When you think of eco-friendly living, what comes to mind? Your meals? Recycling? Riding a bike instead of driving?
Chances are ethical clothing wasn’t the first thought that popped up. But the truth is our clothes have a huge impact on the planet. Fashion has become “fast” and disposable. With the chemicals and processes used in the textile industry, we’re harming the earth (and the people who work in the fashion industry).
You may already be aware of the impact of the fashion industry on garment workers and the planet, but if you aren’t, the impact of fashion is certainly something to explore.
If you want to take it a step further, I suggest adopting a capsule wardrobe. I have created a capsule wardrobe planner that you can download at the bottom of this post!
Finding Ethical Clothing Brands
There’s this idea that eco-friendly, ethical clothing brands are either expensive, shapeless, or a little of both. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case at all. There are many stylish brands with beautiful clothing to suit every look.
Now there’s no type of clothing manufacturing without at least some impact on the planet. Even if a brand works hard to address all the environmental and social concerns, there will still be areas where they will fall short…but at least it’s a start.
According to Good Housekeeping, there are five main issues ethical clothing manufacturers seek to address:
- Water usage
- Hazardous chemicals
- Short lifecycle
Many manufacturers are also looking at their impact on human rights. This includes paying garment workers livable, fair wages, providing better working conditions, and considering the impact of garment manufacturing in less industrialized areas of the world.
What should we do as consumers to become more mindful with our clothing purchases?
One big step is letting go of the idea of cheap, trendy clothing. Years ago, a coat may have been purchased to last for several years. Today, many people own 3-4 coats and change it up every year. This leads to many perfectly good clothing items landing in landfills (it often costs less to destroy clothing than it does to ship them to needy people around the world).
Before you throw an old item in the bin, ask yourself if there is more life left within it. Could you sell it on consignment, re-use it for cleaning, or refashion it into another look? So often, we give up on clothing too quickly.
Learn simple repairs to make your clothing last. Purchase high-quality, well-made clothing. Even consider investing in good tailoring instead of giving up on an item due to a poor fit. These little acts will help you really stretch your wardrobe (and give extra life to your clothes).
As you go forward, consider buying from ethical clothing companies. Here are 20 companies making strides toward ethical and eco-friendly clothes production. Fortunately, many of these brands are cute, affordable, and stylish.
20 Ethical Clothing Brands You’ll Love
Alternative Apparel appears time and time again on ethical clothing lists thanks to sustainable packaging, eco-friendly dyes, and high ethical standards in manufacturing. They offer cute, casual clothes everyone wears like hoodies, knit tops, t-shirts, and leggings. Most of their clothing is made from organic cotton or other eco-friendly materials. They also use recycled materials in their manufacturing process.
Monsoon is a London-based brand that ships around the world. They follow a strict approach to animal welfare and waste as well as ethical standards in clothing production. Their clothing styles range from casual, summery dresses to formalwear for weddings and special occasions. They sell beautiful pieces for women and girls as well as home décor and gifts.
The outdoor sportswear company Columbia has been in business for over 80 years. They have an excellent reputation for sustainability and are constantly seeking new, innovative materials and approaches toward eco-friendly fashion. They offer transparency about their manufacturing, including areas like water-usage and social responsibility. Columbia offers stylish, built-to-last clothing for women, men, and kids.
Pact clothing is made of ultra-soft organic cotton. These are staple pieces you’ll love—pajamas, t-shirts, underwear, soft simple dresses, and more. They sell clothing for women, men, and kids that you’ll feel good about buying and wearing. The company is committed to fair trade and ethical clothing manufacturing. They look at water use and sustainability in all their clothing production.
I was surprised to find the trendy athleisure company, Athleta, was a Certified B Corp. This means they meet strict standards in fair trade, ethical business practices, sustainability, low waste, and water usage. They’ve set ambitious goals in the areas of sustainability and ethical fashion as well, committing to taking their practices even further. Better yet, their clothes are seriously cute and comfortable. They offer great workout wear for any activity and great clothing for women and girls.
Krochet Kids is like an ethical fashion unicorn. They sell comfortable, fashionable clothing that is ethically made and priced affordably. Each piece is actually signed by the artisans who created it. Don’t let the name fool you, either; they offer clothes for men, kids, and women (including ultra-affordable dresses and skirts). They are a non-profit brand that provides workers with education, fair wages, and opportunities for growth. Talk about a great fashion brand!
Los Angeles, California-based Back Beat Rags has fun clothing made of organic cotton, Tencel, and hemp. They use eco-friendly recycled packaging and are committed to sustainability in their manufacturing process. Back Beat Rags makes popular jumpsuits and sweatshirts that look oh-so-cozy. If you think sustainable fashion is boring, Back Beat Rags will change your mind.
Indigenous makes organic, fair-trade clothing dyed with low-impact dyes for greater sustainability and eco-friendliness. They source materials from artisans around the world, using cotton and free-range alpaca. Their clothes are simple but elegant. They offer sleek, tailored women’s and menswear that’s dressy enough for work, but casual enough for the weekend.
Manduka is a yoga-lovers dream. They make yoga mats (and run a mat recycling program) as well as yoga gear for women and men. Manuka uses recycled materials in their clothing, including water bottles! They also offer plenty of options in organic cotton. If you’re a yogi (or simply like the look of yoga-inspired clothing), definitely check out this ethical clothing brand.
Everlane offers customers a very transparent look at where their clothing comes from. They’ve made a strong commitment toward worker protections, fair wages, and safe labor. Their products include denim made in clean factories (denim manufacturing normally has a very negative environmental impact) and beautiful basics like t-shirts, skirts, and accessories, as well as shoes and a line of clothing for men.
People Tree has sustainable, organic, fair trade, and vegan clothing. They promote fair wages and safe working conditions as well. This company makes the most adorable t-shirts, dresses, and underwear. Everything is designed with fun, unique details in mind. This is ethical clothing you’ll feel excited to wear!
Patagonia is a true leader in eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical clothing. They use ethically sourced materials, are fair trade certified, and pay close attention to monitor the impact of their clothing production. Even better, they also help you repair clothing and offer a buy-back program to ensure your Patagonia gear doesn’t go in the trash. Their clothes are outdoorsy, rugged, and practical—everything you would want in a sustainable brand.
Reformation counters the perception that ethical fashion is boring, plain, or less-than-trendy. They:
- sell absolutely beautiful, sustainably manufactured clothing in sizes 0-24
- score each of their pieces on the environmental impact, offering transparency on the production of their clothing
- also require suppliers to follow their ethical factory code of conduct to ensure fair labor and a lower environmental impact.
Thought Clothing is made from simple, eco-friendly, and organic materials such as cotton, hemp, and their famous bamboo socks. Their designs are elegant, clean, and fresh, with beautiful florals and soft colors. Thought is committed to conscious supply, fair trade, and careful sourcing. They pay strict attention to the environmental impact of their clothing production.
Perhaps the biggest name in denim, Levi’s, is also one of the most committed to sustainability. The environmental impact of manufacturing denim is huge in terms of water consumption and dye. Even growing cotton for jeans creates a big footprint. Levi’s has implemented several sustainability goals and steps to ensure they’re reducing their toll on the world around them. They’re also committed to fair labor practices and attention to workers’ rights in their factories.
Cuyana is a brand of my own heart. They offer minimalist fashion with a commitment to paring down, buying quality items, and classic styles that last. They work with factories close to the source of the raw materials to ensure a smaller environmental impact and also partner with thredUP for clothing recycling and consignment to help customers adopt a one-in-one-out policy on their closets.
This ethical clothing brand began with a mission: to transform the declining Egyptian cotton industry. Known for being the softest, most breathable cotton in the world, use of Egyptian cotton was on the decline due to cheaper sourcing. This was causing a big disruption to the lives of those who depended on the Egyptian cotton industry. As a certified B Corp, Kotn has committed themselves to ethical sourcing, minimizing environmental impact, and implementing fair labor practices, all while creating perfect basics like t-shirts and sweatshirts.
ABLE is a certified B Corp specializing in lovely clothing made by female artisans in Peru. The clothing line includes staples like denim and work-friendly outfits as well as casual clothing, shoes, and accessories. They ask customers to take the pledge to support only ethical clothing brands (and reward them with a discount).
Reusing and thrifting clothing is always more ethical than buying new. ThredUP is the largest consignment/thrift store online.
thredUP is unique because they:
- purchase clothing in top condition, inspect it for any issues, and ship it to customers
- offer plenty of awesome, trendy brands and you’ll feel good about giving old clothes a new life
- sell all styles of clothes for women and for kids, so the possibilities are endless.
Better yet, you can ship them your old clothes to be consigned or recycled.
As you see, ethical fashion doesn’t need to be boring, frumpy, or devoid of personal style. These brands are proving fast fashion is out and sustainable, ethical clothing is in!
Support these and other ethical clothing brands to feel good about your purchases, minimize your environmental impact, and focus on building a better global community. There are so many options out there, so think before you shop!