Our Guide to Crafting a Sustainable Dark Academia Fashion Look - Good On You
23 Sep

Our Guide to Crafting a Sustainable Dark Academia Fashion Look

If there’s one thing to love about TikTok, it should be the opportunity for self-expression. An entire generation has come together to share common interests and aesthetics, and it has brought forth entire fashion subgenres that we can’t get enough of! Especially during the pandemic, people have had to find creative ways to get through the days, and fashion is something everyone can get involved in. Cottagecore is one trend that has taken the internet by storm this year, and there is a darker counterpart you might have heard of, too—dark academia. So, what is dark academia fashion, and how can it be done sustainably?

With roots in the classic Greek arts and 19th century England, dark academia is a romantic combination of muted earthy tones, tweed pants, and an armful of books. Think preppy cross gothic, and you’ll land somewhere close! Those in the community place a high value on thrifting, so if you’re looking to give the style a go, second hand should be the first place you turn. Not only can you find some genuine vintage pieces, but you’ll also pay a fraction of the price and leave a lighter footprint than buying new.

If you do decide to buy new, we’ve got a moody lineup of clothes and accessories from ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ rated brands in typical dark academia styles and fabrics like linen, cotton, and wool, with a sustainable twist! And while the style typically lends itself to a very autumn-esque vibe, even warmer climates can get onboard with plaid skirts and lightweight shirts. You can’t go wrong with the mini satchel from Will’s Vegan Store (UK), the Marlow trench from Christy Dawn (US), or the organic cotton pants from Armedangels (Germany).

Tops

Dark academia tops are generally pretty simple, keeping to the neutral shades. Think a white button-up, a simple turtleneck top or sweater, a blazer, and a long dark trench coat. And don’t shy away from layers!

ASKET

Rated: Good
man and woman wearing sustainable white button up shirts by ASKET

The Shirt – Ships internationally from Sweden

A basic white button-up is a great starting place to build a sustainable dark academia look! This one by ASKET is available for men and women and is made from 100% cotton. ASKET has been creating timeless wardrobe essentials since 2015 with revolutionary sizing and fair pricing. The brand disregards seasonal collections, cuts out all the middlemen, and only sells directly to you—putting its entire focus on building a single permanent collection. Find the range in sizes XS-XL.

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Shop ASKET.

OhSevenDays

Rated: Good

Winnie Top – Ships internationally from Turkey

For a more dramatic top layer, we love this silky and billowy viscose top by OhSevenDays. Australian-Canadian Megan Mummery started OhSevenDays to promote slow fashion and the ‘power of circularity’. Based in Istanbul, the brand reclaims end-of-roll fabrics from the city’s garment factories and creates sharp, everyday womenswear that’s as wearable as it is ethical. Essentially, it makes slow fashion from fast fashion’s leftovers! OhSevenDays’ garments are available in sizes XS-XL or custom sizing.

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Shop OhSevenDays.

Shop OhSevenDays @ SlowCo.

LANIUS

Rated: Good
woman wearing olive green turtleneck sweater ethically made by LANIUS

Turtleneck Sweater – Ships within Europe from Germany

Nail the turtleneck dark academia fashion vibe with this fitted organic cotton sweater that comes in a range of colours. “Love Fashion, Think Organic, Be Responsible” are the maxims of LANIUS. The German brand uses eco-friendly materials, like GOTS certified cotton. All LANIUS facilities are SA8000 certified and it is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. LANIUS’ clothes are available in EU sizes 34-44.

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Shop LANIUS.

Shop LANIUS @ Curate.

Bozena Jankowska

Rated: Good

Luna Single Breasted Blazer – Ships internationally from the UK

Blazers are fundamental for this trend, and this linen single-breasted blazer is great for those warmer months or as a middle layer in the cold. Bozena Jankowska is a London based label set up in 2016 by founder and creative director Bozena Jankowska. Driven by her passion for sustainability, the label started with a focus on small capsule collections inspired by and told the story of critical social and environmental issues. Find the collection in UK sizes 6-14.

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Shop Bozena Jankowska.

Christy Dawn

Rated: Great

The Marlow Trench – Ships internationally from the US

This iconic brown trench coat is a must-have for sustainable dark academia! The layering potentials are endless, from thrown over your shoulder to buttoned-up partway over a blazer. Christy Dawn is a minimalist showroom for vintage-inspired women’s clothing and footwear, locally made with surplus fabric. The US brand rates’ Great’, making it an excellent boho option for your wardrobe. Find the clothes in standard sizes XS-XL, or shop the Extended and Petite collections.

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Shop Christy Dawn.

Bottoms

Longer skirts and pants are to go-to for dark academia, and you can opt for a classic pattern like gingham or plaid if you prefer. But a plain brown or black pair of cigarette pants is your best bet!

ARIELLE

Rated: Good

Dakota Skirt, Recycled Wool – Ships internationally from the US

Channel your inner private school kid with a long recycled wool skirt—and don’t forget to pair it with stockings! ARIELLE is a US-based sustainable apparel label committed to organic, recycled and zero-waste fabrics, local manufacturing, fair-trade supply chain and plastic-free packaging and production. It makes covetable clothes with no compromise to people or the planet and carries a size range of XS-L.

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Shop ARIELLE.

Altar

Rated: Good

Olivia Skirt in Olive Tencel – Ships internationally from the US

This olive skirt is another great bottom layer for the look, and while you’re on Altar’s site, check out the very dark academia appropriate necklaces to complement your outfit. Altar is a US-based boutique that specialises in alternative and custom fashion, apothecary, and gifts. The brand celebrates independent manufacturers and artists from across North America, focusing on the stories that are woven into their work. Its clothing brand, Altar Houseline, is proudly made in America using deadstock materials and serves size gradations from size S to 6XL.

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Shop Altar.

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good

Valentina Shorts in Black Gingham – Ships internationally from the US

If you’re in warm weather, fear not! These cute gingham shorts are the way to go. Whimsy + Row is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand born from a love for quality goods and sustainable practices. Since 2014, its mission has been to provide ease and elegance for the modern, sustainable woman. Whimsy + Row utilises deadstock fabric, and by limiting each garment to short runs, the brand also reduces packaging waste and takes care of precious water resources. Find most products in XS-XL.

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Shop Whimsy + Row.

Shop Whimsy + Row @ Earthkind.

Opera Campi

Rated: Good

H-PANT 2 – Ships internationally from Italy

A sustainable hemp twist on the classic tailored fine pant look. Founded in 2017, Italian brand Opera Campi creates premium quality garments from locally sourced raw materials. By using a balanced approach to sustainability, the brand makes conscious choices throughout its supply chain and donates 4% of its profits to social causes. The brand is inclusively sized from 3XS-3XL.

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Shop Opera Campi.

Armedangels

Rated: Great

KORNELIAA Pants – Ships internationally from Germany

Brown is the hue of the trend, and these organic cotton mix pants are spot on! Affordable, ethical, and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels gets a ‘Great’ rating overall from us. The brand covers all the basics for women, men, and kids. Armedangels’ quality and long-lasting pieces are made from eco-friendly and certified materials, like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. The brand also adopted the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Conduct to protect its workers abroad. Its products are available in sizes XS-XL.

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Shop Armedangels.

Shop Armedangels @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Armedangels @ OASEAS.

Dresses

While dresses are a less conventional option, as long as they give off a gothic school vibe, you can easily work them into your warmer-weather dark academia looks.

Afends

Rated: Good

Romy Hemp Check Mini Dress – Ships internationally from Australia

If you prefer the dress look, the Romy is well worth a look in. Afends is an Australia-based fashion brand leading the way in organic hemp fashion, using renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact. You can find the full range in sizes XS-XL.

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Shop Afends.

Mother of Pearl

Rated: Good

Megan Check Dress – Ships internationally from the UK

Picture this goth-leaning check dress layered with a trench and a book bag, and you’ve done it. Mother of Pearl is a sustainable and ethical luxury womenswear and accessories designer brand from the UK that celebrates individuality and authenticity. The brand uses a high proportion of eco-friendly materials, including organic cotton, and ensures a living wage across some of its supply chain. Find most products in UK sizes 6 to 16.

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Shop Mother of Pearl.

Shop Mother of Pearl @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Mother of Pearl Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Infantium Victoria

Rated: Great

Tartan Cape Dress – Ships internationally from Germany

If your little one wants to get involved, this tartan cape dress is the perfect treat! Infantium Victoria offers beautiful vegan luxury for all ages. This German brand scores’ Great’ across the board! Its products are certified by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and it sells previously owned products to minimise textile waste.

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Shop Infantium Victoria.

Shop Infantium Victoria @ LVR Sustainable.

Shoes

Footwear is probably the most straightforward category here. Go for black or brown loafers or boots, avoiding pointed heels… and that’s it!

Beyond Skin

Rated: Good

Cleo Black Faux Leather Block Heel Vegan Loafers – Ships internationally from Spain

Good shoes are crucial to the dark academia look, and loafers in black or brown are your safest bet. Beyond Skin creates cruelty-free, luxury shoes and boots that are handmade in Spain with love. Available in EU sizes 35-42.

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Shop Beyond Skin.

NOAH

Rated: Good
ethical vegan brown lace up boots by NOAH

Vegan Lace Up Booties Carlotta – Ships internationally from Germany

For cooler weather and cozier vibes, brown boots like these vegan ones from NOAH are sure to channel your inner academic. NOAH creates cruelty-free and 100% vegan shoes and accessories. This German brand’s high-quality and long-lasting shoes are handcrafted in Italy, using a small proportion of eco-friendly material. Find them in EU sizes 35-42.

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Shop NOAH.

Shop NOAH @ Immaculate Vegan.

AERA

Rated: Good

MAXWELL – Ships within the US

A dark derby shoe is all you need for a more masc dark academia look. AERA is a US vegan luxury shoe brand, making footwear without the footprint. Its shoes are certified Vegan. The brand went to great lengths to ensure that all components are made from non-animal ingredients yet still maintain the quality and style expected from a luxury shoe. The derbies are available in EU sizes 39-46.

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Shop AERA.

Accessories

Accessories are the most fun part of sustainable dark academia fashion and where you can get a little creative. While the style lends itself to simplicity and minimalism, accessories like a delicate necklace, a book bag, a sleek hair scarf, and a nice belt are key.

NAE

Rated: Good

Huge Elastic Vegan Suspenders – Ships internationally from Portugal

Now is the time to whip out the suspenders! NAE is a Portuguese footwear, bags, and accessories brand using innovative materials to create goods with “No Animal Exploitation”. Its sustainable materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic, and even pineapple leaf fibre! Find most of the shoes in sizes 36 to 46.

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Shop NAE.

Shop NAE @ Staiy.

Nisolo

Rated: Good

Men’s Owen Belt – Ships within the US

For belts, go for a black or brown belt with a simple buckle, like this one from Nisolo. Be sure to check the rest of the range for more options. Nisolo is an American brand that prioritises living wages throughout its supply chains while also fighting climate change.

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Shop Nisolo @ ourCommonplace.

Shop Nisolo @ Made Trade.

Shop Nisolo.

ARTICLE22

Rated: Good

Virtuous Full Circle Necklace – Ships internationally from the US

Dark academia jewellery is minimalistic, subtle, and a little mysterious. For sustainable dark academia jewellery, ARTICLE22 is our top pick—especially this elegant circle necklace with a gold chain. Every piece of ARTICLE22 jewellery is locally handcrafted in Laos using recycled materials from Vietnam War bombs, plane parts, military hardware, and other aluminium scraps. The brand embodies the innovation that the fashion industry needs more of—using recycled materials to produce beautiful globally marketable products while equipping local artisans with new skill sets and providing them with a sustainable source of income. ARTICLE22 gives back to clear more unexploded bombs in Laos, supports traditional artisans, and donates a proportion of profit to community development for workers. The range is available in sizes S-XL.

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Shop ARTICLE22.

Swedish Stockings

Rated: Great

Svea Premium Tights Black – Ships internationally from Sweden

To really embrace the academic side of this look, a pair of semi-sheer black stockings are essential. Swedish Stockings creates the best quality eco-friendly black and patterned stockings, knee highs, tights, socks, and pantyhose. The brand also offers a recycling program to help clean up the hosiery industry—if you send in three or more pairs of synthetic pantyhose from any brand, you will receive a 10% discount code to use next time you purchase Swedish Stockings! Find the perfect pair in sizes XS-XL.

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Shop Swedish Stockings.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ Rêve en Vert.

Shop Swedish Stockings @ Urbankissed.

Will’s Vegan Store

Rated: Good

Mini Satchel – Ships internationally from the UK

The old fashioned ‘book bag’ is iconic for this look, and this mini satchel from Will’s Vegan Store perfectly captures its likeness! Will’s Vegan Store produces animal and human-friendly women’s and men’s footwear and accessories at affordable prices. Find the women’s shoes in US sizes 5-10 and men’s in 7.5-14.

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Shop Will’s Vegan Store.

Alexander McQueen (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Pre-loved Bags – Ships internationally

Second hand is almost always the most sustainable option, and Alexander McQueen has various dark academia appropriate bags over on Vestiaire Collective! The iconic British fashion house, owned by Kering and now run by Sarah Burton (who designed Catherine Middleton’s dress for her wedding to Prince William), is characterised by theatrical and bright styling. The brand has started to improve its environmental practices by setting a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gases in its operations and supply chain by 50% per unit of revenue by 2025. It also has a policy to eliminate environmental pollution from chromium and other chemicals in its leather tanning processes and implements initiatives to reduce water use. Thanks to these policies, Alexander McQueen is on the right path and stands out from most luxury fashion houses.

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Shop Alexander McQueen Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Editor's note

Feature image via Armedangels, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. We love to recommend some of the best sustainable brands, rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices. Use our Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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