Fast Fashion is Exhausting—These 16 Brands Are Turning the Tide
Mindful shopping, simplified.
Courtesy of Nanushka / Courtesy of Maiden Name
Oct 21, 2021
Shopping mindfully is complicated. On the opposite end of the spectrum from fast fashion, whose adherents have little regard for the planet or its people, there exists a tiny, yet mighty coalition of designers that share an ethos of creating fewer, finer things. These slow fashion brands are digging their heels in to slow down the breakneck fashion cycle. The result? An intentional, guilt-free shopping experience.
While each slow fashion brand’s approaches vary, they all prioritize ethical production from the very first sketch. The important earmarks? Creating small-batch collections, following fair labor practices to the letter, and promoting radical transparency across all steps of the production process, so that the consumer knows what they’re buying into. Another silver lining: garments made with attention and intention are sure to last longer than, say, clothing that Gen Z-favored brands throw together in a matter of days.
Ahead, we highlight the best brands embracing the slow fashion movement while maintaining an eye for brilliant design. Get ready for a conscious, curated shopping experience.
Shop the Best Slow Fashion Brands
Maiden Name works with deadstock and locally-sourced materials to create its vintage-but-better designs. Its collections are on the smaller side, but for good reason. Thanks to a lean production run, waste is mitigated and designers Alix Freireich and David Lê get to know the people behind the production line. This personal touch is undeniable, yielding a collection that feels equal parts artistic and elemental.
“To love an object is to understand its making,” Lindquist Object‘s brand page asserts. Its architecture-inspired pieces are designed and created in East Providence, Massachusetts, with Japanese hardware sourced from the same factory as Hermès. If you look closely at each piece, you’ll notice the hidden initials of every artisan who worked on it during the production process.
One/Of by Patricia Voto
With a laser-focus on both sustainability and sophisticated design, Patricia Voto’s line manages to do what all slow fashion brands aspire to: reach zero-waste status, while still maintaining an ineffable sense of style. Sourcing materials from other brands’ discards and different mills’ archives, the designing begins once Voto feels she has enough to feel like a complete collection. The result? Timeless silhouettes with just the right amount of playfulness.
TOAST is always finding new ways to upcycle materials while maintaining traditional techniques in craftsmanship. In its most recent collection, the brand hand-knitted leftover threads of wool from production into entirely unique sweaters. Cast in cool, hard-to-place colors, these pieces are sure to become lifelong treasures that transcend trends. By collaborating with artists around the world, Toast’s wares all share a well-traveled point of view.
Airy dresses and vintage-inspired blouses have long been the specialty of Pink City Prints. The house dress gets modern makeover in the brand’s comfortable silhouettes that feel impossibly polished. Pink City Prints embraces sustainability by implementing traditional techniques to create pieces that feel out of the ordinary. Careful attention to details and intentional sourcing are core to the brand. Each piece is touched by hand, whether through printing, embroidery, or handspun materials.
Creating made-to-order clothing from Mexico, Chava Studio has established itself as a brand for those in the know. Founded in 2020 by Olivia Villanti, the brand develops pieces in partnership with a 30-year-old family-run fabric and shirting studio nearby. The designs boast a genderless, modern feel, all sculpted through genius tailoring.
Goldsign creates what it calls “luxurious modern essentials.” Its sleek denim selection is primed for the fashion-forward and those reluctant to give up its worn-in, years-over favorites. Every garment is created in Los Angeles, under the direction of denim visionary Karen Phelps. Her creativity, plus the cult-adored softness of Goldsign’s jeans, makes for an instant classic.
Through the brilliance of accessories designer and activist Aurora James, Brother Vellies was quick to usurp the title of CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner. What started as a mission to preserve African techniques in craftsmanship has expanded into a full-fledged, globally inspired label. Artisans near and far play an instrumental role in the creation of every design. Through the label’s sumptuous textures and earthy palette, James’s coolness seeps into each silhouette.
Designed for the modern bohemian, Nanushka upholds three pillars—earth, community, and circularity—and uses these to guide its entire production process. Beyond the environmental impact, the brand draws inspiration from nature itself. Since 2018, Nanushka has been a part of Make Fashion Circular, an initiative toward designing out waste and pollution by using upcycled, recycled, and renewable resources. By setting up rental partnerships with third-party outlets, the brand is expanding the life cycles of its clothing beyond the first purchase.
With designs as full of passion and zest for life as Celia B’s, it’s easy to see how the brand would translate this optimistic attitude toward its environmental impact. Reducing the number of clothing items that a consumer can invest in sits at the core of the brand’s sustainability efforts. It’s also ditched the antiquated fashion calendar—instead, trusting the customer to shop when they see fit. The resulting collections are vivacious and timeless, unlike anything else in one’s wardrobe.
High-quality materials and bespoke finishes have become the calling cards of Merlette NYC. Designed in Brooklyn by Marina Cortbawi, the brand uses 100% Pima Cotton and handwashing to reduce water waste. As a pillar of the brand’s conscious efforts, it also pays all workers along the supply chain a fair wage. In short, when shopping Merlette NYC, shoppers know they can expect exceptional luxurious, mindfully made designs.
Meryll Rogge sets the record straight on the falsehood that slow fashion equals boring, minimalist designs. The brand’s whimsical patterns and daring silhouettes feel trend forward without joining the tide of fast-fashion brands. With clothes tha are “an ode to the playful reinvention of self,” forged through designs “that speak beyond genders and generations” according to its bio, Meryll Rogge creates pieces worth passing on to your grandchildren.
Another common misconception about slow fashion is that all brands are so small-scale that they’re oftentimes unknown. Not for Ganni. A well-documented favorite of the fashion crowd, the Copenhagen-based brand has recently implemented drastic improvements in its sustainability practices, as well as its size run. By launching annual sustainability reports, the brand asks consumers to hold them accountable to its goals. Working to eliminate unnecessary plastic in packaging is just one example of Ganni’s ongoing efforts. Bringing the conversation to the forefront sets a powerful example for other beloved brands to follow suit.
All about effortless style, Aje is an Australian brand with a steadfast mission to integrate production practices that are healthier for the environment. Through its “Aje Aware” program, the brand is focused on allyship, sourcing less taxing materials, and creating a more sustainable supply chain. As the brand’s creative director, Edwina Forest puts it, “At Aje, we are for all humanity: everyone is welcome in our world.”
Longtime pioneer of conscious creating, Stella McCartney turned heads when she started designing in 1995, refusing to use animal byproducts. Decades later, the brand maintains its place as a leader in sustainable, cruelty-free fashion. Circularity is one of McCartney’s core values, placing importance on reused materials and investing in recycled alternatives to fan-favored textures. All the while, McCartney continues to present shoppers with interesting designs in bold colorings that always make a splash.
In an attempt to understand a more authentic, fulfilling and kind approach to fashion, STORY mfg. places equal importance on aesthetics and ethical production. It achieves this synergy by keeping artisan practices alive, reusing natural fiber offcuts, and paying workers across its supply chain a fair, livable wage. Its resultant pieces all have a cheeky joie de vivre to them—which rings even more true knowing that environmental and social consciousness propel the work.