Oak + Fort Refined: Sustainable clothing in Boston

The Prudential Tower in Boston is pictured. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Oak Refined by Oak + Fort opened on March 25 in the Prudential Center in Boston, demonstrating sustainable fashion holistically through the decor of the store, clothing materials and company transparency. 

The Oak Refined pop-up in Boston is one of a kind, its clothing made with sustainability in mind with the backdrop of the store created through recycled and locally sourced materials, reflective of the brand’s emphasis on sustainability. Inside, the store is lined with a minimalist plywood backdrop and columns of recycled pressed juice bottles, subverting the environment in which we shop to include what we previously recognized as trash. Intertwining the decor with the store’s identity, key furnishings like its tables feature recycled cotton from returns and old merchandise. In the center stands their symbolic greenhouse, a small-plant-enthusiast-sized structure, which asks customers what they do for sustainability.

The store maintains a museum exhibition feel with placards lining the greenhouse of the company’s values and practices. The design is distinctly ‘millenial’ with minimalist clean creams and neutral stylings. This is all to lure in its clear target audience of women in their 20s who prefer Alo Yoga over Lululemon. Conveniently, the pop-up store is located just neighboring Aritzia, a sister-like brand with a similar target demographic, inviting browsing women before or after their Aritzia splurge. 

 To dive deeper into the brand itself, Oak + Fort is a women-founded Canadian brand carrying men’s’ and women’s clothing. Prices of pieces range around $40 to $200. It is integral to note that most of its items are not made sustainably and use materials such as polyester and nylon (both notorious materials for their environmental impact). There is a clear distinction with production between their main line of clothing and Refined, its newest environmentally conscious release. This separation is not clearly made within their website sustainability transparency, citing their practices and accolades for the Refined line with no mention of the complete collection. Whether intentional or not, one should view Oak Refined as markedly different from their main products in terms of sustainability and intention.  

As for the merchandise, similar to the design, Oak Refined is an on-the-pulse capsule of recent trends. The line features sought after pieces of the working millennial girl uniform such as ballerina-like bodysuits, biker shorts and pastel loungewear. Each piece is consciously trendy, yet neutral. The ephemerality of the pieces does call into question the true sustainability of the store’s mission, teetering on the line of consumption versus conservation. However, it can be argued that the store features many basic clothing elements with timeless qualities to be worn again and again. 

What the store lacks is size and variety. As one of the smaller stores located in the Prudential Center, Oak Refined is limited in its collection, displaying more of basic pieces such as tees and leggings in a variety of different colors. Pieces are more simple and common to find in stores catering to similar age groups, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Aritzia. But the popularity of these items demonstrates their high demand, and Oak + Fort offers itself as a sustainable alternative. 

In terms of sizing, the store in person and online carries only ‘straight sizes’ (XS to XL), lacking in inclusive sizing. Though the items tend to fit larger, the store is in no way fitted to cater to all sizes, lacking plus-sized options and featuring primarily straight-sized models. Lack of inclusive sizing among sustainable brands has more connotations than lack of sizing within fast fashion brands. Exclusive sizing limits the sustainability movement to only a certain population, negating its ideals. It makes shopping sustainably much more difficult for larger individuals, monitoring who can and cannot participate in environmentally friendly lifestyles. 

Visit Oak Refined in search of comfortable yet appropriate sweatpants and modern classics. The store offers a competitive alternative for current fashion trends, with reasonable prices marking comparatively lower than that of other sustainable brands without sacrificing quality. Alternatively, visit just to browse the different approaches to conscious shopping. 


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