Creating fashion that knows no gender bounds is not easy. Not only are you contending with a hundred years of gender coding that dictates what is “appropriate” or “correct” or ‘attractive” for men and women to wear, you’re also dealing with bodies that can be shaped quite differently. (This became clear to me when I was trying to figure out what women’s sizes correspond to what men’s sizes. The waist-to-hip measurements start getting wonky real fast.)
That’s why it’s all the more impressive when a fashion brand makes clothing that can be comfortably worn by men, women, and everyone in between and outside those designations, and on top of that is ethically and/or sustainably made.
I’m not talking about brands that have a men’s and women’s section, either. I’m talking about brands that photograph their core products on men and women and non-gender-binary people — and every single person is rocking it regardless of gender. Or, I’m talking about brands that make clothing that fits a person born with a woman’s body, without hewing to traditional stereotypes, and vice versa.
So here are the sustainable and ethical apparel brands who have pulled off this impressive feat:
This NYC-designed and made brand uses soft and sustainable materials like Modal and Tencel to create its multifunctional designs. Not only are they beautiful on gender body, they can be flipped around and over to be used multiple ways: a skirt becomes a top, a festival-fashion top can be layered under jeans to be a brunch outfit… the possibilities are endless.
This unisex brand is as eco-friendly as it gets. The completely natural materials are dyed with beneficial plant dyes like chaga mushroom, moss, and indigo, then made into pants, button-downs, and jackets that can be worn by any gender.
AKASHI-KAMA was started by a Japanese-American, Alec Nakashima, with the initial line dedicated to noragis, a classic Japanese workwear piece. They use Japanese cotton and responsibly manufacture in Oakland, CA. Super versatile, their noragis can be dressed up or down and worn by anyone, no matter how you identify. Some of their pieces are organic and others aren’t, so be sure to check before purchasing!
Ziran uses xiang yun sha silk, a beautiful and sustainable silk from China that the founder Kelly Shanahan discovered while researching her undergraduate honors thesis. Made entirely by hand in one small city at the banks of the Pearl River, every yard of this silk is unique and produced in small batches, 15 yards at a time. No harsh chemicals are used, and the process is completely sustainable, from beginning to end. While there are men’s and women’s sections on the site, the men’s section — full of beautiful floral button-downs, bomber jackets, and silk pajama-style pants that drape beautifully whether you have curves or not — is not for those dudes who uncomfortable with their sexuality. I hope any heterosexual man who shops from here is prepared for the fact that his girlfriend will likely try to steal his stuff. Read more about Ziran here.
Modeled after the traditional Pakistan shoe, One432’s update not only refuses to hew to gender norms, it refuses to tell you which foot to wear each shoe on. That’s right, these slipper-like shoes fit both left and right, and are incredibly comfortable. They’re crafted by fairly paid skilled craftspeople in Pakistan, the native country of the founder and dapper Parson’s professor, Ammar Bellal. Find embroidered, patterned, velvet, leather, and monogrammed shoes that straddle the worlds of traditional gentility and worldly travels.
Daniel Silverstein (center) creates beautiful textile artwork from upcycled fabric scraps, which is incorporated into custom streetwear that both men and women can wear. You’ll get a ton of compliments on your ZWD piece, I promise. Read more about Zero Waste Daniel.
In the world of the Australian brand A.BCH, both men and women can rock long plaid skirts, wide-leg trousers, and rustic hemp scarves. It’s all about attitude… and the organic, natural, and non-toxic materials and dyes they use to manufacture their unisex designs in Australia.
Cosmos Studio sources raw, organic materials, doesn’t use toxic chemicals, and their production takes place in a WRAP Certified factory. They even came up with a new dyeing technology is called GiDelave. It uses 95% less water, 70% less chemicals, and half the energy that traditional processing requires. Not only that, but there is zero discharge involved, meaning no wastewater and no contaminated runoff. The technology works by basically “printing” the dye onto the fabric threads before it becomes a piece of clothing. After the fabric is dyed, the nontoxic pigment actually returns to its powdered form and the little water that is used to process can be reused since there are no harmful chemicals in it. If you’re a similar size, you and your partner of the opposite sex can trade one of their sleek button-down shirts back and forth between you. Read more about Cosmos Studio.
I know, I was also skeptical when I was told that Nudie Jeans are unisex and fit women, too. But then I tried them on and was shocked at how good these sustainable jeans made with organic look, and also how comfortable they are. Just look at these pictures of my husband and I each wearing a pair and how they fit us so well.
Another brand that both my husband and I have fallen for is MATTER, which creates sustainable, artisan-made pants and tops entirely in India, from the raw material to the spinning, weaving, dyeing, block-printing, and weaving. He brought their unisex shorts all over the world in our travels, while I wore their side-swept dhoti pants, and then their block-printed washable silks wide-legged pants. In fact, I had the honor of visiting one of the blockprinting workshops where my pants were printed in Jaipur!
After spending a decade in the fashion industry and learning about the impact of fashion manufacturing on the environment, Hoa Huynh and Sezin Calikoglu started Pause., a sustainable and ethical brand that doesn’t sacrifice quality or design. By merging classic silhouettes with modern architectural influences, Pause. follows a seasonless calendar with transparency at its forefront. Pause. pieces are designed and manufactured in New York City with 100% ethically sourced cotton. Pause. began as a female-forward collection, but has since introduced a collection of Genderless shirts, made from wool, cotton, and faux leather.
This made-in-LA brand provides jumpsuits that look good on every body, from XS to XXL, male, female, and whatever else.
This menswear-inspired brand uses organic and natural materials and low-impact dyes to create gender-defying fashion for the female and non-binary body. And 80% of it is sewn right in New York.