Last Updated on January 20, 2023
We know the fashion industry is incredibly wasteful.
Millions of tonnes of clothing end up in the landfill every year. It’s shockingly estimated that less than 1% of virgin materials which enter the clothing production cycle will actually end up being recycled into new clothes, and 25% of fabric (or possibly more – this is considered a conservative figure) is waste before the garment is even in stores. Also, as we recently learned, the secondhand clothing cycle can be far from sustainable.
And fortunately some brands are already working to change the way we view and use textile “waste”. Through things like zero waste fashion production, using offcut, reclaimed, and deadstock materials, upcycling existing garments, and even taking back and recycling their own clothes.
Here are our top picks for zero waste and circular fashion brands:
(This roundup is kindly sponsored by Tonlé and also contains some affiliate links)
Tonlé mainly utilizes offcuts and some deadstock materials for their styles. Offcuts are the pieces left over after the patterns have been cut out and these are often trashed or burned. However Tonlé has come up with some clever solutions to save this waste from other factories (as well as their own cutting scraps!) – larger pieces are used for garments and smaller pieces might become accents, patch details, or are turned into fabric yarn and handwoven into unique zero waste garments and accessories (like the cardigan pictured above on the right). Their production is completely zero waste and even the snipped threads are recycled into paper!
Finally, to keep things circular, if you have Tonlé pieces that no longer work for you or your wardrobe, or even that are damaged and need some TLC, you can trade them back for store credit! These secondhand pieces are fixed up if needed and sold in their Open Closet.
While there are many added challenges with sourcing reclaimed fabrics, designing to minimize waste, and having a sustainable, maker-focused production process it also means that Tonlé customers get a more unique and mindfully crafted piece (that hopefully will be loved and cherished for years 💚).
Chatting with owner Rachel, it was quickly apparent not only how passionate she is about sustainability within her brand but also waste, inclusivity, fairness, and transparency issues in the industry as a whole.
I’m always inspired and encouraged by brands who aren’t just making a sustainable product but are finding solutions, shaking things up, and working towards a brighter future for the industry.
Check out Tonlé’s beautiful pieces and also some more of the brands striving to create zero waste and circular fashion:
Brands Upcycling Used Clothing
Upcycling isn’t just recycling – it’s transforming it into something better. With clothing that might involve taking secondhand garments and updating, repairing, or re-designing them, or maybe shredding old clothes to turn into new fabrics.
Women’s and men’s shirts made from natural fibre clothing that has been shredded, spun, and woven into new fabrics.
Eileen Fisher takes back their garments and anything that can’t be resold in their secondhand Renew Shop is reworked into new zero waste styles. Check out the tour I did of their “tiny factory” where all the Renew clothes go! (pictured right)
Sweatpants and tops made from vintage and secondhand garments.
Offers a small collection of upcycled garments.
The “worlds first circular denim brand” – Mud Jeans takes back your old jeans to get shredded and become part of new jeans. (You can watch the process in this video)
Transforms secondhand garments into new styles.
Underwear and bras made from upcycled t-shirts.
Garments made from deconstructed clothes and repurposed materials. (pictured right)
Luxury label upcycling old jeans into new jeans.
Vintage/secondhand store with a collection of reworked and upcycled clothes.
Brands Using Deadstock Fabrics
Deadstock is also known as remnant, overstock, or surplus fabric. This might be from other brands who ordered more than they actually needed, or from mills who either made a mistake (like the colour wasn’t exact), an order was cancelled, there was some damage or flaws, or they produced too much.
There is some debate around the sustainability of making deadstock clothing- the main argument being that mills can intentionally produce extra fabric to sell, or companies can over-buy and sell the excess, purposely creating the “waste”. While I do think this is something to be aware of, I also know that there is an insane about of pre-consumer textile waste (check out my visit to Fab Scrap for a tiny peek) and I think it is good to support brands trying to do something with all the extra fabric. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to really verify where a brand’s fabric came from, but I do believe that many sustainable brands are genuine with their waste reduction mission and sourcing true deadstock.
German label making lingerie and swimsuits from sustainable and surplus fabric. (pictured right)
Clothing, knitwear, and accessories made in the UK from deadstock and reclaimed materials.
Dresses (including formal options) and clothes made from deadstock materials.
Romantic dresses made from deadstock.
Women’s and men’s basics and staples made from remnant fabrics.
Californian brand making their collection in-house from deadstock fabrics and upcycled garments.
A Portuguese label that uses deadstock and also has a line of knitwear spun from recycled textile waste. They recently also started using new sustainable materials as well. (pictured right)
Canadian children’s clothing brand with colourful, gender-neutral styles made from deadstock fabrics.
Blends deadstock fabrics with upcycled vintage and reclaimed secondhand garments.
Colourful collection made from deadstock fabrics.
LA based brand using some deadstock, but also some new fabrics.
Bright and colourful unisex designs featuring their signature “ReRoll” – a modern-take on patchwork. (pictured right)
I hope you found this roundup helpful and, as always, let me know if there are any great zero waste clothing brands I missed.
Let’s keep that clothing cycle circular!
Also check out my bag roundup for some brands making zero waste and upcycled bags and purses!