THE BRANDS

Brands who can party with the best of ’em. 🎉

REFORMATION

We have seen the light, and it is (the) Reformation. 

👫 : Women

🌎 : Sold in stores in LA, NYC, SF and Miami, and online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx $100 – $600

🌐 : thereformation.com

WHAT WE ❤️

Textile: They only use materials with a sustainability ethos 🌱: over 50% of their items are made from certified viscose, tencel or recycled materials, 35% comes from deadstock, and 5% is vintage fabrics. You’ll also find some pieces made with bluesign certified silk, and cashmere sourced from sustainable brand + supplier Naadam in Mongolia. 

Labor: We’ve noticed an increased focus from the brand on social issues and making sure things are good all the way down their supply chain. They’re working towards establishing 100% living wages across the board, have a supplier’s code of conduct, and a sustainable partners program. Everything the brand produces itself is made in LA with local vendors, and at the brand’s own factory. 💯

Environment: Carbon offsets, renewable energy, a laundry to irrigation system, local sourcing as much as possible, and a super innovative RefScale that calculates the impact of each garment based on water use, carbon emissions and waste footprints (!!!) – this brand sure lives up to their claim of killer clothes that don’t kill the environment. Also, you can send them your old Reformation clothes for recycling, and track where they end up. ♻️

Innovation: We 💚 the RefScale and their commitment to consumer education (online and on their tags), and we also love that they’re proving that Made sustainably in LA / in the US, is a totally possible thing.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

LA apparel manufacturing is notorious for poor dye house practices: picture chemicals being poured into local creeks and the ocean. 😨 Reformation didn’t give us very much info about how or where their stuff is dyed, which left a not so good feeling in our tummy. However, the good news is that they let us know that in 2017, they’re working on a Restricted Substances List, and keeping responsible chemistry a key priority. ⚗️ Also, all non deadstock silk they source is bluesign certified.

Also keep an eye out for Reformation products made from viscose – it’s not really a rad fabric as sometimes the trees from which viscose is sourced are not sustainably sourced, and the production process can involve the use of nasty chemicals (check out our Seal of Approval – Basics page for more deets on viscose).

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Read more about Reformation on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

RAVEN + LILY

Global, handmade goodness guaranteed to make you want to shimmy-shake the night away.

👫 : Women

🌎 : Sold in store in Austin, TX, at US retailers, and online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx $40 – $360

🌐 : ravenandlily.com

WHAT WE ❤️

Textile: Raven + Lily uses: deadstock, organic and/or fair trade cotton, organic wool, hemp, tencel, sustainably sourced silk, repurposed fabrics, upcycled materials and naturally colored fibres. Definitely covering all their bases. ✔️

Labor: This brand truly fosters artisan skills from around the world, and then brings these skills to a global market. They pay – at a minimum – over 20% of local average wage, and conduct an assessment each year to review labour practices of each supplier and the services provided, like health care, training, childcare etc. Raven + Lily also monitors supply chains all the way back to raw materials suppliers, and provides trainings on exporting best practices, communicating with Western clients, and improving sewing skills (among other things). 📝

Environment: They’re B-Corp certified, focusing on both environmental and social practices. With products made in Cambodia, Northern Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Guatemala, Northern India, the United States, Malaysia and Peru (phew! 😅), this small, ethical brand is definitely global while also being local: they source 99% of their raw materials locally.

Innovation: A truly remarkable global supply chain with unique relationships carefully crafted and maintained with each supplier, this global brand is truly considerate and caring for the communities and artisans with which they work. 🙌🏽

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

The brand doesn’t currently disclose supplier names and addresses, but does set the condition that each supplier must be women-focused, fair trade (by their definition), and eco-friendly before a relationship can be established. They also encourage the hiring of marginalized women which may be a partial reason why they don’t give addresses. 🙋🏻

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Read more about Raven + Lily on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

TUCKERMAN & CO

For the classy, sophisticated gentleman in your life (you, or some other lucky guy) – we present the sustainable tailored shirt for every special occasion.

👫 : Women & Men

🌎 : Sold online in the US & Canada.

💸 : Approx $150

🌐 : tuckerman.co

WHAT WE ❤️

TextileOrganic GOTS certified cotton from Egypt, plain and simple. 🌱

Labor: Tuckerman & Co is all American, Made in the USA, at a union factory in Fall River, Massachusetts (with health benefits!). 🇺🇸 They’re also a certified B Corporation.

Environment: (Most) of their packaging is made from post consumer recycled materials, and we love that they offer repairs. The vast majority of Tuckerman’s fabric is woven using renewable energy, both wind and solar. ☀️ Because they use organic cotton, their supply chain is fully traceable, too. 

Innovation: This brand is sticking to simplicity: really well made shirts that last. We love this approach – do what you do well and sustainably, and provide consumers with exactly what they need. Nowadays, we feel like this is actually kinda innovative. 😜 Also, newsflash – womenswear is on preorder now!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

This is a very small brand, so they avoid some of the stumbling blocks a larger company might face with a global supply chain, by having a very close relationship with their supply chain right now. We’ll keep an eye on them to see how they maintain their sustainable practices as they grow.

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Read more about Tuckerman & Co on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

BRAVE GENTLEMAN

Be Brave, be Sustainable, and always be a Gentleman (or lady, or whatever *suits* you best).

👫 : Women & Men

🌎 : Sold in store in Brooklyn, NY, and online with international shipping.

💸 : Approx $300 – $600

🌐 : bravegentleman.com

WHAT WE ❤️

Textile: Founded by a Parsons professor who knows his stuff, Brave GentleMan uses many sustainable textiles including organic cotton, recycled cotton and polyester, vegan “future leather”, etc. All of its linings are 100% recycled polyester, and even the felt for their hats is made from recycled plastic bottles. 🎩

Labor: The brand produces in the US (NYC, baby), Brazil and Portugal, and in the latter two countries, the factories are fair labor certified. 🏅

Environment: Known mainly for being a “vegan” brand, they’ve ensured that this isn’t all they do when it comes to protecting this beautiful planet of ours. Their vegan leather is PVC free (an absolute must if you’re buying this material, because its basically made of plastic), and they color their products only using low impact dyes – or they don’t use dyes at all. 🌏

Innovation: They claim to be the world’s first vegan menswear brand. 👞 Can anyone find us another? Bueller?

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Even though they make some of their garments in NYC, which on balance can be a good thing, we can’t always take that for granted. We’d love to see more info about what they pay employees, whether they have a union, and any other benefits they might offer. 💰 We don’t know if the brand can trace its whole supply chain because they haven’t disclosed their supply chain to us fully. We’d also love to see a take back or repair program from them.

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Read more about Brave GentleMan on their Project JUST Wiki brand page.

A FEW NOTES ON THIS CATEGORY

It ain’t all sunshine, sequins and sparkles in partywear.

📷: Ann Street Studio • Metiers d’Art Ateliers | Lesage & Lemarié

1. There are not that many brands making sustainable party wear. THIS IS SHAMEFUL. 😟

Most adults love to get down and boogey, and like to be dressed up when they do so. But what is one to wear?!

2. And in particular, where the men at?! 🤷🏽‍♂️

We struggled to find menswear brands designing sustainable men’s formal / semi-formal / partywear / something-fancy attire.

3. BUT never fear: buying is not your only option, you can rent, borrow, consign and more! 🎉

Given the dearth of options, and the fact that a guy or girl might want to look special and fresh for a new event but can’t buy something new for EVERY SINGLE WEDDING, we pulled together some alternative sustainable options for you, when searching for that perfect dress, shirt or suit, including rental options and more. 

4. And as always, you are invited, to learn with us. 🎓

Check out our context research on party wear below to learn what to look for when it comes to sequins, spandex and silk.

THE COMMITTEE

We’re so honored to have an all star committee of style, context and industry experts join us in selecting the top Partywear brands to receive our Seal of Approval ⭐️ They are:
GORDON RENOUF

Co-Founder + CEO
Good On You
Industry Expert

JENNIFER WHITTY

Founder + Director
Space Between
Industry Expert

NATALIE GRILLON

Co-Founder + CEO
Project JUST
Project JUST Committee Member

JACINTA FITZGERALD

Head of Research
Project JUST
Project JUST Committee Member

THE BASELINE

Before we do a deep dive into any brand, we look at the environmental and social practices of each of the nominated brands and whether or not they share enough information for us to research. In some cases, brands are doing great work from an environmental perspective, but share little or nothing on their labor practices, and vice versa – which isn’t enough to get them shortlisted. In addition to looking at how transparent the brand is, we also consider availability, accessibility (size and price) quality and aesthetic. Unfortunately, even if a brand self identifies as ethical but doesn’t share how, we can’t shortlist them for in-depth research.

We had 73 nominations for Partywear. Click here to see the full list!

Looking for information on the Seal of Approval process + criteria?FIND OUT MORE

THE CONTEXT

A little party never killed nobody – but what about partywear?!

✨✨✨

 For many of us, a night out on the town includes one or more shiny, sparkly items in which to shimmy the night away. But does all that party glitter meet the Project JUST standard for gold? We decided to find out. Apart from researching standard fabrics like cotton, synthetics and cellulosics (more on all of those here) – we dug deep into materials that are truly scream PARTY! Here’s a look at what we found.

RAW MATERIALS & FABRICS

SPANDEX

AKA lycra or elastane, Spandex is a petroleum based synthetic fibre (or a polyester-polyurethane copolymer, to be exact), which gives fabric the ability to stretch when blended with other fibres. Since its introduction in the 1960s, its market share has increased enormously: approx 80% of American clothing had spandex in them in 2010.

Fun fact: The name “spandex” is an anagram of the word “expands”. Clever. 🤓

Spandex has a limited lifespan of only 5-7 years: elastane breakage weakens the fabric, which causes it to lose its shape, fit and aesthetic. 

Like many other petroleum based fabrics, its raw material is non-renewable, and its production is carbon and energy intensive, and non-biodegradable – which means that when its tossed out after only few years of wear (thanks to its limited lifespan!), it ends up sitting in a landfill for several decades, releasing scary and harmful chemicals like PFCs into the environment.

Invista, the world’s largest integrated producer of polymers and fibers (including Lycra), has committed to reduce their energy intensity by 20% by 2020. To address the lifespan issue, textiles made with Invista’s Lycra Xtra Life fibre reportedly last up to 10 times longer than fabrics made without treated elastane.

Invista has also developed Bio-Based LYCRA, 70% of which is made using a renewable raw material source: corn derived dextrose (BDO).

SILK

The production of silk and the rearing of silkworms (usually bombyx mori, the caterpillar of the domesticated silk moth) is known as sericulture.

Frequently considered the ultimate luxury fabric and raw material, commercial silk – if it’s spun using handlooms – usually has a pretty tiny energy footprint, but a larger impact on silkworms, and in some cases, the environment. 🐛

Commercial silk is produced by placing silk moth caterpillar cocoons in boiling hot water, killing the silkworms while they’re still at the pupul stage. It’s estimated that around 15 silkworms are killed to produce a single gram of silk. 😧 The process of depositing the cocoons in hot water can sometimes be harmful to silk workers as well – and distressingly, the practice of employing child labor in the industry, particularly in India, still persists.

The production of silk in the traditional sense – as an ancient craft – can be extremely eco-friendly. However, new methods of dyeing and finishing silk with azo dyes and heavy metals like lead and chromium can be extremely dangerous for both the health of silk workers, as well the environment, particularly if waste water is left untreated.

 

As an alternative, “peace” silk or ahimsa (non violence in Hindi) silk spares the life of the silkworm, and instead allows them to grow in to moths and make their way out of the cocoons. Although this type of silk is patented, be warned that there are no actual certifications to verify the authenticity of the silk. Organic silk, on the other hand, ensures that the mulberry leaves fed to silk worms come from organically cultivated mulberry trees.

And if you’re concerned about the use of toxic chemical dyes in silk production, make sure to look out for labels that are OEKO-TEX® and / or bluesign® certified.

METALLICS

Everything shiny from lamé (fabric woven with thin ribbons of metallic fibres), to lurex (synthetic yarn on which a metallic layer has been vaporised), to the metallic fibres themselves

Although gold and silver have been used traditionally to decorate yarn (think cloth of gold from ancient times ✨), they’ve unfortunately been replaced by aluminum yarns, or aluminised nylon or plastic yarns.

Turns out all that glitters isn’t really gold when it comes to metallic fabrics. Lamé is typically a hybrid fabric, made by weaving a metallic fabric (usually metal coated plastic, i.e. petroleum) with a filler fabric like poly or nylon (more petroleum, yuck). What’s more, it damages pretty easily – cutting its lifespan down to just a few years. Lurex, trademarked by the Lurex Company, Ltd, is a specific type of metallic yarn in which a layer of aluminum is laminated or vaporized between two layers of synthetic polyester film. More plastic.

There are very few alternatives to metallic fabrics – especially affordable ones! Real gold or silver is rarely used any longer, replaced almost entirely by aluminum + plastic yarns.

Your best bet in this case is to look out for brands that use deadstock materials, i.e. leftover fabric that is otherwise destined for landfills. There’s a ton of surplus material available for sustainable designers to use thanks to wrongly dyed fabrics, or smaller pieces left over after a production run from larger textile mills. Using deadstock, or repurposing any types of fabrics already in existence, is a form of environment-friendly upcycling – which always gets a big thumbs up from us 👍🏼

EMBELLISHMENTS & TRIMS

📷: Maiyet • Hand Embroidery in Maharashtra, India

Maiyet partners with artisans around the world with support from NEST, an independent non-profit dedicated to training and developing artisan businesses.

SEQUINS, BEADS & EMBROIDERY

For all their sparkle and shine, modern day sequins are often made from some form of polymer / plastic (PVC, PET), or aluminum. But their sparkles aren’t only diminished by their rather lacklustre raw materials, but more so by their production practices.

Poor working conditions and labour rights violations are a very real consequence of the fast fashion industry – one of its worst manifestations being the employment of forced + child labor. Child labor is particularly prevalent in informal sector work like leather stitching and intricate handwork (including embroidery and beading), because it is highly unregulated and primarily home based. In some cases, embellishments like Swarovski crystals are so delicate and tiny that they need to be hand-stitched with small hands. In India, bead and embroidery work is often sub-contracted out from formal workshops to women and children, who work well below national minimum wages, sometimes at home or then in tiny units hidden away from public view.

Although you can look out for certifications like Fairtrade and Child Labor Free, to give you some amount of confidence that brands are ensuring safe working conditions + living wages to their workers – in our opinion, your best bet is still to look for brands that use deadstock materials (as in the case of metallics, above) and recycled beads and sequins, if you’re really keen to add a bit of glitter to your outfit.

 

 

PARTY WEAR ALTERNATIVES

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and RENT!

♻︎ ♻︎ ♻︎

As ethical and sustainable shopping enthusiasts, we’re super excited to see how many really innovative renting business models have sprung up to service our need (and passion 😉) for clothes, without requiring us to actually buy more stuff. Here’s a list to get you started (and for more tips on buying responsibly without straining your wallet, check out this piece on Medium):
Are we missing any? Email us and let us know!

WHAT'S NEXT?

Swim Wear! 👙 Coming May 2017.
VIEW ALL SEAL OF APPROVAL CATEGORIES
DISCLAIMER:

Project JUST does not receive any compensation for our research and selection of Seal of Approval lists.

To continue to provide you, the shopper and member of our Project JUST community, with credible research and analysis, we have partnerships with some of the Seal of Approval brands to serve as their affiliate. Once and only if a brand is selected, do they have the opportunity to participate in our online shop and we at Project JUST receive a small percentage of the sale if a reader discovers and chooses to shop a Seal of Approval brand. This allows you to directly shop from sustainable, ethical Seal of Approval brands and allows Project JUST to continue our due diligence and research work. If you have any questions or comments about our partnerships with Seal of Approval brands or Project JUST, please send them to info@projectjust.com.