The fashion industry is a significant battleground when it comes to the feminist struggle. Historically, from garment makers to retail workers and consumers, the vast majority of people involved in the industry are women. However, why is it that men are often the ones at the very top of brand hierarchies? In fact, according to retail merchandising company Nextail, male candidates made up 76.9 percent of all CEO appointments in the fashion industry in 2021. Gender pay disparities are often huge due to these power imbalances.

Male candidates made up 76.9 percent of all CEO appointments in the fashion industry in 2021

For example, in its 2021/22 Gender Pay Gap Report, H&M reported that in the year 2021, there was a 22.9 percent and 42.5 percent gender pay gap among their retail workers in favor of male colleagues. However, this issue is not limited to major supply chains like H&M. Of the four million garment workers in Indonesia, around 58 percent are women. Wages for these workers in 2016 were around $154 per month. Additionally, one of every five garment workers in Indonesia stated that sexual harassment and sexual touching is a concern within her factory. This is a widespread issue across the industry with over 80% of garment workers in Bangladesh stating to have experienced or witnessed sexual violence and harassment at work, according to a survey of 200 Bangladeshi garment workers conducted by International Labour Conference (ILC) in 2019. 

80% of garment workers in Bangladesh…have experienced or witnessed sexual violence and harassment at work.

Accounts like these run rampant in the fashion and manufacturing industry. One prominent case of sexual and gender-based violence in the fashion industry is the sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old Dalit garment worker Jeyasre Kathiravel by her supervisor in 2021. Jeyasre worked in a factory supplying H&M and experienced months of sexual harassment before her death. Patriarchal power imbalances not only make women financially disadvantaged due to unequal wages, but also creates working environments which are fundamentally unsafe for female workers. While there have been improvements in recent years, this patriarchal system needs to change.

So, how can we begin to change this culture of oppression and marginalization? With the start of Women’s History Month, Remake is dedicated to uplifting brands that celebrate women and their influence within the industry by highlighting women-owned brands that are out to change the systemic gender inequalities present in fashion. Below are ten women-owned brands that are carving the way in sustainable fashion, as well as next steps for each of these fashion companies in leading the industry to better ethics — as those truly invested in fashion’s future know there is always more work to be done.

9 Women-Owned Brands in Fashion

LA Relaxed

Launched in 2015 by Dana Weinstein, LA Relaxed creates elegant everyday designs that are simply yet gorgeous. With high quality and local materials including organic cotton and TENCEL, LA Relaxed garments are designed for comfort as well as aesthetics. 

LA Relaxed was also the highest scoring brand in Remake’s 2022 Accountability Report. This is due to their significant levels of supply chain transparency (including the disclosure that their lowest paid employees are paid $20 per hour), and their focus on local sourcing for their materials, with most of their fabrics knitted within 10 miles of their warehouse

 

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Next steps for LA Relaxed: LA Relaxed may be a frontrunner in ethical and sustainable fashion, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas where the company can improve. For instance, although $20 per hour is above the minimum wage in California it does not quite reach the living wage in the state. The brand can also continue their supply chain transparency efforts, and advocate for living wages and freedom of association for their workers. We hope that LA Relaxed will keep pushing forwards to set an example for progress for people and planet in the fashion industry. 

Mate the Label

Mate is self-described as a women-centered brand, “founded by women, run by women, and focused on making products for all women – through every stage of life.” It was founded in 2013 by Kayti Carr, who now acts as CEO of the brand. Mate produces a wide range of garments, from cute dresses and jumpsuits to comfy sweaters and intimates. The brand is on a mission to rid plastic from their supply chain, so you won’t find polyester, nylon or polyamide in their garments. Their activewear collection, MOVE, only uses eight percent spandex. Mate has also  stated their endorsement of the FABRIC Act, setting an example for other brands in standing for change in the industry. 

 

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Next steps for Mate the Label: A key area for Mate to work on is their emissions. Currently, their carbon neutrality strategy relies on offsets rather than directly tackling the emissions created within their production and sales processes. Mate should also increase their levels of transparency and the traceability of their supply chain, including providing data on wages. This information could then act as a starting point for the brand to center intersectional environmentalism in their business practices, particularly in relation to the sourcing and manufacturing of its raw materials. 

Thousand Fell

Thousand Fell is a sneaker brand like no other. The brand, co-founded by Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum, prides itself on selling “the first recyclable sneaker” and closing the loop on textile waste. Thousand Fell sneakers are designed to be returned once they have reached the end of their use so they can be refurbished, donated through Soles4Souls, or taken apart to be used again as raw materials. The shoes are fully vegan, using materials such as aloe vera coasted liners, recycled rubber insoles, other recycled textiles, and even some materials derived from locally sourced food waste!

 

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Next steps for Thousand Fell: More information is needed on the pay and labor conditions of the people working in Thousand Fell’s supply chain. Transparency is a key issue as it is a requirement to create a strategy to improve labor and environmental issues throughout their supply chain. The sustainable credentials of the materials used in these shoes is great, but we need to know their full history and the methods of sourcing. Similarly, the brand states that it uses carbon offsets to address its environmental impact, but doesn’t say what else the brand is doing to achieve direct emissions reductions within its supply chain. 

Whimsy and Row

Rachel Tenko started Whimsy and Row (W+R) in 2014 after being fed up with the “dishonest and harmful practices” she saw in the fashion industry, and set out to create a brand “without excess waste and egos.” W+R’s garments are manufactured in limited run batches in ethical conditions a few miles away from the brand’s office in LA, with only denim being produced overseas. This close proximity allows them to visit their LA factory floor regularly. W+R designs are effortlessly feminine, using a mixture of delicate patterns and block colors. Their sizing goes from XS-XL with some options for extended sizing up to 3X so you can find the right fit. 

 

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Next steps for Whimsy and Row: W+R do track their product emission impacts and have achieved carbon neutrality, however this has mostly been through carbon offsets and the company has not yet disclosed their emissions for any production tier. W+R need to first disclose these emissions and then create and disclose a strategy to reduce these emissions in their production process. 

ARQ

ARQ’s owner, Abigail Quist, is inspired by “Bodies, postmodern interiors, details from Italian renaissance paintings, natural plant and animal fibers, local seasonal produce, and old-world garment craftsmanship” when creating her designs. The brand’s small team is also majority women! ARQ produces a range of simplistic intimates and basics. Their underwear is not only beautiful, it comes in a variety of different styles as well as in sizes XXS to 6X. The brand uses non-toxic, low-waste and certified organic dyes processes, as well as certified organic, recycled and deadstock materials in their manufacturing process. 

 

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Next steps for ARQ: ARQ do not currently share their supplier list and have limited social and environmental disclosures. This means that little is known about the working conditions and pay of their workers and the sourcing of their materials. Going forward, ARQ should strive to be more transparent on their different company practices and sustainability disclosures.

Naja

Founded by Gina Rodriguez (yes, that Gina Rodriguez) and Catalina Girald in 2014, Naja produces “underwear with a social impact.” Their lingerie sets are gorgeous, and their mission of female empowerment stands out in a clothing category that is usually dominated by the male gaze. Naja’s mission of female empowerment goes beyond their customers, as workers are prioritized in Naja’s business model. The brand primarily employs single mothers and female heads of household, who are paid above market wages with healthcare benefits. Additionally, their program Underwear for Hope, trains and employs marginalized women living in the slums of Colombia to make their lingerie bags. They also share profiles of their garment workers in the descriptions of individual garments!

 

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Next steps for Naja: More than ever, transparency is key. While we are told that Naja’s workers are paid “above market rates,” we don’t get told exactly what that is. Similarly, while they are making a start in terms of using lots of recycled materials and moving away from virgin oil-derived fabrics, it would be great for Naja to share more about how and where their materials are sourced. 

Selva Negra

LA-based brand Selva Negra is proud of its local supply chain, with its garments produced in several family-owned factories in downtown LA. Its founder and CEO Kristen Gonzalez also co-founded In Todo, a craft fair that aims to highlight the craft of BIPOC creatives. Selva Negra produces a variety of garments, including dresses, jumpsuits, jackets, shorts, and more. Each design is in stunning and calming colors in sizes ranging from XS to 4XL, and the brand have said they are working on providing a wider size range. 

 

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Next steps for Selva Negra: Selva Negra confirm that all their employees are paid fair liveable wages and work in clean and safe conditions. However, more concrete evidence is needed to back up these statements, especially considering the small scale of their localized supply chain. Beyond this, Selva Negra can begin to think about ways to incorporate circular models into their business practices and structure, throughout the production process and looking ahead to the end-of-life of their products. Selva Negra is definitely on the right track! 

Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn garments just scream cottage-core. The brand’s garments are beautiful, with airy blouses, flowing summer dresses, and cool corduroy trousers all made to ensure the wearer feels amazing for a lifetime. Christy Dawn has a focus on regenerative materials and slow production practices to create collections that demonstrate a care and respect for Mother Earth. Their methods for sourcing materials in India and Peru evidences Christy Dawn’s commitment to organic fabrics that don’t harm the ground or communities they come from.

 

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 Next steps for Christy Dawn: Christy Dawn’s strong point is definitely their materials, however there are several areas where they could also improve. Everyone involved in Christy Dawn’s regenerative collections are said to earn a living wage, but it is unclear whether this is true of all workers across their entire supply chain with workers located in LA and India. Evidence for living wages is vital for any brand that prioritizes sustainability. The brand also does not share specific emissions disclosure or reduction targets. Declaring their emissions at different tiers and setting strict reduction of targets would be a great way for Christy Dawn to continue their progress in creating caring production practices. 

Gabriela Hearst

Uruguayan designer Gabriela Hearst launched her eponymous brand in 2015 with an aim to create luxury items with a conscience while honoring her heritage and history. Luxury is truly the right word for Hearst’s garments. Care is in the heart of their production, as the brand prioritizes quality and slow process to create garments that last. Gabriella Hearst has gained a reputation for their eco-conscious ethos, largely due to their focus on natural fibers and low impact fabrics such as aloe-treated linen. 

 

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Next steps for Gabriela Hearst:  The company currently shares details of the “Garment Journey” of their products, including the suppliers which produced it, including Tier 1 and 2 facility locations by country, and where applicable, the relevant certifications. However, they do not currently share a supplier list. Similarly, Gabriela Hearst only partially discloses their raw material sources. Sharing this information in full is a good step to ensure better business practices. 

While each of these women-owned brands are doing great things to make change in the fashion industry, the theme for improvement among them is a lack of transparency around both pay and working conditions of the people who make their clothes, as well as how brands source their raw materials. Each of these brands has shown they are dedicated to pushing for change and creating a better, more feminist fashion industry. It is important on days like International Women’s Day and months like Women’s History Month to celebrate the wins just as much as highlight what changes still need to be made. 

Want to See How Remake Scored other sustainable brands? Check Out Our Brand Directory

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