Friday, February 23, 2024

Size Inclusivity and Sustainable Denim: How Good American Tackles Fashion’s 2 Biggest Problems

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Khloé Kardashian and Emma Grede founded Good American with two simple goals: make sustainable, size-inclusive denim that’s good for every body and the planet. It’s working.

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries and, according to Good American, is in need of serious change “because the planet can’t wait any longer,” a Good American spokesperson told Ethos via email. That’s been part of the brand’s focus since day one—positioning the company’s efforts toward what will have the biggest impact on its community and the planet.

Since launching in 2016, the brand has remained committed to balancing its purpose with profits in order to keep sustainability a core element of the brand and business. 

good american size inclusivity
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The brand, co-founded by Khloé Kardashian and Emma Grede, is walking that talk. In 2021, Good American earned its B Corp certification, a move it says is part of its efforts to meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability — all elements that go into becoming B Corp Certified. 

Earning B Corp certified means we will continue to put people and the planet up there with profit,” the brand says.

Sustainability in the fashion industry is becoming more widespread, thanks in part to brands like Good American, but the industry still has ways to go before it makes a dent in its carbon footprint.

Mainstream fashion is the third biggest emissions-producing industry and the leading producer of wastewater. It uses enormous amounts of resources, including harmful pesticides on crops like cotton, and it also produces significant amounts of waste and pollution linked to processes like fabric dyeing and leather tanning.

The biggest challenge, though, is replacing the behemoth fast fashion industry where cheap materials barely last more than a few washings. These disposable clothes quickly wind up in landfills or flood secondhand stores. And despite the growing secondhand market, fast fashion brands produce on average a new collection every week, leading to the depletion of resources and the perpetuation of an industry that favors cheap labor and human rights violations in addition to the environmental impact.

But as sustainable fashion becomes more accessible, it’s facing another issue the mainstream fashion industry has battled for years: size inclusivity.

Denim for all sizes

Julie Allen, a boutique owner and designer tells Ethos that major fashion brands, particularly in the luxury market, say the biggest reason for the lack of larger sizes is that larger sizes don’t sell. But according to Allen, the numbers just don’t add up for that to be true.

Allen, who struggled for years with eating disorders, opened her Oregon boutique because she says larger women in particular were excluded from the boutique experience. She says instead of service-oriented shopping experiences boutiques offer, these consumers are forced to shop in what she calls “the corner of shame” — areas in department or discount stores where all larger sizes are lumped together by the unflattering “plus” category.

“Seventy percent of women wear a size 14 or above,” Allen says. “The fashion industry is historically known for being exclusive.”

That exclusivity is rampant in the sustainable fashion industry, too, says Allen. She says that message tells people in larger bodies that they don’t, or worse, can’t, care about the environment because they simply don’t fit. “That’s the real message the industry is sending,” she says. “And I really want to change that.”

Good American wants to change it, too. It says it is dedicated to offering fully size-inclusive products across its denim, ready-to-wear, and accessories, and it’s the first fully inclusive fashion brand to do so — sustainable or not.

The brand says one of the biggest misconceptions about creating fully inclusive clothing for all women is that plus-sized products cost more or can produce more waste and many brands aren’t willing to make the investment. But it says an inclusive size range is commercially viable and attainable for the consumer, too.

Good American’s size range for all denim runs 00-32. But in its Always Fits range, it replaced traditional sizing with five size ranges instead:00-4, 6-12, 14-18, 20-26, and 28-32. And no more “plus” or “X” tags on the end. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find all manner of reviews of the Good American range-sizing and how it works even better than traditional sizing for women who’ve traditionally found themselves in the plus-sized aisles. The label credits the Always Fits 100 percent stretchability and advanced shaping method for the success.

Every shape, size, and background

“One of our best selling sizes is size 18,” the label says, “which shows that our customer has a need for our products and won’t allow the industry to dictate the styles she can and cannot wear because of her size, or force her to shop fast fashion brands that don’t take sustainability into consideration.”

Good American also recently launched an open casting initiative, which the label says has not only opened doors for women who are historically and currently not viewed as “models” but also helps the brand in its mission to represent women of every shape, size and background.

It’s not just a more size-inclusive approach, though. The label says it also reduces the need for inventory across the entire size range, “which cuts production by 75 percent.” To further that effort, Good American partnered with Calik to use Denethic denim throughout the line; it’s made with recycled cotton, which also significantly reduces the amount of water and energy used in production.

Like a growing number of brands, Good American adopted a product drop model, selling smaller quantities of products at a time, which allows it to keep production runs more manageable.

In an effort to fix fashion last year, it partnered with Zara, which Kardashian says was steeped in a mutual goal; both brands value inclusivity. “I see both Good American and Zara as pioneers in fashion in their own right, each bringing more accessibility to the fashion industry,” Kardashian told Vogue.

“At Good American, our mission is to make our assortment of denim, ready-to-wear, shoes and more as inclusive as possible, finding ways to innovate in fabric and fit where other brands have not, so women feel empowered,” she said, noting that Zara is an expert in bringing “trend-forward styles to people around the world at a more accessible price point.”

The collaboration featured sustainable and recycled cotton, Tencel, and other eco-materials in a range of denim shirts, tees, tank tops, and jumpsuits.

“A woman should never have to decide between shopping for a sustainably responsible brand or a size-inclusive brand,” Good American told Ethos. “The two should, and can, coexist.”

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