Is Tradlands ethical and sustainable?
Several months ago, a reader reached out to ask what makes Tradlands ethical and sustainable.
A favorite among Instagram influencers and ethical bloggers, Tradlands is known for tailored separates, luxurious cotton sweaters, and minimalist dresses and jumpsuits.
I have featured them frequently in my Ethical Alternatives series because I find that their offerings fall somewhere between Madewell, Everlane, and J. Crew in style. Plus, most of their clothing is work-appropriate, which is surprisingly hard to find among ethical retailers?
But the reader had a point: while Tradlands has relied heavily on influencer marketing in the ethical niche, there’s not a lot of information on the website that would help one confirm their implied ethical claims. I reached out to a brand representative for answers.
Where are Tradlands products manufactured?
“Our products are split by two family-owned manufacturers, wovens and knits. All of our knits like our sweaters are produced in Peru and our wovens like our button-ups are produced in China.“
Tradlands has a long term relationship with known manufacturers.
How do you ensure that your factories adhere to ethical standards?
“We perform compliance audits yearly to evaluate employee satisfaction and environmental conditions. Our last audit was performed last year when Sadie + Jeremy [the founders] visited China.”
Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Tradlands has hired a third-party auditor to factory visits.
How do you calculate a living wage?
“For a living wage, we base it off of US standards and consider both basic and essential needs to survive such as food, housing, clothing, and healthcare.”
Tradlands offers a wage above country standards, calculated to be a living wage based on the above criteria.
How do you determine product pricing? Some of my readers believe that the prices are too high.
“We take into account design hours, pattern making, fabric costs, wages and labor, shipping and taxes, and if it’s a special print like the Caroline we designed for SS20, we would also include compensating the artist.”
Tradlands’ garments are sold at a higher price point than comparable retailers due to a combination of offering a living wage and the higher cost of materials and finishing on their complex, tailored designs.
What about sustainability?
Many if not most of Tradlands’ items are made with mono-materials (e.g. 100% cotton), which means they’re easier to recycle and biodegrade. Several pieces – like their fisher sweater – are also sourced from seed to garment in the same country (Peru), which reduces shipping pollution and makes for a more efficient process. Additionally, cotton is native to Peru, which makes cultivation less resource-intensive.
Fabric blends are produced with more sustainable textiles such as tencel and linen. While most materials are not organic, the focus on less water-intensive, localized, and natural materials is heartening.
Is Tradlands worth it?
If your lifestyle requires a closet-full of button-downs, Tradlands may be out of your immediate price range. But if you’re someone like me – who just needs a couple pieces for interviews and special events – having one or two tailored Tradlands pieces in your closet can be worth the price. There is a noticeable quality difference in fabric and finishings – like more front buttons to reduce gapping – and designs are relatively timeless. This combination means you’re likely to get more use out of a Tradlands garment than a lower quality alternative.
For myself, I have stayed away from more trendy Tradlands pieces just because I can’t afford them and they’re not really a logical buy for me.
If you decide to make a Tradlands purchase, keep in mind that I find that they run about a half-size small, especially in the arms. Size up accordingly, or reach out to them for more detailed fit information.
Tradlands now offers up to a size 3X. I have found that their mid to larger sizes sell out quickly.
Fan Favorites: Tradlands is offering up to 70% off in their Anniversary Sale
Taking all the information together, I would say that Tradlands does qualify as ethical and sustainable. Better factory transparency would be useful, and I would love to see a move to organic cotton with clear traceability. But there are many factors to consider in the global supply chain, and I think Tradlands has done a good job of prioritizing their values.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.
Monday 18th of January 2021
Wow, thank-you for going above and beyond and talking with the brand!!! I'm truly impressed. I was the original poster on the old comment thread you linked to. I did not see the updates you posted over there though! If/when I need button-downs in the future I will once again consider Tradlands. I do own a couple of their shirts already, and I do like the fit: not "fitted" but not over-sized, either. A really good in-between, which IMO lets you dress them up or down. I also have a connection to Peru, and am really happy they are getting more and more ethical manufacturing businesses working over there.
Sunday 24th of January 2021
Glad to help! Sorry it took so long to get this post up! I had intended to re-photograph my Tradlands pieces for the post, but then never got around to it.