What makes a collection feel right for the times? In 2021, comfort and pragmatism are a given—both Phillip Lim’s “at-leisure” capsule and Alber Elbaz’s new leggings for AZ Factory come to mind—but of equal importance is an eye to sustainability. Maria McManus would argue that was the case long before the pandemic; she started working on her line of chic wardrobing staples in 2019. Nonetheless, one of the few benefits of launching her business in #TimesLikeThese is that she’s engaging with newly climate-conscious shoppers.

While her peers are working backwards to improve their sourcing and labor practices, McManus started from scratch with an aggressive “edit point,” as she calls it. “If the fabric isn’t recycled, organic, biodegradable, or sourced responsibly, I don’t use it,” she says. “It’s actually been nice to be this edited, because there’s so much stuff out there. I don’t even have to look at anything else.” Even her labels and hang tags are recycled, and her buttons are made of corozo nuts. With the fabrics, she relied on a laundry list of objective certifications: Her recycled cashmere and nylon are both certified by the Global Recycled Standard; her organic cotton is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, meaning the yarns cannot be treated with chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, or other chemicals; her merino is verified by OEKO-TEX and the Responsible Wool Standard; and her Lenzing Tencel is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures responsible forest management.

Yes, that’s a lot of industry jargon. But for the consumer who cares deeply about how their clothing is made, those certifications are often the difference between progress and greenwashing. Terms like organic, eco, natural, and sustainable are flimsy; if a designer tells you their cotton is “100{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} organic,” they should be prepared to prove it. “I just feel more confident that what I’m saying is the truth,” McManus adds. “It can be harder from a manufacturing perspective. The mills I’m working with in Europe are amazing—they reuse 50{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} of their water, and they’re covered in solar panels—but this year I’m focusing on making sure those practices are really sustainable.”