No matter how many brands come out of the woodwork during the month of April to launch one-off green collections (only to dismantle them come May 1), shopping with the environment in mind remains an overwhelming task to many consumers. Fast fashion is easy and convenient. People know what they're getting and how much they're going to pay for it. So of course, they don't think twice about coming back again and again. With eco-friendlier brands, however, there are unknowns about everything including quality, fabrics, fits, and overall style, which can hinder people from making the switch to a more conscious way of shopping for clothes.
Knowing this—and at times, experiencing it firsthand—we thought we'd try to take some of the mystery out of shopping sustainably. To do so, we test-drove pieces from luxury labels such as Stella McCartney, Nanushka, and Brother Vellies as well as more affordable alternatives such as Reformation and Everlane—all of which practice and promote a more conscious mode of production and consumption during all 12 months of the year, rather than just one—in order to take the stigma and mystery out of the sustainable-fashion space. This way, you have a thoroughly vetted jumping-off point for your journey toward a more conscious way of consuming fashion.
Ahead, see how 10 Who What Wear editors styled pieces from the industry's leading eco-friendly brands, and shop our favorites from each.
"Reformation is a no-brainer when it comes to shopping sustainably for chic clothes. It's committed to minimizing its environmental impact and achieving safe and healthy working conditions. I've had my eye on this beautiful open-knit dress from the brand since it arrived on the website, and I'm obsessed. It's perfect to wear on a summer vacation—dressed down in slide sandals or dressed up with the brand's sleek and sustainable gold mules. Oh, and the back is stunning too!" — Judith Jones, senior market editor
Nanushka was one of the first eco-friendly brands that felt like a seamless addition to my wardrobe. Its pieces, designed by creative director Sandra Sandor, weren't like those of all the other "sustainable brands," which were made of linen and designed in a muted color palette. Instead, Sandor makes shopping consciously as easy as buying pieces that are beautiful, feel amazing, and hit on trends while simultaneously being, for the most part, timeless. (The brand has a dedicated sustainability committee to meet its goal of becoming a completely circular business and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.) With that, when I thought about which brand to test out for this story, Nanushka came to mind immediately. I've purchased pieces from the brand in the past but hadn't invested in anything in a while, so I was excited to see how the designs had advanced IRL.
When doing stories like this, it's easy to want to pick the buzziest, boldest item from a collection, but I think it's more beneficial to stick with simple, classic items that feel the most wearable for the most people. Because of that, I styled a rib-knit, sleeveless midi dress that buttons up the front and features the cutest exaggerated collar. Really, I could have styled it in so many ways—unbuttoned with pants underneath, paired down with sneakers, etc.—but I settled on a day-to-night look, adding off-white heels and a matching shoulder bag from Wandler, another brand that's working toward more conscious practices.
"Confession: Even though I'm an editor who's always keeping up with trends, I value sustainability over everything else in my wardrobe. So when my fellow editor Eliza pitched our try-on story for the month, I was pumped because I finally was going to get the chance to test-drive a brand I've loved for a long time: Brother Vellies. I love Aurora James's accessory label because it champions African craftsmanship, ethical production, and sustainability; not to mention she's also the founder of the 15 Percent Pledge, which has advocated for racial inclusion across the fashion industry. Basically, this brand is doing the damn thing, and that's ever more apparent with its one-of-a-kind pieces. I landed on the Grandma Stell Mules and Lijadu Billfold bag, which was a great call because they're easy to add to any ensemble. In terms of styling, I paired them with a secondhand off-white Fendi blazer I got from Thredup and a cute, pleated pale-blue miniskirt from Aritzia for a fun spring outfit.
"What I loved about the Lijadu Billfold bag was that the first time I spotted it online and the first time I touched it in person elicited the same reaction from me: an audible gasp. Some designer bags are overhyped and not well-made, but that's not the case with this one. Everything about this bag is perfect, from the wooden chain handle to the leather to the size. And the grandma mules? I felt like I was starring in Bridgerton. But the plot of my love story would be these shoes vexing me because I'm so in love with them and don't own them. I am obsessive when it comes to heels, so the following statement should not be taken lightly: I've never loved a pair of shoes as much as these shoes. They're super comfortable, the quality is phenomenal, and most importantly, they brought me so much joy when I was wearing them. Overall, I can say that after giving Brother Vellies pieces a spin, they're not only worth every penny, but they serve as a reminder that shopping sustainably doesn't have to be stuffy; it can be fun." — Jasmine Fox-Suliaman, editor
"This dress is stunning, simply put. It's the kind of dress that turns heads when you walk down the street and is absolutely perfect for summer. The dainty straps really help offset the full skirt, and let me tell you the fabric is insanely soft and lightweight. I styled this dress here with vintage knee-high Chanel boots to create a fully sustainable look. If you aren't familiar with this brand, I suggest you do your homework because it is giving back to the planet in more notable ways than one. Its a member of 1% for the Planet and uses fabrics that are 100% biodegradable, so there is a lot to learn about the sustainable commitments of this brand—and lots of cute pieces to shop along the way too." — Lauren Eggertsen, editorial director
"I've always wanted to try out Caes because its minimal pieces look like the kind you'd want to keep in your wardrobe forever, not to mention the quality looks impeccable. As it happens, that's its whole ethos. The brand is a strong believer in slow fashion, focusing on pieces that will stand the test of time and fabrics with the 'smallest carbon footprint that meet the highest standards of current certification,' according to its website. Thus making all of its collections inherently eco-friendly.
"No surprise, my assumptions were right, as this jumpsuit was not only comfortable and durable but also the kind of piece I can wear multiple times—whether I style it with a coat like above or with sneakers or even heels and a chic blazer on top." — Yusra Siddiqui, assistant market editor
"While strong on their own, these elevated basics from Everlane work gloriously together to create one of my new signature outfits. This oversize blazer looks so insanely expensive, and the lining is actually made from 100% recycled polyester. I adore how it complements the white button-down (note I bought a larger size for that of-the-moment relaxed look) and the loose jeans (made from 100% organic cotton). The tote bag is the perfect finishing touch and is actually a newer silhouette for Everlane. Fun fact: It's made from organically sourced prickly pear cactus." — Bobby Schuessler, market director
"While sustainable fashion has risen in its adoption among fashion brands in recent years, Stella McCartney has been a pioneer of sustainable fashion since she started her brand in 2001. I've been enamored with the slouchy denim jeans that are huge this season, and McCartney has one of the best pairs on the market. They are just a bit loose and have a truly wide-leg silhouette that is the perfect statement piece to wear with a simple tank, sunglasses, and heels." — Kristen Nichols, senior editor
"I trust fellow fashion editors, so when I found out the creator of Jade Swim has an extensive industry background, I immediately knew the brand was trustworthy. Making swimwear is not easy. High-quality fabrics can be hard to find, and shaping the pieces perfectly to the human figure is no easy feat. Putting in even more work to create a swimwear brand that is this sustainable is quite admirable to me. Jade Swim uses Oeko-Tex certified and Azo-tested fabrics as well as 100% recycled plastic and biodegradable shipping materials.
"I had my eyes on this pink one-piece for so long and am so glad it's finally in my closet. It pairs so well with all of the bright and fun summer accessories I'm planning on wearing. It was such an easy look to pull together, and I plan on wearing it next as a bodysuit for a night out." — Sierra Mayhew, associate editor
"It's my belief that everyone needs a great slip dress in their wardrobe, and I think I've found the one to end them all. Each of Svnr's silk pieces is hand-dyed in designer Christina Tung's backyard in Brooklyn, and I don't think it gets any more 'slow fashion' than that, really. The moment I put on this charcoal-hued maxi slip dress, I knew it had serious closet staple potential. The '90s silhouette is so flattering and shockingly versatile, made even more so by the adjustable drawstrings on either side of the slip that allow you to cinch up the hem on one or both sides to create a completely different silhouette and vibe. It's more like several dresses in one, really. I styled it in line with its '90s roots, wearing low-heeled mules and a shoulder bag for a date night–ready take, but it would lend itself well to everything from a casual vibe with sneakers to a vacation ensemble with some fun accessories." — Anna Laplaca, editor
"Boyish is a female-founded sustainable denim brand based in Los Angeles that I have had my eye on for a while. It has everything from classic denim to versatile dresses and jackets, and even better, it publishes a yearly report that details all of the work its done each year to become a more conscious and eco-friendly business. Knowing that, while making an effort to make my wardrobe more sustainable, I had to give the brand a try. First, let's talk about the jeans. As soon as you touch them, you can tell that these jeans are made from high-quality denim, and I'm slightly obsessed with the crossover button-fly detail. This white tee is also definitely going to become one of my most-worn items. It's so soft, and I love the graphic on the front. I styled them with my blue-light sunglasses and classic open-toe flat sandals for an everyday casual look." — Grace O'Connell-Joshua, assistant shopping editor