the greenest denim mill in this blue world" that uses 15% less water and energy for Closed's "Better Blue" Denim line: Check out this neat video).
The footwear company from London that promises "shoes with a good sole" does not disappoint when it comes to creative communication for their ethical shoes. It starts with their innovative use of sustainable materials (coconut husks or coir, apple skins, and cork, for example), and continues with their commitment to ethical, and transparent production standards - including an informative video of their production that starts in Sri Lanka. In 2016, they set up the Better Shoes Foundation, as means to "promote sustainable development and practices across the global shoe industry by providing an open-source platform where people can be inspired by the advances others are making." Finally, the brand has been successful in tying all their sustainable efforts into some of their fun, buzz-worthy collaborations, such as their Po-zu x Star Wars Campaign. Joining the Rebellion has never been more fun or sustainable!
The Canadian leisure brand, Tentree, does precisely what their name would suggest - promote environmental awareness and action through reforestation and transparency. Their core campaign is simple: the brand encourages its customers to buy one tree, and the brand in return will plant ten. The planted trees are even traceable - customers can enter their "tree code", and learn more about the location where the trees were planted, and the kind of impact that it will have on the local environment. With 43,246,292 trees planted to date, the brand aims to plant 1 billion trees by 2030. Tentree also works with GreenStep to help measure the environmental impact for each of their production cycles, with a calculator called the Eco-Log.
The two Nashville- based brands, Nisolo and Able, made a stir in the sustainable fashion world in 2019 when they launched their #LowestWageChallenge(check out the kick-off video). The campaign was a bold call to action for the industry to be more transparent about their supply chains, specifically the salaries of the workers who made their products. The two brands lead the way, with Able publishing the wages from their suppliers in Ethiopia, and Nisolo publishing the wages form the factory workers in Peru. As a result, the two brands were able to identify shortcomings in their ethical supply chain efforts which they could immediately improve. Furthermore - the challenge inspired consumers to ask that other brands start doing the same - publishing the wages of their lowest-paid workers, and thus committing towards a plan towards fairer payment in fashion.
This US-based start-up brand is progressive and fearless in their messaging and campaign approach. The brand offers a mouthpiece for the millennial generation, with shirts and sweaters that state slogans to inspire diversity, environmental awareness, and social change. From ‘Protect Kids Not Guns’ to ‘No Human is Illegal on Stolen Land’, their call to actions are politically charged, and activist-savvy. Their latest It's about Us video follows that tone. They combine this ethos with detailed information about their supply chain factories, and their fabrics.
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