Sustainable fashion has gone from strength to strength in recent years. These days, ethically sourced clothing is often very stylish. More and more consumers are rejecting fast fashion in favor of eco friendly alternatives. Here are 20 of the best ethical clothing brands for women, that are fashionable and friendly to the planet.
Ethical Clothing Definition
You may have heard of slow food and slow travel, but have you heard of slow fashion? Basically, ethical clothing is the opposite of fast fashion, and aims to counteract manufacturing issues such as:
- Low wages
- Poor working conditions
- Forced and child labor
- Use of toxic chemicals and pesticides
- Water usage
- Animal cruelty
What Is Ethical Fashion?
The guiding principles behind ethical fashion are to improve working conditions and reduce environmental impact. Some of the ways in which this can be achieved are by:
- Using sustainable or long lasting fabric
- Sourcing and producing clothing locally
- Using recycled materials where possible
- Reducing the number of styles per collection
- Ensuring fair working conditions and wages
- Mimizing environmental damage by eliminating harmful chemicals
- Reducing water usage
- Protecting animal rights
Fast Fashion Facts
When we look at fast fashion statistics, it’s a shocking story:
- 1,600 chemicals – used in dyeing processes. Only 16 of these are EPA-approved.
- 2,700 liters of water – required to produce one cotton t shirt.
- 1,800 gallons of water – needed to produce one pair of jeans.
- 35% of microplastics in the oceans – are from the laundry of synthetic textiles (IUCN report).
- 200 years – the time it can take clothing from polyester to break down in landfill.
- 85% of plastic pollution in the sea – is from microfibers in synthetic clothing (Dr. Mark Browne, Professor of Ecology, UNSW).
- $550 – the value of unworn clothing in an average woman’s closet (VoucherCloud survey).
- 81 pounds of clothing – disposed of by the average American every year. 85% of this ends up in landfill (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
- 35 days – the average duration that we keep fast fashion garments, generally worn less than 5 times (Forbes).
- 3/5 of clothing – ends up in landfill or an incinerator within a year of being produced (McKinsey report).
Ethical Clothing Consumer Tips
It’s great that clothing companies are starting to address these issues, but how can you make a difference as a consumer?
- Pick only clothes that you intend to keep for a long time
- Rent, repair and repurpose your clothing
- Donate or sell items that you no longer use
- Check the labels and do your research before purchasing
- Consider buying vintage clothing
- Choose natural fabrics such as bamboo, hemp or sustainably grown cotton
- Adapt your laundry regime to use full loads, pick biodegradable detergents and dry on a line where possible
If you’re a UK based ethical clothing brand or a fashion influencer with an interest in sustainability, why not join Influence for Good. This groundbreaking community aims to encourage collaborations between top ethical companies and content creators, and to give sustainable practices the consumer visibility that they deserve.
Ethical Clothing Brands
Consumers are increasingly interested in where their clothes come from and in what conditions they have been made. According to a recent survey by Oeko-Tex Association, 69 percent of millennials (born from 1977 to 1995) look for eco-friendly or sustainable fashion.
Another survey by Nielsen found that 73 percent of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable garments, compared to 66% of consumers as a whole. Here are a few sustainable clothing brands that are making positive strides.
A Peace Treaty
C0-founded by Farah Malik, originally from Pakistan, and Dana Arbib, originally from Libya, A Peace Treaty works with craftspeople across the globe. Their beautiful handmade pieces are inspired by traditional techniques yet with a contemporary twist.
Each collection focuses on a specific region, with a limited production run. The print designs are made by hand and digitally printed, reducing fabric waste.
Billing themselves as the world’s most comfortable shoes, Allbirds are known for their ethical sneakers. These lightweight shoes are made from merino wool and eucalyptus tree fibers.
The sneakers are machine washable and delivered in a clever box made from recycled cardboard, with no superfluous extra packaging. Allbirds have a cult following and stores in London, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.
This famous French luxury brand is a leading light in sustainable fashion. Launched over 80 years ago, Balenciaga has stated its goal to release collections reflecting their engagement for a better world.
The brand’s new collaboration with Farfetch contains no fur, down or leather. The proceeds from this collection will be donated to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
This designer swimwear range is ethically made in Toronto, Canada. Beth Richards creates simple yet stylish bikinis and swimsuits with practical details like adjustable straps and UPF 50+ protection against UV rays.
The brand set up the Censor Project, a not-for-profit initiative that donates all proceeds to Planned Parenthood and The Gloria Steinem Foundation.
Elvis & Kresse
This British luxury accessory designer works with recycled materials to great effect. These unusual fabrics include fire-hose, parachute silk, coffee and tea sacks, auction banners and printing blankets.
Elvis & Kresse was founded in 2005, when they learned that the London Fire Brigade’s old hoses were destined to become landfill. They came up with bags, iPad cases and luggage tags made from the decommissioned fire hoses.
Since then, no London fire house has gone to landfill, and 50% of profits from the Fire-hose Collection are donated to The Fire Fighters Charity.
This Swedish fashion brand is renowned for its ethically made clothing. The minimalist designs reflect their passion for mindful consumption.
Filippa K send out customer orders in reusable packaging. Each customer who sends this packaging back to them gets a discount off their next order.
Another sustainable initiative is their rental service, available in 11 stores. For 20% of the retail price, customers can borrow an item for up to four days.
This stylish LA fashion brand creates eco friendly pieces that are very wearable. The machine washable clothes are made from an innovative fabric, EFL.
EFL stands for Extended Fabric Life. This material is a performance fabric that is biodegradable and has a reduced impact on the environment.
Hot-As-Hell also use digital printing, which uses 95% less water than traditional methods. Another Their swim collection packaging is made from recycled, biodegradable materials.
One of our favorite ethical clothing brands is Komodo. This London based design team has been making eco fashion for over 30 years.
They choose fabrics such as bamboo, hemp, tencel and organic cotton that minimize the impact on the environment. From Balinese hand-woven bags to stylish vegan shoes and organic denim jackets, there are some great designs.
Komodo is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Soil Association certified. They trade fairly with manufacturers in China, Indonesia, Nepal and Turkey and have supported many worthwhile projects such as reforestation programs to the Tibet Relief Fund.
Founded by supermodel Liya Kebede, LemLem means to bloom in Ethiopian. The LemLem Foundation aims to empower women artisans in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The boho style designs for men, women and children are hand-woven in Ethiopia by local craftspeople. Made from natural cotton, these ethical clothes use pattern to great effect.
Championing livable luxury, this New Zealand brand produces the majority of its clothes locally. Maggie Marilyn textiles are all sourced ethically sourced or recycled.
Their wholesale packaging uses biodegradable cassava root bags and their fabrics include organic cotton, recycled polyester and organic New Zealand merino wool. Maggie’s Net-A-Porter collection is part of their NET SUSTAIN edit, focusing on sustainable fashion.
Matt & Nat
This vegan footwear and accessories brand takes its name from MATerial and NATure. This Canadian brand has been going strong since 1995.
They are committed to using eco friendly materials such as recycled bike tyres, and all their linings are made from recycled plastic bottles.
The ethos of Ninety Percent is simple but revolutionary – they donate ninety percent of their profits to charity. You get to choose where your money goes, whether to Big Life Foundation, Children’s Hope, War Child or Wild Aid.
From their London design studio, they work closely with their manufacturers in Bangladesh and Turkey to ensure workers welfare. The collection is low key and very comfortable to wear.
Open For Vintage
Another great way to be a more sustainable consumer is to buy designer vintage clothes. Open for Vintage have a wide range of vintage fashion items, from Cartier brooches to Chanel jackets and Van Cleef & Arpel Alhambra necklaces.
This online marketplace brings together the world’s best independent vintage fashion stores. With 75 merchants, DHL shipping to over 50 countries, 14 day free returns and a customer service team on hand 27/7, shopping for vintage clothing online has never been so easy. Their authenticity guarantee gives you further peace of mind.
Since they started trading in 1990, Pachamama have been working closely with artisans in the Andean Mountains and Tibet. The name Pachamama means Earth Mother in Quechua, the language of the Incas.
Pachamama focus on handmade knitwear and provide year round orders for their suppliers. They have been working with some of them for over 20 years.
This Fair Trade fashion pioneer was founded in 1991 and has operations in Great Britain and Japan. People Tree make sustainable clothing from organic cotton, Tencel and responsible wool.
There’s a strong emphasis on traditional skills including hand embroidery and weaving. A recent collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum is a chic capsule collection featuring the V&A’s signature prints.
Ronald Van der Kemp
Describing themselves as the world’s first sustainable couture label, Ronald Van Der Kemp has created timeless pieces in vibrant colors. Van der Kemp uses vintage fabric and unused textiles for his designs.
This Dutch luxury fashion brand makes its garments locally in the Netherlands. The focus is on couture rather than ready-to-wear, in order to avoid over-production.
Spell & The Gypsy Collective
One of the most fashion forward eco clothing brands, Spell & The Gypsy Collective makes us feel like we are permanently on vacation! The brainchild of sisters Elizabeth and Isabella, this Australian fashion company excels in boho chic.
Each item is designed in Byron Bay and ethically produced in one of their partner factories worldwide. Spell & The Gypsy are membrs of the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), a non-profit bringing together clothing brands who are passionate about sustainability.
An early advocate of sustainable luxury fashion, Stella McCartney is as well known for her feminine designs as for her songwriter father. The British clothing brand aims to treat all suppliers fairly.
The garments are made from eco friendly materials such as re-engineered cashmere, organic cotton and vegetarian leather. The brand now has 51 stand alone stores and is sold in 77 countries worldwide.
Distributed in over 70 countires, Scandinavian fashion brand Swedish Hasbeens makes fun shoes based on 1970s designs. Their motto is ‘Better shoes for a better world’.
Swedish Hasbeens shoes and accessories are crafted from natural grain leather that is environmentally friendly. The clogs are naturally tanned and made by traditional artisans in small factories.
From their London headquarters, Thought design contemporary pieces for women and men that are made to last. Formerly known as Braintree Clothing, they changed their name to reflect the conscious design to focus on sustainability in 2017.
Thought use eco friendly materials such as bamboo, hemp, recycled polyester and organic cotton. Their online blog is a great read, from articles on eco-conscious festival dressing to how to create an organic capsule wardrobe for Summer.
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