May 19, 2024

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Unique & Classy

Best sustainable fashion brands that are affordable

8 min read

Hopping on the quiet luxury trend, but with some twists

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I prefer my definition of the “quiet luxury” trend. I’d like it to mean accessible fashion that looks like designer brands but is secretly sustainable and more affordable. It truly describes a fashion movement of neutral, luxurious, high-quality (very high-priced) clothes.

I went on a mission to find fashion brands that are both sustainable and fairly priced but also look luxurious. So I ordered a bunch of clothes from new and familiar brands and headed to the notoriously luxurious Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to see if I could fit in with the fancy.

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All the clothes (and the luggage I packed them in) come from brands that emphasize sustainability. They’re all much more affordable than the “quiet luxury” brands but still offer a range of prices.

I’m glad I challenged myself to dress in fancy-looking clothes because it was my first time in Dubai and areas were a lot fancier than what I’m used to. In Toronto, where I live, I feel comfortable in Roots sweatpants and lululemon leggings and in Dubai, I’m very happy I packed these brands (I packed Roots and lululemon too):

Sustainable fashion brands

Everlane
Ninety Percent
Reformation
Kotn
Simons
Ba&sh
Mejuri
Herschel

About the brands’ sustainability efforts and my favourite picks

Everlane

About sustainability efforts: Everlane was founded in 2010 in San Francisco, Calif. Since its inception, the brand has always prioritized transparency. From pricing to manufacturing, Everlane shares details about how its products get made. The brand outlines its sustainability efforts in detail, which include using eco-friendly materials, working with conscientious partners and a clear path to net-zero carbon emissions.

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Favourite picks: I love Everlane’s clothes because they’re simple, high-quality and timeless — perfect for my version of quiet luxury — considering the prices are transparent and fair. Specifically, I tried and love Everlane’s denim, they’re flattering and comfortable and made our best denim list. The Organic Straight-Leg Pant is also an easy pant to wear and style. I also recommend The Relaxed Oxford Shirt because it can give a simple, elevated, effortless look.

Everlane's Relaxed Oxford Shirt and Reformation linen pants.
Everlane Relaxed Oxford Shirt and Reformation linen pants. Photo by Postmedia/Randi Mann

Ninety Percent

About sustainability efforts: This was my first introduction to Ninety Percent, an interesting and bold brand founded in 2018 in London, England. It gets its name from its profit-sharing model. The brand shares 90 per cent of its profits with the people who work for them (from the people who make the clothes to head-office employees) and charities, like WildAid, Big Life Foundation and Children’s Hope

In terms of sustainability, Ninety Percent delves into the impact of its entire supply chain, prioritizing ecological and socially responsible practices. You can learn more about the materials Ninety Percent uses, which include organic cotton, mother-of-pearl buttons and nickel-free metal zippers.

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Favourite picks: The Azores Trousers are something special — they’re neutral but the added stitch detail down the front of the leg and optional slit flare levels up a basic black plant. The Alex Vest is an elevated muscle tank that was perfect for daytime in Dubai. The Serra Top is pure quality, it feels like you’re wearing a strong, bold tank but it looks delicate and elegant. Ninety Percent offers a range of styles and prices — some more affordable than others.

Ninety Percent Shiele Top
Ninety Percent Shiele Top. Photo by Postmedia/Randi Mann

Reformation

About sustainability efforts: Founded in 2009 in Los Angeles, Calif., Reformation has always focused on sustainability — its mission is to “bring sustainable fashion to everyone.” Reformation goes into next-level detail about its environmental efforts from water impact, to energy input, land use and overall eco-toxicity. Learn more about Reformation’s sustainability practices and check out our interview with the brand’s chief sustainability officer.

Favourite picks: Reformation offers beautifully feminine silhouettes. I love a frock, but reserve donning a dress for formal events.I prefer pants and shirts for day-to-day dressing. The Mason Pant is a wardrobe staple that can be worn to brunch, the office or around downtown Dubai. I like Reformation’s sleeveless shirts because the designs are unique — I like adding a Reformation tank to a neutral trouser.

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Reformation Mason Pant and Julia Ribbed Sweater Tank.
Reformation Mason Pant and Julia Ribbed Sweater Tank. Photo by Postmedia/Randi Mann

Kotn

About sustainability efforts: Kotn was founded in 2015 in Toronto. The brand offers sustainable and high-quality clothes at a more affordable price point than many. Kotn works directly with the farms where it sources its cotton — using direct trade. Kotn shares the details of its supply chain, offering a farm-to-table experience for its product manufacturing. The brand also works with the communities where they source raw materials to build schools. Read more about it here.

Favourite picks: The Plaza Trouser was a perfect pair of pants for Dubai but I’ve worn them for years and I consider them a wardrobe staple. They’re high-rise so great to wear with cropped shirts. The Knit Crop Tank is another Kotn classic — pairs nicely with the Plaza Trouser.

Ninety Percent Alex Vest, Kotn Antifit Denim Shorts and Simons Oversized recycled wool overcoat.
Ninety Percent Alex Vest, Kotn Antifit Denim Shorts and Simons oversized recycled wool overcoat. Photo by Postmedia/Randi Mann

Simons

About sustainability efforts: Simons is also a Canadian company, one of the oldest. Simons was founded in 1840 in Québec City. It’s a department store that offers many brands but also has some that are in-house, like Contemporaine and Icone. Simon identifies its sustainable fashion with a label that says “Vision.” Items with this label are made via eco- and social-friendly manufacturing.

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Favourite picks: I’m fully obsessed with the Oversized recycled wool overcoat. It takes any outfit and immediately makes it look sleek, timeless and fashionable. It’s made from recycled wool and is my new go-to spring and fall coat. It’s also very well priced at $225. I also like these Striped denim shorts because they’re structured and not too short.

Ba&sh

About sustainability efforts: Ba&sh was founded in 2003 in Paris. It offers both bold prints and neutral styles. Ba&sh is putting significant efforts into reducing its environmental impact. Ba&sh works with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to promote circular fashion. Ba&sh is a part of the Business Social Compliance Initiative to promote ethical manufacturing.

Favourite picks: I love these Maroon pants (which are actually green) because they’re extremely comfortable but look put together. I wore them during a desert safari and loved that I felt comfy but looked the part in photos. Similar to Ninety Percent, Ba&sh offers a range of styles and prices.

Mejuri

About sustainability efforts: Mejuri was founded in 2013 in Toronto. Mejuri balances using recycled materials and responsibly sourced raw materials. The products are built to last to support longevity and reduce waste. The brand works with suppliers who are governed by a third party to ensure manufacturing processes are socially and ecologically friendly. 

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Favourite picks: I went with the pretty and puffy Charlotte Bold Ring. It comes in gold vermeil and sterling silver. It’s a bold hand accessory that can be stacked with other rings or worn on its own. Check out our interview with Mejuri founder, Noura Sakkijha, to learn about her journey of creating a sustainable jewelry brand.

Herschel

About sustainability efforts: Herschel was founded in 2009 in Vancouver. Herschel launched EcoSystem, a range of recycled materials. As of 2023, 91 per cent of Herschel’s products are a part of EcoSystem. Since 2021, Herschel has been a part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an organization that works to reduce manufacturing impact on the environment while promoting social justice. Learn more about Herschel’s environmental efforts, here.

Favourite picks: I packed all my new garb in the Heritage Hardshell Medium Luggage with the Novel Duffle (also available on Amazon) in tow. I’ve tried a lot of luggage, including popular brands Away and Monos and the Herschel is my current favourite. It’s very durable and looks uniquely Hershel, which I associate with Canada. It has similar internal packing features like Away and Monos, but I’m a fan of the polycarbonate (70 per cent recycled) that Herschel uses. Though I went with the Moonbeam (an off-white colour), there are many colours and prints to choose from. The Novel Duffel works well with the luggage as it has a trolley strap.

Heritage Hardshell Medium Luggage and the Novel Duffle
Heritage Hardshell Medium Luggage and the Novel Duffle. Photo by Postmedia/Randi Mann

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rmann@postmedia.com

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