For Days is a closed loop fashion brand that rewards its shoppers with store credit for returning their clothing items when they are done with them. All materials are then fully recycled, upcyled or reused.
Not only does For Days take responsibility for its own clothes, but also the company accepts any used clothing by any brand in any condition in exchange for store credit via its Take Back Bag. Already, this radical approach has enabled For Days to divert over 1.2 million pounds of clothing from landfills, and collectively save more than 10 million pounds of carbon dioxide and 1.3 billion gallons of water.
“After a long career in the fashion industry and 10 years in the sustainability space, I became passionately convinced that the industry needed a circular business model that could shift customers' relationship to stuff, eliminate clothing waste and drive better business results,” says founder Kristy Caylor. “At For Days, we design into circularity at the very start.”
Caylor offers this advice to aspiring change makers. “The opportunity to chart new territory and think outside the box in order to create is a gift. However, there's no perfect equation. Any progress is amazing and improvement is constant, so just keep going!”
Kindly makes the first-ever plant-based bra cups, which are composed of over 80 percent sugarcane, as well as a line of underwear made from recycled yarns and fabrics. The brand is sold exclusively at Walmart stores across the U.S. and online at Walmart.com. What makes Kindly’s intimate apparel products truly remarkable is that they are not just sustainable, but also affordable, with items retailing for under $20.
Eve Bastug is Kindly parent company Gelmart International's chief product officer. She has worked in the fashion industry for over 38 years. Over time, she became highly concerned with the environmental impacts of factories and dye houses in China and India, which she would visit frequently. “It was this world of waste and harmful effects on workers all coated in a thick, grey air that made me think, there has to be a better way,” she says.
When it came to the sugarcane cup project for Kindly, Bastug felt incessant pressure to get it right as quickly as possible. She soaked up knowledge about sustainability and merged this with her technical knowledge of intimate apparel to generate creative solutions. She views the development of Kindly bras as the greatest challenge of her career.
“Trust in the power of failure,” Bastug advises aspiring change makers. “As in life, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose learn. The ‘failures’ I’ve faced always became obstacles-turned-opportunities.”
Abigail Brown and Jamie Morea first launched The Simple Folk with a line of minimalist, all-natural, non-toxic, ethical, comfortable children's wear that became an instant success. Recently, the company has pivoted to include women's wear. This decision was motivated “by the sheer volume of requests we had for producing our children’s clothes in adult sizes – and our own desire to dress as comfortably as our children,” says Brown.
However, the two cofounders also were driven by a desire to not just celebrate women’s wondrous bodies but also embrace the changes that most of us experience throughout our lives: pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, and menopause included. So, clothes are made almost exclusively with elasticated waists, adjustable straps and ties, and loosely-fitted flowing shapes that allow for women to keep wearing the items throughout their lives.
“As mothers ourselves, it was vital to us to create from a place of reverence for the changes our own bodies have been through,” says Brown. In particular, she was shocked to find a significant lack of maternity clothing options that are truly sustainable – most items aren’t designed to last beyond a few months! “Giving people space to change a size or two allows them to keep the clothes for a really long time. Adaptability is core to The Simple Folk’s notion of sustainable fashion.”
Brown and Morea have been delighted to see the conversation about the harms of fast fashion move to the forefront in recent years, impacting even the largest mainstream brands. Consumers are demanding environmental consciousness. Brown does, however, caution that many brands also are guilty of greenwashing. “Be sure to research sustainability practices thoroughly before making any purchase,” she advises. “Truly pioneering brands are paving the way to making the fashion industry a circular economy, not just using organic cotton.”
Presently, The Simple Folk is moving the needle even further by working to make their children’s and women’s wear collections available on rental platforms. They also are collaborating with resale platforms so that the company’s garments can be worn and re-worn by many people for many years, exactly as intended.
Helpsy is a certified B-Corp and the only vertically-integrated secondhand clothing merchant in the U.S. The company is on a mission to radically change the way we think about, dispose of, and purchase secondhand clothing. Founded by Dan Green, Alex Husted, and Dave Milliner, Helpsy collected over 29 million pounds of clothing in the last year alone.
The Helpsy Shop website aims to make buying secondhand clothing easy. Helpsy Collect works with partners large and small to manage clothing collection containers, excess inventory, returned clothing, home pick-ups, textile drives and more.
“At my core, I want my children to inherit a planet that is better off than the one I inherited,” says Husted. “Helpsy works toward that purpose by keeping millions of pounds of clothes from going in the trash.”
To aspiring change makers, Husted offers this advice. “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution. The best ways to attack a huge problem, such as textile waste, are rarely going the be the first ones you think of. Be ready to pivot multiple times.”
Amour Vert is one of the earliest sustainable fashion brands. The brand pioneered the use of new, environmentally conscious fabrics like modal, plant seed fiber, and ethical wool in 2010. The company always has produced items in small batches instead of investing in trends that inevitably lead to the fashion industry’s notorious landfill problem. In addition, Amour Vert supports a resale marketplace called ReAmour, where customers can buy and sell high-quality pre-loved styles at lower prices.
VP of Design and Sustainability Aylin Beyce has connected with her life purpose in working for Amour Vert as she always has found more joy in “the unexpected treasures of the flea market than the curated selections of conventional stores.” She connects with second-hand objects and enjoys how flea markets create community.
“Amour Vert is the first, and one of the only, brands where each team member is given the freedom to make hard choices that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices over profit,” says Beyce. “Connecting with our mills and factories and the people actually creating products has been a life-changing experience. I can no longer work for a brand that does not prioritize people and the planet. Being part of changing the fashion industry has helped me live with my eco-anxiety because I feel that I am part of the solution.”
Beyce urges aspiring change makers not to aspire to be perfect. “Instead, be willing to hold yourself accountable and open to feedback. Understand the urgency of the change the world needs but prioritize taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy enough to be a part of that change.”
Dara Hamarneh launched her sustainable handbag line in the fall of 2019. Her aim was to create a curated selection of handbags that stand the test of time. The company does not waste any fabric in the production process, and the new 925 collection is made entirely from surplus material. Because the brand produces in small quantities, it does not generate excess stock – as most fashion companies do.
The leather Dara Hamarneh uses is gold standard certified by the Leather Working Group, which demands the highest standards for water conservation, energy usage, traceability and chemical management. In addition, the company adopts fair trade practices, with all factory workers paid above average wages.
Originally from Amman, Jordan, Hamarneh grew up all over the Middle East, studied fashion in Italy, and began working in the industry in London. Through her brand, she hopes to create bridges between Europe and the Middle East.
As soon as she learned about emerging sustainability efforts in the fashion industry, Hamarneh became focused on creating an environmentally responsible company. “I can't imagine a world where everything is disposable,” she says. “I am happy to be part of something that reshapes how people think, even subtly.”
Dagne Dover, cofounded in 2013 by Melissa Mash, Deepa Gandhi, and Jessy Dover, has made a passionate commitment to environmentally and socially conscious business practices from its start. The company makes bags, backpacks, and wallets out of mostly vegan products, avoiding toxic chemicals and waste. Several product lines are constructed entirely from Repreve, a material crafted from recycled plastic bottles.
Recently, Dagne Dover added a glasses case and a jewelry case to their offerings. Both are mindfully made with Repreve. The glasses case, which can hold up to three pairs of glasses, has a loop for hanging and an interior pocket for wipes. The jewelry case offers loops, straps and padded slots to safely store your jewelry for travel.
“Don’t compare yourself to others,” the founders say to other aspiring change makers. “Invest time and energy in pursuing things that light you up.”