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.
13 Sustainable Plus-Size Brands Defying Fashion Conventions in 2021
Sustainability and inclusivity are two of the most valued goals that customers and brands seek to accomplish. As our world is collapsing under the weight of extensive and irresponsible exploitation, people feel they have compelling reasons to protect and save our planet. Recognizing that the fashion industry is one of the major polluters of our environment, any brands have started to incorporate sustainability into their business agenda. You can learn more about sustainable fashion and also a list of sustainable fashion designers here.
Apart from sustainability, inclusivity in fashion can be demonstrated with inclusive sizing — and because the fashion industry has historically underrepresented people in larger bodies, the fashion industry’s effort to demonstrate inclusivity in their garments is often known as plus-size fashion.
What Specifically Is Plus-Size Fashion?
Since a long time ago, there were brands that produced clothing lines for plus-size customers. However, these designs were rarely, if ever, fashionable, and customers with larger bodies were excluded from the joy of decorating themselves with pieces they like.
Plus-size fashion is now filling this gap. It aims to let each customer enjoy fashionable garments, irrespective of their shape and size. It includes creating dedicated collections for larger sizes, and also expanding the sizing of existing collections.
There are many brands that have taken the lead and successfully claimed their place in this new market. Brands from all levels have embraced inclusive sizing in their design, and many have also made efforts to make their modelling more inclusive. Plus-size fashion offers previously neglected customers an equal chance to wear fashion they like.
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.
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.
Here are 13 examples of sustainable plus-size brands:
Girlfriend Collective is an activewear brand that sets a remarkable example of sustainability and transparency. They produce workout gear in sizes up to 6XL and their items are known to be both fashionable and durable. The brand is SA8000-certified which ensures that employees are well-paid, safe, and healthy.
The company motto is “Waste Not.” The company use many different fabrics, all derived from post consumer waste. The brand recycles old plastic bottles, fishing nets, and other wastes and transforms them into fabrics to produce leggings, tees, and sports bras. The fabrics created by this process are durable, comfortable, and eco-friendly.
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 to make menswear accessible to everyone. These Brooklyn-based designers understood perfectly the needs of a gender-defying audience who could not find fitting apparel in classical menswear stores. They produce shirts and pants that are gender-neutral, and can be dressed for any occasion. Kirrin Finch produces all their collections in New York with sustainable materials and packaging.
Supporting 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 7XL and is made in Los Angeles with almost all-natural materials like cotton. They almost exclusively use NAFTA-certified domestically made fabrics produced from domestically grown materials. The sustainable fashion brand works hard to develop a unisex line that looks good on both traditionally masculine bodies and those with more curves.
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! Also, the company committed to the well being of their workers, and values living wages and safe working conditions before profit margins.
The slow fashion designer uses natural fibres 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
Transparency should be a core pillar of every company that values sustainability. On the Elizabeth Suzan website, you can find a revealing study on the detailed cost of their garments compared to the product lines of fast fashion designers. Sharing the real cost of sustainable fashion and the efforts needed 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
The brand’s vision is to work towards “an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run.” Eileen Fisher uses organic fibers that’s either undyed or dyed naturally to minimize the impact on the environment. Customers can also return their old items to be reused or transformed for another life cycle. Additionally, the brand is Fair-Trade Certified brand, which ensures that the human rights of employees are respected, factories provide a working environment, and wages that are appropriate for everybody.
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, with priority given to organic, recycled, and regenerated materials, with the majority being organic cotton, linen, hemp, and Tencel (a fabric regenerated from wood cellulose). Even the smallest details such as trims, buttons, and tags are all made from 80% recycled material or sustainable sources.
Reformation‘s mission is to make effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure—even for plus-size items. While it took a while for the company to create a good assortment of plus-size items, its commitment to sustainability has always been remarkable. They produce most of its clothing lines in Los Angeles.
Caring for the Environment, Caring for People
The company puts reducing their carbon footprint as their ultimate goal. Starting with raw materials, every step is optimized to reduce their impact on the environment. Every year, the company publishes a report on its carbon footprint to demonstrate their accomplishments. 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.
Hackwith Design House
Hackwith Design House is a great place to find one-of-a-kind plus-size wardrobe staples, with an extensive size range to choose from (up to 4XL). HDH began with the mission of “making long-lasting and versatile clothing that is as unique as its wearer.” They try to only use biodegradeble fabrics or those made from natural fibers, and source most of their fabrics are sourced from a local, family-owned store specializing in run-off and second-hand fabrics.
The Sustain Shop
All their garments are made in-house in the company’s studio by their own team of seamstresses, so as to reduce waste and support the local population. Their garments are made uniquely for each individual order, which avoids wasting unnecessary excess materials.
In addition, the brand has recently launched “The Sustain Shop”, which tries to bring life back to customer’s old HDH pieces in the “most sustainable and productive way possible”. Customers are invited to send in their used pieces, and those in good condition will be resold, where as the others will be either mended or transformed.
Universal Standard is founded by Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler, with the goal of breaking down existing barriers and provide all women with fashion freedom. They want to “bring fashion for all women up to a Universal Standard, so that a size 40 to shop in the same way as a size 00 – using style as her only filter.” The company has a annual Denim Drive with Blue Jeans Go Green recycling program, and also donates to organizations such as Dress for Success and First Step.
Fit Liberty - “Your size might change. Your wardrobe shouldn’t have to”
The company created the world’s most inclusive apparel brand, with sizes from 00 to 40, and they offer a “See It In Your Size” option for each piece so there’s more than one frame of reference. Moreover, through its Fit Liberty Collection, customers can exchange for a new size or colour within one year of purchase. Fit Liberty also has a specific collection for pregnant women to accommodate their bodily changes throughout pregnancy.
Any pieces the company receives are donated to First Step and Dress for Success to help unemployed homeless women who are seeking employment.
Madewell is a brand for denim lovers, or “basically anyone who appreciates timeless designs that put you at ease.” They have recently relaunched their plus-size collection to make them fit better, and have expanded their range to 24W and 3X. More than half of their styles are sustainable in some way and each has a special label. You can learn more about their policies and practices in their social responsibility section, covering responsible sourcing, animal welfare, responsible forestry commitment, conflict minerals, AFIRM RSL, vendor code of conduct, and transparency.
Madewell is devoted to sustainability and doing good for the world, hence their “Do Well” collection. They published their first Do Well Report, laying out their goals and commitment for our planet and its people. Right now, 67% of their spring clothing collection is sourced more sustainably or made with Do Well materials such as recycled cotton, BCI cotton, responsible wood pulp, and recycled plastics. Madewell is giving new life to old jeans through repairing, reusing and recycling, and they also donate their clothing samples to Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program, Good360 and FabScrap.
In addition, Madewell has partners with Girls Inc. to support female empowerment, collaborates with the National Forest Foundation for carbon offset (and have planted more than 15,000 trees), and donates 50% of purchases price from the Love to All collection to the Human Rights Campaign in the US.
IGIGI was founded by Yuliya Raquel in February of 2000. IGIGI transitioned from a ready-to-wear fashion brand to one that’s customized and made-to-order. This ensures minimal waste during manufacturing and provides curvy customers with their own unique styles that flatter their bodies. IGIGI provides fair compensation and great working conditions to their seamstresses.
3D Fashion Design
Yuliya and her team have been developing a patent-pending 3D automation fashion design technology to assist with their design process. They preview each design on a 3D model to see fit and possible adjustments needed. This allows them to offer their standard range of sizes adjust to the customer’s height, with the entire pattern adjusted, not just the length of the skirt.
If you are interested in 3D fashion design, check out our courses on 3D & digital transformation.
Symbology is founded by Marissa Heyl, who was inspired while on a research trip to India to understand how fair trade empowers craftswomen. The brand aims to establish ethical fashion as the norm. They use naturally sourced fibres from India, which are hand dyed by artisans, hand block printed, and finally hand cut and stitched. Symbology celebrates textile arts around the world through busing them with modern design, creating unique, inspiring, and empowering pieces.
Investing in Women
At Symbology, fashion is a platform for greater causes, such as “empowering women, preserving handmade crafts, and providing sustainable empowerment and fair wages to marginalized artisans.” Each and every one of their pieces are handcrafted by women in developing countries, using traditional fabric techniques such as block printing, tie-dying, and embroidery. Each of their artisans are payed a livable wage that allows them to provide for their families.
Birdsong began a a feminist brand “making slogan tees, shouting about photoshop and hell-bent on paying women workers a fair wage.” They are committed to making ethical and sustainable fashion, and today, they bring about thoughtful clothes in bright colours, edgy silhouettes and art-inspired prints made from natural fabrics.
They hire skilled women in the UK — from artists and printmakers to seamstresses and painters – that face barriers to employment and pay them London living wage. In 2019, they have worked closely with 6 charitable organisations, and in 2018, they paid £13,259 in wages to 11 low income women, and an additional £1,662 to charities that support them.
The brand published the Birdsong 2020 Impact Report, addressing their efforts to benefit the planet and its people, through various aspects of their business such as embroidery, cut and sew, use of fibres, postage and packaging. Birdsong’s website also offers a series of guides on sustainable fashion, such as “The Slow Shopping Guide” or “Sustainability 101: Tencel”.
How to Become a Sustainable Plus Size Fashion Designer
Being an eco plus-size designer is not about adopting a process, instead, it’s embracing a vision. For instance, sustainability is not confined to the choice of a natural or recycled material. Cotton and paper are not dangerous to the environment in themselves, but their production process are not — it can involve deforestation and a lot of water waste.
Sustainable designers must be concerned about making the every step of production eco-friendly. This involves assessing the source of raw materials, energy consumption throughout the process, and working conditions of employees. Also, they can’t overlook how the final product will be packaged, delivered, and used by the customers.
Additionally, designers who want to achieve inclusive sizing are not concerned solely about producing garments in every size, but with making sure that the garments look and fit great in 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! Our Fundamentals of Plus Sizes and Sustainability in Fashion online courses are perfect match for you!