The crisis we face is unprecedented, its duration uncertain, it requires us to think differently, globally and to question the balance of power in current supply chain models. In this second Blog Post Jackie Lewis examines whether “we are all really in it together” and whose responsibility it is to reshape the future of the apparel industry.
7 Sustainable Plus-Size Brands Defying Fashion Conventions in 2020
Sustainability and equal rights for all are some of the most heated topics at the moment. As the world is collapsing under the weight of extensive and irresponsible exploitation, people feel they have compelling reasons to protect and save our planet. At the same time, people are willing to stand up and fight discrimination, in whatever form it might take.
Sustainable plus-size fashion perfectly embraces these trends and has become the focus of many designers. Brands operating in this sector are gaining momentum and reshaping the fashion industry in ways that were unimaginable years ago.
What Specifically Is Plus-Size Fashion?
Several brands have been producing clothing lines for plus-size customers for a long-time. However, these items were rarely, if ever, fashionable, and curvy customers missed out on having exciting shopping experiences enjoyed by regular-size customers. Black, dull, and loose clothes were the norm for them. Not exactly a selection that makes you eager to show off your new purchase. Not even the best of these options could beautify a woman and make her look sexy and glamorous.
The new concept of Plus-size fashion is now filling this gap. It aims to give each customer equal rights despite their size. This is exactly what defines plus-size fashion today. Not just the creation of separate collections for curvy customers, but also making the existing collections available to any size.
The concept of inclusive sizing may appear simple, but to make it happen is a real challenge for designers. Simply making an item bigger is not enough for it to be a genuine plus-size brand. A reorganization of the designing and manufacturing process must be implemented. The brand must make sure that the clothing fits and looks flattering on the customer no matter its size. Therefore, as the size gets bigger, a different cutting must be used, and patterns must be graded accordingly. It is a specialised skill that needs to be learnt.
It is impressive to see how many designers have connected with this new market need and have set things in motion to adapt to this trend. The plus-size fashion movement has been embraced by brands at all levels. Therefore, today it is possible to find even top brands making their collections available to curvy customers, thus giving everybody the opportunity to feel as confident and beautiful as the women featured on billboards and advertisements. This is also happening thanks to the modelling industry also becoming more size inclusive.
Size shouldn’t have to dictate whether you can shop for fashion in an eco-conscious way or not either. In that respect, you would hope that Plus Size customers wouldn’t have to compromise but have the same level of choice. It is, therefore, also a huge progress to see that there are more and more brands catering to the plus-size market that offer sustainable collections or have sustainability at the heart of their business, smartly and genuinely capitalizing on both trends.
Here are 7 examples of sustainable plus-size brands:
Girlfriend Collective is an activewear brand that sets a remarkable example of sustainability and transparency. The brand produces workout gear in sizes up to 6XL and their items are known to be both fashionable and durable.
The company motto is “Waste Not.” The project focuses on recycling old plastic bottles, fishing nets, and other wastes and transforming them into fabrics to produce leggings, tees, and sports bras. The new fabrics created by this recycling process are durable, comfortable, and eco-friendly. The brand is SA8000-certified which ensures that employees are well-paid, safe, and healthy. All the packaging is also included in being 100% eco-friendly. To guarantee total transparency, all the details of their production process, its impact on the environment, and the working conditions at their facilities are openly outlined on their website.
After years of wearing clothes cut for men Kelly and Laura Moffat created Kirrin Finch with the idea of making menswear accessible to everyone who wants to wear it. The Brooklyn- based designers perfectly understood the needs of a gender defying audience who could not find fitting apparel on the stands of classical menswear stores. Since its launch in 2015, the firm produces all their collections in NY with sustainable materials and packaging.
A compromise with the LGBTQ+ Community
Kirrin Finch goes beyond creating clothes that break gender barriers, the company supports multiple social causes that empower women and the LGBTQ+ Community through donations and events. Furthermore, they have created Dapper Scouts, A strong and active community where stylish ambassadors can showcase their confidence and present their authenticity to the world.
Big Bud Press
Lacey Micallef and Philip Seastrom are the founders of the 60’s inspired ethical clothing brand Big Bud Press. Their collection goes from XXS to 5XL and is made in Los Angeles from almost all-natural materials like cotton. The sustainable fashion brand worked hard to develop a unisex line that not only looks good on traditionally masculine bodies, but also looks good on those of us with curvier figures.
Made in USA with fair wages
Believe it or not all their clothing is made by hand and each garment is touched by at least 80 different hands before it gets to you. That’s a lot of people! What makes this eco brand so special is their commitment to their workers: the company puts the value of living wages and safe working conditions above profit margins.
The slow fashion designer uses natural fibers such as linen, silk and cotton featuring a minimalist style collection ready to wear all year round. From XXS to 4X all clothing is done locally at their headquarters in Nashville with the intention of creating long-lasting garments so you need fewer of them.
Transparency drives Sustainability
In Elizabeth Suzan’s website you can find a revealing study on the detailed cost of their garments compared to the product lines of fast fashion designers. Transparency towards the consumer should be a core pillar in every sustainable company. Sharing insights on the real cost of sustainable fashion and the efforts done to achieve quality products at a competitive price is crucial in creating aware consumers and a fairer market.
Eileen Fisher launched her brand back in the 80s and it has grown to become popular worldwide. The brand produces classic and stylish clothing in sizes up to 3X. They are flawlessly proportioned and fit perfectly on curvy customers.
Human rights and Sustainability
As stated on the company’s website, their vision is “for an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run.” Besides being organic, the fibers are either undyed or dyed naturally to minimize the impact on the environment. Eileen Fisher is a Fair-Trade Certified brand, which ensures that the human rights of employees are respected, and factories provide a working environment and wages that are appropriate for everybody. Notable is their recycling program. Customers can return their old items which are then reused or transformed to be used again.
Mara Hoffman has recently extended its selection of plus-size clothing to meet the pressing demands of customers. Today, the brand has an impressive variety of plus-size items that stand out in style and durability.
An awarded commitment to Sustainability
Mara Hoffman has been recognized at NYFW for her commitment on sustainbility with the Change Award in 2019. Her philosophy is explained well in the company’s statement: “We design and manufacture our garments with greater care to reduce our impact, generate awareness, and ask our customers to join us in taking action and holding us accountable.” All garments are produced with sustainable materials. Priority is given to organic, recycled, and regenerated materials. Among the most used materials are organic cotton, linen, hemp, and Tencel (a fabric regenerated from wood cellulose.) Trims, buttons, and tags are also all made from 80% recycled material or sustainable sources.
Reformation is a brand that has most of its production line in Los Angeles. The company’s mission is to make effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure—even for plus-size items.
Caring for the environment, caring for people
Although it took a while for the company to develop a good assortment of plus-size items, its commitment to sustainability has always been remarkable. Reducing their carbon footprint is the ultimate goal of Reformation. Starting with the raw materials they use to the production process; every step is optimized to reduce their impact on the environment. Every year on its website the company publishes a yearly report on its carbon footprint. Here customers can check what the company has accomplished. Notable is their focus on providing good working conditions. This being the reason why they decided to maintain most of their production in Los Angeles.
How to Become a Sustainable Plus Size Fashion Designer
Being a eco plus-size designer is not about adopting a process, but rather it is about embracing a vision. Indeed, sustainability is not confined to the choice of a natural or recycled material. For instance, materials like cotton and paper are not dangerous to the environment in themselves. Rather, it is their production process that is harmful because it is poorly sustainable—involving deforestation and a lot of water waste.
Therefore, sustainable designers must be concerned about making the line of production eco-friendly at every step. It involves assessing the source of raw materials, energy consumption throughout the process, and working conditions of employees. Nor can they overlook how the final product will be packaged, delivered, and used by the customers.
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, an inclusive sizing designer is not concerned about producing garments in every size, but in making sure that the garments look and fit great on every size. In a market where an average woman wears between a size 16 to 18, an inclusive designer needs to produce garments up to, at least, a size 24. Therefore, the design process needs to be personalized for such sizes, and patterns need to be graded accordingly. No longer is the concept to disguise the form, rather it is to exalt it and to grant each woman the right to look beautiful and sexy.
Combining plus-size design and sustainability requires for many combining two sets of new skills. Interested to make a difference and tap into this market opportunity, but need to beef-up your skills? You’ve come to the right place! Check out our Fundamentals of Plus Sizes and Sustainability in Fashion online courses !