Image Credit: EVERYBODY.WORLD
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It’s been often said that streetwear’s beginnings are rooted in the hip-hop culture of the early 80s, along with the skate and surf cultures. It’s a casual, urban style that is both edgy and fashionable. It’s most recognizable in comfortable tops, hoodies, hats and sneakers.
Since its origins, streetwear has been used to express identity and provide a sense of belonging to a broader group of like-minded individuals. It became a subculture or counterculture, serving as an antidote to the status quo.
In recent years, a massive boom in streetwear means it has become more mainstream, with even the luxury sector appropriating the category. Luxury brands like Gucci have opted to design high-end streetwear to appeal to younger consumers, adding exclusivity to its already trendy and cool factor.
But although streetwear has been at the forefront of social consciousness, it has barely addressed environmental issues. When it’s not turning out cotton hoodies and tees, much of streetwear relies on fossil-fuel materials such as polyester and nylon, which take a heavy toll on the environment.
And it’s not like many streetwear designs are made with timelessness in mind. With its constant new design drops, young consumers are pushed to buy more, quickly considering most styles as “out of style,” which just promotes overconsumption. Some brands produce up to 350 different items a year.
The good news is that times are changing. A September 2021 Lyst report said that streetwear brands are slowing down their drops, dubbing the new trend “streetcare.”
Streetwear has always appealed mainly to younger consumers, and studies show that Gen Z shoppers are strongly favoring brands that embrace social and environmental sustainability, and there has been an uptick of independent streetwear labels emphasizing responsible practices while still catering to unapologetically expressive consumers.
From upcycling to using organic materials, there’s now a new wave of streetwear brands that we are delighted to support.
What to Look for in Eco-Friendly Streetwear Brands
Natural, non-toxic fibers: Favor organic and/or natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and merino wool over oil-derived fibers. These fabrics are not only better for the environment, but better for you. Natural fibers are more breathable than synthetics, which help minimize odor.
Environmentally-conscious manufacturing: Manufacturing textiles can often be pretty harsh on the environment. Fabrics such as polyester heavily on chemicals that are derived from fossil fuels, air, and water. Instead, search for brands that embrace better earth-friendly processes such as using upcycled materials.
Fair labor and transparency: Streetwear is all about making statements. And there is no better statement than knowing you support brands that take care of their workers throughout their entire supply chain. Extra kudos to brands that prioritize transparency and list where their items are made and the hands behind each garment.
Low-waste packaging: Look for brands that use packaging made out of recyclable or biodegradable materials, like recycled cardboard or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper. Brands like Raeburn use an entirely home-compostable corn-starch-derived transit bag and a 100% recyclable wrapping made from sustainably derived sugarcane.
Knowing all that, if you want to wear logos with some meaning behind them, here are some of our favorite sustainable streetwear brands:
Built by and for global Gen Z, Bobblehaus is a New York-based, genderless, AAPI, and upcycled clothing brand that sources 100% of its materials from deadstock fabrics, including GRS certified recycled cotton. The brand produces its designs in a Shanghai production studio that only focuses on limited and exclusive productions from emerging designers. Bobblehaus has also partnered with One Tree Planted (OTP) to plant ten trees for every single item purchased.
Most Prominent Co. is an L.A.-based streetwear brand with roots from Japan and Peru. MPCo. is committed to creating garments driven by important messages around fair labor and sustainable fashion. It sources fabric from natural fibers such as GOTS organic cotton. It either produces its clothing in-house by repurposing donated clothes or cuts and sews in a garment facility where it can visit and ensure a healthy work environment.
Based in London, Plant Faced is a vegan streetwear clothing label. Its core beliefs are to support safe, humane, ethical manufacturing practices and use eco-conscious, organic or plant-based materials wherever possible. Its mailer boxes are made from 100% recycled paper and printed with water-based inks. Plant Faced is currently in the process of phasing all its woven labels to be 100% recycled too.
Based in NYC, Nicole Zïzi Studio is a small-batch, genderless, eco-conscious streetwear brand that reinterprets iconic streetwear designs using recycled or natural materials.
CHNGE, which uses its platform to discuss topics such as gender, sexuality, disability, acne and albinism, creates sleek, sophisticated yet edgy and loud streetwear using 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. Its clothing is produced at a Fairtrade Factory that provides social insurance and health service options, and double overtime. The brand is also committed to ensuring carbon neutrality in its production, offsetting 48.5lbs of CO2 for its supply chain and your first 50 washes and dries. Its packaging is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and 100% recycled plastic polybags, and is 100% recyclable, is printed using water-based inks.
DEDICATED is a Swedish retail chain turned into a sustainable streetwear brand after noticing a gap in the market. The brand creates its designs using GOTS and Fairtrade certified cotton, GRS recycled polyester and natural fibers such as Tencel. DEDICATED embraces transparency by sharing on its website its long-term supplier partners, which sign its Dedicated Supplier Code of Conduct V02.
Raeburn reworks surplus fabrics and garments from items like vintage parachutes, military deadstock, and kites to create distinctive and functional streetwear. It also uses 100% certified organic cotton that is manufactured in Portugal. Raeburn does not use plastic for its packaging. Instead, all of its online orders are wrapped in a corn-starch-derived transit bag that is completely home-compostable. This wrap is then inserted inside a 100% recyclable outer sleeve made from sustainably derived sugarcane.
Founded in 2016, EVERYBODY.WORLD designs its gender-neutral basics out of 100% recycled cotton and biodegradable materials. The brand reprocesses cotton waste to become the yarn that it knits into fabric. Its garments are cut, sewn, dyed and printed in Los Angeles. EVERYBODY.WORLD is dedicated to fair wages, pushing boundaries in textile sustainability, and collaborating with creative minds to make its streetwear clothing.
Founded in 2014, CAFIN is a Fair Trade and eco-friendly streetwear brand based in London. It collaborates with young, up-and-coming designers to use Scandinavian values of ecological well-being and create premium quality, ethically made and environmentally friendly streetwear. CAFIN’s designs are made using certified organic Indian cotton.