Sustainability expert Solitaire Townsend famously said, “Wear clothes that matter.” Gone are the days when sustainable fashion was unheard of, and the only few options that were available, catered only to women. Let’s face the facts, sustainable fashion and styling has always been harder for men than women with limited options and access to ethical brands. Are things changing for the better? Well we at The Good Tee decided to find out and have a chat with the man who encourages men to ‘dress like you give a damn’, the founder of Eco-Stylist, Garik Himebaugh.
Garik not only calls out fast fashion brands for their unethical practices but vetts various sustainable brands that are transparent and can be trusted. Scroll down to read our conversation with him where he had a lot to tell us about how Eco-Stylist helps men make the right fashion choices, and honestly he had us at ‘Eco’💚.
You have an education in business from the University of Iowa, so what drew you towards fashion specifically and led you to establish Eco Stylist ?
While it’s often assumed that there is some connection between my business degree and our startup, Eco-Stylist, it’s really more of a chance than causation. It all began with a series of events that transpired while I was in grad school.
My curiosity for entrepreneurship and love of fashion led me to build a startup on the side that helped men shop for clothes. I had built an MVP and tested it with hundreds of users. In that version we were essentially helping people shop stylish clothes from stores like Asos. That’s when everything changed…
I learned about the many environmental and human issues caused by the larger fashion industry. Then I learned about the sustainable brands that were challenging the idea of “business as usual” and building a more equitable fashion industry. I realized then that there was no way I could build a fashion startup in good conscience unless it helped people discover these new sustainable brands.
So, I pivoted my startup, essentially starting over, and created Eco-Stylist to be the trusted source for stylish and sustainable men’s clothes.
What is your take on fast fashion and how do you think people can switch to more sustainable and ethical styling options?
Fast fashion is the inevitable and ugly conclusion of a fashion industry driven only to “maximize shareholder value.” They’re focused on getting people to spend money on things they don’t need, at the expense of the people and the planet.
It’s encouraging today to see brands not focused on trends but on timeless pieces and fewer collections. Some brands like Taylor Stitch take back, repair, and resell their clothes. Meanwhile brands like Outerknown offer a lifetime warranty on their jeans.
From a price perspective, because sustainable fashion can cost more, it makes more sense to slow down the cycle. Consumers buy something once and keep it for years. The higher price then makes more sense, because the items are higher quality and there’s not this urgency to buy like 12 pants a year.
Ditching fast fashion is easier today than ever before. Start at Eco-Stylist. We have over 350 curated sustainable men’s items in our shop and over 50 thoroughly researched brands on our brands page.
In your experience with styling do you think it is harder to choose sustainable options for men than women?
That was certainly true when I started Eco-Stylist, and that’s why I chose to focus on menswear. I wanted to help men find sustainable brands, help them create outfits with these brands, and make it that much easier to find and buy sustainably over the conventional options.
However, the options are getting better with time and now the playing feel is a lot more level. Both the women’s and men’s brands still need more options, but you can generally find what you need in either segment, especially with marketplaces like Eco-Stylist, and a little creativity.
You’ve called out some of the biggest names in fast fashion for unethical practices, which are the top sustainable brands that you have vetted and trust?
I love all of the brands that we approve, but if I had to highlight just a few I’d say:
1. Outerknown - one of our higher ranking brands. They do a great job when it comes to ethics and sustainability. What started as a surfer brand has transcended beyond that aesthetic. I have a wool blazer and a pair of jeans from them that I wear all the time.
2. Adelante Shoe Co. - they use business as a force for positive economic development. Adelante is among the most progressive brands when it comes to living wages for their workers. They hand make, made to order, leather shoes for men and women with custom sizing options.
What are the checkpoints that a person looking for sustainable brand options should keep in mind?
First off - at Eco-Stylist sustainable encapsulates ethical. We don’t believe a brand is sustainable if they don’t also care about their people. So we don’t often use the terms independently.
Now - some ways to know if a brand is sustainable:
- Use a source you trust that researches brands for you (like Eco-Stylist)
- Look for a brands sustainability page and evidence that they use sustainable fabrics.
- Look for certifications like GOTS, Fair Trade, & SA8000 to determine if they have an ethical supply chain.
- Look at the brand's Transparency page. The best brands always have a transparency page and they share their factory lists and certifications there. Some good brands don’t have certifications but will instead share the actual wages they pay to their workers and details like that. If the brand doesn’t have a transparency page, move on.
‘Dress like you give a damn’ is a very eye-catching tagline, tell us more about the thought behind it?
“Dress like you give a damn” is the act of looking sharp without compromising your values. Eco-Stylist vision is to help you do that. It has 2 parts:
1. Dress in a way that gives you more confidence
2. Care about how the clothes are made, the planet, and the resources used to make them.
What is your mission at Eco Stylist?
Eco-Stylist’s mission is to help you dress like you give a damn.
When you shift your dollars to good brands, you are investing in the kind of world you want to live in. You are dressing like you give a damn.
It’s been a tough go this year for so many, but we’re sure there has also been some good. How have you coped during this time and managed to keep spirits high?
While most fashion brands saw a drop in sales due to covid-19, it’s not a bad time to be in sustainable fashion. Now, more than ever before, social and environmental issues are top of mind for folks.
During this time Eco-Stylist has buckled down on our content strategy. We completed an impact accelerator program for social enterprises, doubled our website traffic, and tripled our team. We were also awarded Best Menswear Brand 2020 by Eluxe Magazine. So it really hasn’t been a bad year for us.
What future plans do you have for Eco Stylist?
Eco-Stylist is in the middle of launching our new brand ratings. Effectively we simplified how we research brands and got way more transparent about it.
Now you can view the rating for any sustainable brand at Eco-Stylist, along with a simple explanation for how they got that score.
You’ll also find our brands broken out into 3 tiers: Certified, Silver, and Gold. This way you can compare brands and learn more about what each brand is doing to make the fashion industry better.
Explore our new scorecards here: https://www.eco-stylist.com/sustainable-brand-criteria/
Anything else you would like to share?
Sometimes people focus on the price of sustainable fashion being high(er), but really we should focus on the price of fast fashion being low(er) - in fact it is so low it’s impossible that people were not exploited to make that piece of clothing you see for $10.
Sustainable fashion requires a shift in mindset but it’s a worthwhile investment. When you shift your dollars to good brands, you’re investing in the kind of world you want to live in.
Yes, a shift in the mindset is what makes all the difference. At The Good Tee too, we believe in absolute transparency, ethical working conditions and fair wages for our workers, and using materials which are good for the planet, plus our classic styles never go out of vogue. We hope that our conversation with Garik inspired you to believe in brands that care for the people and the world. ‘Sew’ are we all set for some #goodstyle?