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Tag Archives: Top Shop
In a perfect world, we would all buy organic clothing made in Brooklyn by reformed former bankers, dyed with rainbows and blessed by a Buddhist monk.
We do not live in a perfect world.
I obsessively look for sustainable clothing that looks passable in the office or out at night. And even with my best efforts, I would say about 20% of my closet came from a “sustainable” designer or brand–40% if you include thrifted, vintage and used items. Yes, stuff is out there, but you have to work within some strict parameters and you really have to search. (You can keep track of my current favorite picks on Pinterest.)
I just love trendy, fun items. I want red jeans! I went a shirt with a peter pan collar! I really want a neon cross body purse. The typical New York girl who isn’t making $200,000 a year would head to one of many “fast fashion” stores to pick out some trendy things. But you’re reading this, so I’m assuming you don’t want to knowingly saddle yourself with bad karma, and bad debt.
Good news, readers. It’s not all bad in the world of cheap, trendy clothing.
Behold, your guide to each and every one of the cheap stores you frequent the most, as sourced from my research for a story on LearnVest:
The Good: AA has plenty of organic clothing, and has some sustainable initiatives beyond the norm, like recycling and donating extra materials, installing solar panels on its factory in L.A., subsidizing public transportation for employees and providing a bike share. All its clothing is manufactured exclusively in the U.S., and it provides health insurance, English classes and meals for its workers.
The Bad: The CEO had been accused in several lawsuits of harassing female employees. Plus, I have heard rumors (unconfirmed) that female employees are impolitely nudged into doing those lewd advertisements you see around town.
My Conclusion: Very eco-friendly as far as fast fashion goes. I personally will continue shop there for basics, but you need to make the decision for yourself.
The Meh: No eco-friendly items (no surprise there). It has energy-efficiency initiatives in stores and offices, and has reduced the packaging and shipping energy it uses. It claims that it’s working on more initiatives. AT has principles and guidelines for suppliers, conducts third party unannounced audits and works with noncompliant suppliers to improve or terminates the relationship.
My Conclusion: Not impressed. It isn’t terrible, but as I’m not super pumped about Ann Taylor in the first place, why not just head somewhere else? The only reason why I would go there is that they have petite sizes, which is key for my 5’2″ frame.
The Good: The Green Room section of the website features eco-friendly and fair trade clothing and accessories. The company is carbon neutral, and reduced its carbon footprint by cutting air freight from 75% to 10% of goods.
It is also part of the Ethical Trade Initiative association of companies (a European group of trade unions and organizations that work to improve global working conditions). ASOS has code of conduct, has independent audits of suppliers and works with noncompliant suppliers to improve or terminates relationship.
My Conclusion: Yes, yes, yes! While sometimes I have trouble figuring out exactly what makes everything in their Green Room green, and some of the things are terrifyingly expensive, I feel confident that this company is going in the right direction, and have no qualms giving them my money. Plus their stuff is some of the cutest out there, hands down.
The Bad: CR, besides having trash-tastic clothing, has no eco-friendly items and doesn’t even pretend to have sustainable practices. While it has guidelines for suppliers, it hasn’t exactly started any independent audits yet.
My Conclusion: Stay far, far away.
The Bad: No eco-friendly items or sustainable practices.
The Meh: Has standards for suppliers; conducts independent audits.
My Conclusion: I wasn’t that pumped about Express anymore anyway. So this is just another reason to forget about them.
Gap Inc. Including Banana Republic and Old Nayv
The Good: Gap is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and is working on more initiatives. It has a code of vendor conduct, makes unannounced visits to suppliers and works with noncompliant suppliers to improve or terminates the relationship.
The Meh: No eco-friendly items.
My Conclusion: Gap hasn’t done anything egregious, and there is really no eco-friendly equivalent to the staples at both Gap and Banana Republic for work-worthy wear. So I would say shop and hope that Gap follows through on its promises.
The Bad: No eco-friendly items or sustainable practices. A 2002 lawsuit alleged sweatshop conditions, and it’s currently being sued again for labor practices. F21 was also accused of using child labor in Uzbekistan along with Urban Outfitters and Aeropostale by the International Labor Rights Forum. Finally, Forever 21 has a long history of copying small-time designers’ work and passing it off as their own, having been sued several times.
My Conclusion: Sad to say, since F21 has been coming out with some lovely, trendy and affordable pieces lately, but I would go elsewhere. Sorry! (Meanwhile, I will guiltily wear the neon pink lace bra I bought in January until it wears out. And then never go back. I promise!)
The Good: This British expat pioneered affordable sustainability with the Conscious Collection (which I LOVE), is the #1 user of organic cotton worldwide (organic cotton is blended in with the conventional cotton in many items); and is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
If you’re a fan of companies that actively try to bring women into the decision-making process, you could do worse than H&M, which has women in 71% of management positions, and goes 50-50 on the board of directors.
The Bad: Was found out for destroying wearable clothing in 2009, but has since stopped that practice.
The Meh: Has a code of conduct with independent audits, works with noncompliant suppliers but has no stated policy on termination for non-compliant suppliers.
My Conclusion: Go for it! You want something trendy and cheap that you can feel good about? March your butt into H&M and snap it up. Love, love love.
The Good: Just a few eco-friendly items. Reduced energy use at stores and offices, reduced gas use in shipping, increased recycling and is working on more initiatives.
The Mixed: Accused in 2007 of using slave labor by newspaper investigation; published Code of Conduct in 2009; conducts independent evaluations.
My Conclusion: I love Top Shop’s stuff, I really do. But I just can’t quite get behind them yet. They say they have eco-friendly items, but as of right now, it’s just one brand of jeans. Show me a little more, Top Shop, and I’m allll yours.
Urban Outfitters, Including Free People and Anthropologie
The Bad: Oh boy, this one is a doozy. UO has no eco-friendly items or sustainable practices. It has no labor guidelines, and was accused of using child labor in Uzbekistan along with Forever 21 and Aeropostale by International Labor Rights Forum. Urban Outfitters has zero female board members out of six. Shall I keep going? Okay, Urban Outfitters has even stolen the design and ad copy off an Etsy jewelry designer. Ouch.
What makes it worse, is that Free People and Anthropologie have such a global, peace-loving vibe. Yup, it’s all a sham.
My Conclusion: You know what? Anthropologie’s stuff doesn’t look good on real people anyway. And Urban Outfitters is overpriced. So I’m just going to wave goodbye to this whole company, and good riddance.
The Bad: It has no eco-friendly items, and has paid only lip service to sustainability by reducing paper and energy use and increasing recycling. I don’t think that makes up for the number of catalogues it sends out.
It does have sourcing standards with independent audits, but those audits must not be working well, because it is currently being inspected by U.S. investigators for using child labor.
Oh, and Victoria’s Secret’s heavy-handed photoshopping is just out of control. Give me a break, please.
My Conclusion: Do I need to say it? I’m just so over this brand. Its stuff is trashy, overpriced and conventional. And there are so many pretty little boutiques around the city that do it better.
The Good: A few eco-friendly items. Has improved energy efficiency and has a couple sustainably-built stores, including a LEED-certified one.
The Bad: Has a code of conduct with inspections, but was accused last fall of using slave labor by a Brazilian TV report. Zara responded saying it would “strengthen supervision.” I wonder how that is going?
My Conclusion: Whatever, Zara. You’ve lost me.