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The New Look of Going Green

Kindred Black is the latest retailer giving a makeover to eco-friendly's crunchy rep.

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A model wearing a black shirt sitting by a window Photos: Kindred Black

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When Reformation came on the scene in 2009, sustainable fashion didn’t really have a face. Or at least it didn’t have a cool one. Up until then, the phrase “eco-friendly” had a crunchy connotation: patchouli, canvas totes, Tevas. None of the above was considered fashionable, and it definitely wasn’t considered sexy. Now, it’s almost uncommon to not see “eco-conscious” and “sustainability” listed as tenets of a new, hip brand.

Kindred Black, a two-year-old online retailer with a low-key but fashionable following, has the post-“Ref babe” look down. But the site sets itself apart from the pack with its investment in original product photography that feels fresh and sophisticated. Everything the retailer sells is shot on models with minimal makeup in an open, airy loft space with a flood of natural light. The effect is a bit more relatable than the glossy Reformation photos, while still reading as expensive.

A model in a cream turtleneck sitting by a radiator and a window

“When we were beginning to do market research, and were looking at a bunch of companies and websites that focus on eco and sustainability, we were noticing that it really comes in this specific package,” says Kindred Black co-founder Alice Wells of the typical granola aesthetic of being green. “It wasn’t where we wanted to shop at,” adds co-founder Jennifer Francis, “but we do want to shop at places that are focused on sustainability and environment.”

So the pair devised their own, dreamy-feeling e-commerce site that offers environmentally friendly pieces, from vintage clothing and home goods to sustainably manufactured apparel and apothecary items, all present with an aesthetic they could get behind. The result involves a lot of buzzwords — they sell eco-responsible luxury lifestyle goods; everything is either craftsman-produced or manufactured locally; materials are sourced sustainably. There are naturally dyed silk dresses and hemp T-shirts.

While the pair tries to offer a range of price points — “You can find things on the site for $12 or $1,200,” points out Francis — a lot of the products do err on the side of costly, which is now the norm for a lot of eco-focused retailers (Goop is a prime example of that, and so is Reformation). Dresses from brands like Awaveawake and sweaters from Samuji are in the hundreds; there's a (beautiful) merino wool bodysuit by Colorant on the site right now for $285. (There are some things on offer for under $100, though, including those hemp Jungmaven tees, which are great, for $50, and apothecary items.)

A close up of a model in a cream sweater with a big necklace

A Détacher is a line that’s new to Kindred Black for fall, and is a good example of the service that the site aims to provide its shoppers. “We really love that collection,” says Wells, “because the line is just these basic fabrics that you can work into your wardrobe season after season, year after year. It’s all hand-knit, and staples that you can have forever.”

“We try to do a lot of luxury basics that we love and that can be incorporated in all different ways,” Francis adds. Luxury basics is a phrase in and of itself that’s a bit confusing — how can something basic be luxury? And vice-versa? — but that’s really what Kindred Black is: Clothes you can wear over and over that are made really well and are environmentally responsible. If that’s within your means — and if the mission is something you identify with — then this is where you want to shop.