Christine Alcalay Studio - Sustainable Work Clothes

Sustainable Work Clothes: Investing in Quality Suits

The modern fashion marketplace can be overwhelming with an oversaturation of social media driven fast fashion trends and sneaky greenwashing from major brands, making stylish sustainable shopping feel almost impossible. While brands like Zara, Fashion Nova, and Shein increase their already excessive production to keep up with the ever-shortening trend cycles, designers like Christine Alcalay are slowing down and streamlining to prioritize ethical production and sustainability in their collections.

But how do you know what to look for when shopping for sustainable work clothes? We’ve broken down some key components of sustainable style so you can feel good about your work wardrobe. Choosing quality over quantity, prioritizing eco-friendly fabrics, and shopping locally all help to reduce your closet’s carbon footprint and create your sustainable work wardrobe.

The Importance of Sustainable Work Clothes

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

The data on the fashion industry’s contribution to the climate crisis is harrowing. While it is difficult to pin down the exact carbon footprint of such a major industry, a report from Business Insider attributes 10% of total global carbon emissions to fashion production. This number is equivalent to the total emissions of the European Union.

While some of the factors that contribute to this number are unavoidable, such as the water used to produce natural fibers and wash garments, wasteful fast fashion practices are what have caused this number to skyrocket with no sign of stopping.

The speed of fast fashion refers to the lead time between a garment’s initial design and its arrival on sites and shelves. While a traditional ready-to-wear fashion cycle operates seasonally, major fast fashion brands have accelerated their lead time to accommodate and influence the shortened attention spans of contemporary consumers.

Zara, for example, releases 24 collections a year with new product drops twice a week, and online retailers like Shein and Fashion Nova operate at an even higher scale, releasing upwards of 1000 new products per week. These companies also strive to keep prices low to appeal to a broader customer base and encourage shoppers to purchase during each of their (increasingly frequent) drops.

This accelerated model leads to cut corners: in order to produce a garment cheaply in a matter of weeks or even days, pieces are tailored to generic forms that have little correlation with 3-dimensional human bodies, design elements, and finishes that would prolong a garment’s longevity are eliminated, and cheap synthetic materials are preferred.

The primary fast-fashion fabric is polyester, a man-made plastic fiber that takes upwards of 200 years to degrade in a landfill. This is made even more egregious due to the fact that 85% of all textiles end up in dumps every year, no doubt due to the messaging from fast fashion companies, necessary to uphold their precarious business model, that buying cheap clothing more frequently is the only way to be stylish. 

"85% of all textiles end up in dumps every year"

Benefits of Choosing Quality Over Quantity

Before we pull you too far into the pits of climate despair, there is another way! Sustainable design and manufacturing processes can reduce a garment’s environmental footprint and increase its longevity and cost-effectiveness over time. Focusing on quality over quantity, slowing down the design and production process, and choosing high-quality natural and recycled fabrics and timeless silhouettes are just a few ways brands like Christine Alcalay prioritize sustainability.

Fast fashion relies on the fickleness of the trend cycle, and while viral trends can be fun, they are quick to look dated. Truly sustainable workwear is timeless. The most ethical women’s suits are built to last, not only in terms of the suit material and higher cost construction elements like full or partial lining and reinforced seams but in their very design. An elegant three-piece suit with timeless tailoring made from durable natural fibers will look polished and professional for years to come, reducing waste and costing the consumer less money over time. 

Sustainable Workwear & Quality Suits

Why Quality Suits?

Sustainable Suits vs. Fast Fashion

Sustainable workwear has a reputation for being pricey, and while the upfront cost of an ethically made women’s suit is higher than its fast fashion counterpart, the higher quality and longevity make it more cost-effective over time. That higher price tag delivers durability in terms of suit material and construction while having more ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices and a lower carbon footprint overall.

Making garments locally is considerably more expensive than outsourcing production overseas, but this decision allows for closer attention to detail, lower carbon emissions, and more ethical labor practices. Rapid production driven by the fast fashion industry has increased the use of forced labor, including child labor in much of overseas production. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people work in some part of the global fashion industry, making it the most labor-dependent industry in the world. A large percentage of these workers are young women and children, making fractions of a living wage and working in unsafe conditions.

Cheap fast fashion workwear comes at the cost of exploited workers, huge carbon footprints, and overall longevity. Making high-quality sustainable business wear is the most ethical, eco-friendly, and economical decision in the long run. 

Material Matters: Sustainable Suit Material

Spools of colorful thread in Christine Alcalay

Ethically sourced sustainable suit material is more than a question of quality and durability: the fabrics we wear have a lasting ecological impact and choosing fibers with lower carbon footprints is one way in which brands and consumers can make their workwear more sustainable.

Fast fashion’s favorite fabric, polyester, is low-cost and low-maintenance. The fiber, which is made from polyurethane and essentially a glorified plastic, can be made in a variety of textures to mimic silks or cottons with a much lower initial cost. Not only does polyester release copious amounts of toxins into the atmosphere and take hundreds of years to decompose, but the flimsy fabric is prone to wrinkling and fading, making it look worn quickly.

Natural fibers such as silk, cotton, wool, and linen are more expensive but will hold up better in your wardrobe without leaving a lasting negative impact on the environment. Recycled polyester, however, plays an important role in lessening the impact of synthetic textiles on the environment while giving consumers more machine-washable options in the sustainable workwear marketplace. When shopping for sustainable professional clothing, take a look at the composition label and try to prioritize natural or recycled fibers in order to reduce your ecological footprint and prioritize longevity. 

Christine Alcalay: Pioneering Sustainable Workwear

Commitment to Eco-Conscious Fashion

At Christine Alcalay, we prioritize sustainability at every step of our process, from initial design to production and distribution. By working in a traditional two-season model, having close relationships with our customers, manufacturers, and suppliers, and producing our full collection in New York City, we are able to reduce our initial environmental impact and operate at very low levels of waste while still focusing on quality, creativity, and wearability.

The average length it takes for a garment to go from initial design to hanging on the racks of our Brooklyn boutique is 9 months – a pretty drastic difference from fast fashion’s 1-6 weeks! Taking this time allows us to be more intentional in our collection planning and strategic in our production, minimizing waste and responding to our customers’ wants and needs. 

Working out of her design studio in the back half of our boutique, Christine lets current sales numbers inform next year’s collection and listens to real customers about what they love and long for in their spring and summer quality suits. Things like longer hemlines for taller customers and linens in darker transitional colors that can be worn three out of four seasons are just two pieces of customer feedback that have recently made their way into the design process.

Extending our lead time also allows us to open our collections for pre-order about 4-5 months ahead of launch, which is a game-changer in strategic production and waste minimization. Data from our pre-orders shows us what styles and fabrics are most popular among our customers, telling us what to make more of and occasionally what style or colorway we can lose entirely, minimizing the waste of overproduction.

Pre-order also allows us to selectively expand our size range according to demand. As a small brand prioritizing sustainability, this is the best way for us to be more size-inclusive with the least amount of waste, and responses from our pre-orders have allowed us to extend up to size 16 and down to 00 on various items.

These strategic choices show our commitment to sustainability from a design and operational perspective. A closer look at our production practices reveals just how much we prioritize sustainability at Christine Alcalay

Christine Alcalay working in her studio on Women

The Craftsmanship Behind Ethically Made Women's Suits

When designing and producing sustainable women’s suits, Christine Alcalay is incredibly conscious of the life cycle of the fabrics she works with, prioritizing natural and ethically sourced fibers, sourcing recycled synthetics, and finding ways to reuse and recycle leftover materials and garments from previous seasons.
Much of Christine Alcalay’s high-quality women’s suiting and sustainable workwear is made from natural fibers and blends: lightweight linen, rayon, and cotton for warmer months and sumptuous wools and cotton velvet and corduroy for fall and winter. If natural fibers can’t be used, Christine turns to recycled polyesters, as recommended by the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
Our recycled polyester styles are not treated like disposable fast fashion pieces but are given the same if not more attention to detail and durability as their wool or linen counterparts with equally timeless tailoring. Regarding the choice to use polyester, Christine has a very simple philosophy: “If it’s going to last forever, it should last forever .” 

Speaking of recycling, did you know that large fashion brands offload truckloads of unused buttons into landfills? Rather than contribute to this unnecessary waste, we rescue these perfectly good buttons and use them in our collection. We reduce our own textile waste by making smaller accessories such as matching belts, neckties, and headbands out of leftover fabric. Small scraps are donated to the non-profit organization FABSCRAP, which collects and repurposes scrap fabric, meaning no fabric from Christine Alcalay ends up in landfills, a huge sustainability achievement.
This is all done locally in Manhattan’s Garment District and our Brooklyn boutique. Working locally not only lowers our emissions by avoiding costly overseas transportation, but it also means the people making our clothes are well compensated and work under good conditions.

Additionally, producing our line locally lets us keep a watchful eye on the construction of our clothes, ensuring that the craftsmanship is of the highest quality so our sustainable workwear will stand the test of time and making it possible to tweak and alter styles during and after production based on customer demand.
When items remain from a previous season, we can shorten sleeves or hemlines or dye them fresh colors, a sustainable way to respond to the trend cycle and reduce waste which would not be possible with overseas manufacturing. 

Building a Sustainable Wardrobe

Work Capsule Wardrobe: A Sustainable Approach

The most sustainable way to shop is actually by shopping less, and a work capsule wardrobe composed of high-quality sustainable business wear is a great way to limit your consumption and lower your carbon footprint while staying stylish.

When shopping for sustainable professional clothing, it helps to think about colors you love wearing and cuts that make you feel confident. Loving the way your work clothes look and feel will make you want to wear them for years to come, and high-quality materials will stand up to repeat wear. Pairing your professional wardrobe down to a capsule wardrobe of versatile pieces that go together lets you keep things simple and sustainable.

A sustainable women’s suit with three classic pieces gives you countless professional outfits when mixed and matched, we recommend having one in a lightweight fabric like linen for summer and a classic wool plaid for colder months. These pieces can be worn with anything from sweaters to slip dresses and by choosing timelessness over trends, you’ll be able to wear them for years to come, which is good for the environment and your wallet!

Become A Sustainable Shopper

Becoming a more sustainable shopper is easier than it sounds – and a lot of fun! With brands like Christine Alcalay localizing production, eliminating waste, and prioritizing biodegradable and recycled materials in their sustainable suiting and high-quality women’s workwear, an eco-friendly closet can be elegant and stylish too.

Being mindful about your consumption by considering a work capsule wardrobe is another great way to be climate conscious in your fashion choices, and the sustainable suits from Christine Alacalay are a stylish way to start. With blazers, vests, and various trouser styles made in natural fibers and a range of washable cotton and polyester blouses, your sustainable work wardrobe is a styling session away!

Discover our quality suits!

Christine Alcalay Suits Sketches

Shop Consciously: High-Quality Sustainable Brands

With the fashion industry’s ever-increasing carbon footprint and rampant overconsumption encouraged by social media and fast fashion brands, it’s easy to get discouraged about your individual impact. Shopping consciously from high-quality sustainable brands that prioritize ethical practices puts your money where your morals are and shows fast fashion brands the value of eco-friendly production.

Working hyper-locally and eliminating textile waste while prioritizing the use of environmentally friendly fabrics proves Christine Alcalay to be a leader in eco-conscious fashion for professional women. The sustainable women’s suits and high-quality ethical workwear Christine designs and makes in New York goes to show that consumers don’t need to sacrifice style in order to be sustainable, and shopping small brands like Christine Alcalay lets customers feel good about the impact their work clothes have on the environment while feeling elegant, creative, and professional. 

Women's Quality Suits That Last

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes a Suit Sustainable?

A sustainable suit is made ethically with low to no waste, low carbon emissions, biodegradable or recycled materials, and with a focus on quality and durability so that it will stand the test of time. Ultimately though, the most sustainable suit is one you love and will wear for years to come!

Why Should I Invest in High-Quality Suits?

Investing in a high-quality suit levels up the look of your work wardrobe and increases its longevity, lowering the price per wear and making high-quality workwear more cost-effective in the long run. 

Can Sustainable Suits Be Fashionable and Professional?

Yes! The most sustainable clothes are the ones that stand the test of time, and sustainable suits from brands like Christine Alcalay are timelessly elegant and perfectly professional. From crisp three-piece suits to luxurious machine-washable blouses and cotton jumpsuits, it’s easy to be sustainable and stylish.

How Do I Care for Sustainable Suits to Ensure They Last?

To care for sustainable suits and ensure they last, follow the care label instructions, use eco-friendly dry cleaning sparingly, hand wash with gentle detergent, steam instead of iron, and store them properly on padded hangers. Regularly rotating your suits and spot cleaning stains promptly will also help maintain their quality and longevity.