how sustainable is lisa says gah?
LSG literally EXPLODED in popularity last year - it’s gained a cult following and hardly a day goes by without me seeing one of their printed pieces on my feed.
It’s also been applauded by a lot of people for being an ethical and sustainable brand, but are they really?
Let's dive in!
Who they are: Lisa Says Gah is an online boutique that partners independent female designers that make unique and colorful pieces. According to their website, these designers are "mindful of ethical production and use high-quality materials."
LSG’s founder used to work at Nasty Gal, but got tired of the excessivity and decided to start her own business that put a “spotlight on brands that were exciting for me.”
**LSG has it’s own in-house line and then carries 45 other brands on its site. My analysis focuses primarily on their in-house brand.**
Where are they made? Lisa Says Gah pieces bare the “Made in California” label and their website states they produce in San Francisco. However, we know that where the final stitch is done doesn’t convey the full production lifecycle. We do not know where their fabric is initially sourced from—could be done in-house in Cali, could be outsourced in China. We don’t know.
For their tote bags they include “Made right in our hometown of San Francisco. Crafted in SF and printed in the US.” These details aren’t provided for other items on their site, which leads me to believe it isn’t true for other items.
What are they made out of? A majority of their pieces are 100% cotton, but they also use fabrics like polyester (for stretchy/tight fitting items), elastane and spandex (for stretch), and acrylic (for their sweaters).
Do they have a sustainability policy or manifest on their website? Does it include targets and actions to meet those targets? Not really. Since my original analysis, they have added a "Responsibility" section to their FAQ page, but the information given here is still vague and provides no concrete targets or actions. They also do not provide any details on their own website on the sustainability or ethics of the brands they carry (outside their in-house brand). And they do not provide any criteria that they use to determine if a brand is sustainable or ethical enough to be carried on their website.
Do they educate their customers on proper care for their garments? They do the standard basic care instructions like “Machine wash cold. Tumble dry low” and “Handwash only. Hang Dry” on each product page. For polyester and acrylic items, they make no note of microplastics that shed during wash nor do they suggest the use of mesh bags or filters to collect these microplastics.
Do they publish a supplier list or factory sites? Yes. Since my original analysis, LSG has added a list of factories to their FAQ page. This list includes the name, location, owner, bio, and benefits given to employees of the factories.
Information that is still missing that would be beneficial: actual wages given to employees (not just "at or above minimum wage"), production capacities, what garments are made in each factory, amount of time they have worked with each factory, and photos/videos inside the factories.
Here is an example of a factory listing on their site:
One thing that I find quite off-putting is listing statements like "good, safe working conditions" and "friendly, supportive working environment" with their factories without offering any look inside them or mentioning if they have been to these factories themself.
Do they track its scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emissions and calculate their carbon footprint? Unknown. If they do, it is not disclosed on their website.
Do they pay all of their supply chain workers a fair wage? Since my original analysis, they have added the claim of fair wages to most (but not all) of the factories on their factory list. Their only proof of these wages is their word that the workers are making "at or above minumum wage." They do not have any independent certifications that would verify claims if they made any.
It's also important to note that just because their garments are produced in Cali, it doesn't inherently make them ethical. SB62 (Garment Worker Protection Act), which abolishes the piece rate and requires a minimum wage for garment workers in California, was just passed at the end of last year. We have no proof that until this was made law that they paid their workers minimum wage.
Do they have any social impact/environmental impact/give back initiative in place? Yes, although we do not fully know the capacity (if it was one-time or is continuous). According to their website, they donated $14,565 to the Loveland Foundation, San Francisco Marin Food Bank, the United Nations Foundation, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Transition Projects, the Higher Heights Leadership Fund, and Hike Clerb in 2020.
Do they have sustainable packaging? Since my original analysis, Lisa Says Gah has added a sustainable packaging section to their FAQ. It states their packaging is made from recycled materials in the U.S. Most materials are 100% recyclable, although their mailers have conflicting claims (both 100% recyclable and 50% recyclable...). They also only state the recycled content for one of their materials, so it's unclear what amount is actually made from recycled content. These use water-based inks for printing.
What certifications, if any, do they hold? Some of their designs have organic cotton and GOTS-certified organic cotton.
Their denim partners are OEKO-Tex certified, and Eco-Passport + GOTS-approved. (Although big question mark here on what "approved" means - does that mean they aren't certified?).
Are they inclusive of people of all sizes and colors? Ish. Their website, marketing, and social media feed feature many women of color, although their representation of darker skin tones is a bit lacking. When it comes to size inclusion, Lisa Says Gah’s in-house line goes up to a size 3XL, which I would consider somewhat inclusive. However, their website, marketing, and social media seriously lacks representation of plus-size bodies. Very few (less than 5%) of their posts on Instagram feature curvy women and I don’t believe any of them to be over a size 14/16 (1XL) so I wouldn’t consider any of them to be plus-size. The same thing can be said for the models on their website - only one appears to be curvy, but wouldn’t be considered plus-size.
Other notes: On their website, they state “In a world of fast-fashion, our goal is to have a home for the artists of the industry.” It seems that many of the designers (although not all) featured in their boutique are not just designers but also make their garments. This means they have more control over sustainable sourcing and ethical production, but does not exempt them from sharing that information.
Small, independent brands also tend to produce in smaller batches if they do use a factory. Which is a more sustainable production model. Although this is neither confirmed or denied by the information on their website.
Their brand bio on Urban Outfitters states “Each piece of apparel is produced in California, opting for natural fibers and sustainable production processes that cut down on CO2 emissions associated with transportation. They work with their local community to create a quality, ethically-produced line.”
As mentioned before, being produced California doesn't ensure ethics or sustainability. They provide no information on how their production of their apparel has reduced emissions/ impact than what everyone else is doing. If their materials aren’t sourced from Cali, their lower transportation emissions are negated. They also don’t include any information on production quantities or anything else they’re doing as a company to have lower emissions.
Sustainability Grade: D+
IMPORTANT NOTE: This analysis was based solely on information made publicly available on a brands respective website or quoted from an executive of the brand in a press article.
** This analysis was originally completed on April 16, 2021. Since that analysis Lisa Says Gah has added additional information to their website. This analysis was updated on January 4, 2022 to reflect those changes.