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How tonlé does ethical fashion

How tonlé does ethical fashion

mspaulapresents in the phnom vest

I was introduced to tonlé by friends on social media.  I saw a post by a friend in a beautiful handwoven, sustainably-made sweater made from reclaimed fabrics which made me want to learn about the brand.  tonlé is an ethical brand that makes vibrant garments, accessories and housewares using fair labor and from reclaimed and sustainable fabrics.  I’m happy to share my review of tonlé garments, as well as highlight its values which align with mine.

About tonlé

tonlé’s business model incorporates a focus on how its garments positively impact communities, champion inclusivity, and advance fashion justice. Hopefully all this doesn’t sound salesy, because it isn’t. I write about sustainable fashion to hold up brands that are doing things right, and tonlé is one such brand; it’s a pacesetter in driving the right kind of change in the fashion industry. tonlé’s actions discussed below are what lead me to describe it as a pacesetter in driving the right kind of change.

Fashion inclusivity at tonlé

The first impression on visiting tonlé’s website is that its models are diverse. As a black sustainable fashion blogger, it is good to see yourself represented.  I think by any objective measure the fashion industry still has work to do on diversity, so when you encounter a brand that isn’t all talk, that fully embraces racial, size and gender inclusivity, it’s proper to describe it as a pacesetter.  Certainly the vibe you get on tonlé’s website is that all are welcome at tonlé.

Inclusive sizing

Sizing at tonlé runs from XS to 3XL and runs true to size at least for me. Although not directly related to size inclusivity, I believe affordability fosters more inclusivity through price accessibility.  The prices of most sustainable fashion are still on the high end, certainly because sustainable fashion brands don’t yet have the scale of fast fashion brands, but tonlé provides garments at an accessible price point.

Ethical and sustainable Manufacturing Practices

tonlé ‘s garments are handmade, ethically and sustainably, in its workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Workers are paid fairly and work under good conditions. tonlé takes a collaborative approach to production, with no assembly lines and sewers working collaboratively in sewing circles. Notably, tonlé’s garments are designed for longevity so that they can be loved by more than one person, a model for circular fashion.  The brand has a fashion resale platform called the open closet, to facilitate the reselling of pre-loved tonlé pieces.  This platform also has up-cycled garments through tonlé’s reimagined collection.

Transparency at tonlé

While most of us use third party certifications as assurance of the transparent supply chain, tonlé approaches transparency differently. While I believe that third party certifications provide assurance of transparency, reading about how they approach it at tonlé provided me with a new perspective. While third party certifications focus on auditing the supply chain, because most fashion brands including some sustainable brands outsource production, tonlé is involved in the whole process, from sourcing, manufacturing, and retail. Its transparency stems from doing things right at all stages by itself. It lets its actions speak for themselves.  For further reassurance, the brand provides testimonials from people and organizations that have visited its workshop.  If you are interested in learning more about transparency at tonlé, check out its transparency series here!

Why Zero waste fashion is important

tonlé is a zero-waste fashion brand.  As we all know, the fashion industry is extremely wasteful.  It’s estimated that 35% of materials in the fashion industry supply chain go to waste.  This is waste from even before garments reach the consumer; this includes waste from cutting fabric, defected garments or excessive fabric stock.  In addition to waste, the fashion industry also causes significant pollution, including effluents from toxic dyes into water sources, textile waste and carbon emissions from energy usage.

tonlé uses high quality deadstock, cut-waste, and textiles. Textiles that would otherwise end up in landfills are sold in remnant markets; it is in markets like these that tonlé sources a significant proportion of its fabrics.  Also, the brand takes measures in-house to reduce waste.   Its fabrics are hand-cut, which significantly reduces waste compared to machine cut fabrics, and any defected fabric is repurposed and woven into yarn to be used for something else.  tonlé also works with Weaves of Cambodia, a weaving collective that creates its signature zero-waste, upcycled textiles from small scraps of reclaimed fabrics like the one I’m wearing in the picture below.

tonlé uses nontoxic natural dyes and screen printing which use less water than the conventional dyeing process.  Dyeing is the most polluting and energy-intensive processes involved in making our clothes.  Sadly, this is not visible to most of us in the western world, but countries that we outsource our production to have significant water pollution attributable to effluents from toxic dyes. It’s good to see brands like tonlé working hard to minimize their environmental impact.

tonle garment worker in Vietnam
Sewer, Ming Eng making a handwoven tonlé piece.

My review of my tonlé outfits

Now the juicy parts, the outfits! This is a fashion blog after all. I would describe tonlé’s garments as a mix of sustainable staples, handwoven garments and vibrant prints. tonlé also has up-cycled garments from its reimagined collection.   tonlé also has handwoven home good and fashion accessories.

Affordable sustainable fashion

In terms of cost, expect affordable prices at tonlé with a meaningful number of garments priced under $150 and even under $100!  tonlé gifted me three outfits from its autumn/winter 2021 that I review below.

Outfit 1: Phnom Vest

Cost: $145 USD, Sizes: S/M and L/XL

The Phnom vest from tonlé is handwoven from reclaimed cotton and the yarn from the zero-waste process described above.  It’s wonderful that otherwise discarded fabric is turned into a beautiful and unique handmade cardigan.  Woven pieces such as the Phnom vest are signature style at tonlé and I have seen it woven into beautiful sweaters, sweater coats and dresses.  It’s a versatile piece that can be worn casually or even dressed up.  I paired mine with a plain white turtleneck, jeans and fluffy boots for a casual-fresh-and-cozy look. It would probably look great over a dress too!

Phnom vest from tonle
Phnom vest in khaki and cream.


Outfit 2: Teavy sweatshirt dress

Cost:$76 USD, Sizes: XS to 3XL

The Teavy sweatshirt dress is pretty much a comfy sweatshirt turned into a cute-cozy dress.  The dress is made from up-cycled textiles!  It’s a roomy/boxier fit but still flattering.  It has two pockets making it even cozier.  The Teavy sweatshirt dress is a cold weather dress.  I paired my dress with booties for the fall (would look cute with sneakers too!); in the winter I would add tights and a coat.  The dress comes in three colors, black, indigo and oatmeal (Indigo in the picture below).

teavy sweatshirt dress
Teavy sweatshirt dress in indigo.


Outfit 3: Seyma pants matched with the relaxed basic top

Seyma pant cost : $86 USD, Sizes XS to 3XL

Relaxed basic top cost : $60 USD, Sizes XS to 3XL

The Seyma pant is wide legged and slightly cropped.  I’m 5’3 and the pants falls right above my ankles.  It’s made from reclaimed rayon and is very comfortable. The waist has a band that can be adjusted to your desired tightness/fit.  It’s a versatile staple that can be dressed up or down.  Colors available are black, navy and wine (mine is in wine). I went for a more dressy look and matched it with the relaxed basic top from tonlé. The relaxed basic top from tonlé is not a long sleeved tee and is far from basic in my opinion. It is a loose-fitting elegant top made from reclaimed crepe fabric.  It’s a versatile piece that can be tucked in or styled untucked. tonlé describes it as a great addition to your capsule wardrobe and I totally agree.  It’s available in colors pink clay, rust, sand and black (mine is in sand).

Seyma pant and relaxed basic top from tonle
Seyma pant in wine and relaxed basic top in sand.

Plastic free packaging

My package from tonlé came in plastic free packaging! My garments were neatly rolled up and tied with a cloth ribbon made from left-over fabrics.   I did not take a photo because I was too excited to try on my clothes.  Below is a photo from tonlé, because I think the packaging is something notable and worth sharing.

sustainable packaging from tonlé
Sustainable packaging from tonlé

Hit me up in the comments should you have any questions about this blog post!

Thank you tonlé for sponsoring this post. Sponsored posts help keep up as a free resource for everyone interested in sustainable fashion and living. 


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