We’re just getting into summer in most cities around the world, and it’s getting nice and warm. This means it’s time to pack up the knits and woolies in favor of lighter, breathable styles and fabrics. We looked through the collections of 10 of our favorite ethical clothing brands and found some fun summer designs we think you will like. What better way to have a sustainable summer than with these ethical clothing brands – Take a look.
Kotn is founded on a traceability ethic, wanting buyers to enjoy a farm-to-table experience with their clothes (or farm-to-wardrobe!). This Certified B Corp offers ethically made, reasonably priced clothing to the market, ensuring that they work with partners who uphold the same Fair Trade ethics.
Ethical Profile of Kotn:
- Fair Trade
- Fair and Equal pay;
- Fights against child labor;
- Builds/funds the building of schools, their operations and equipping to ensure that children have access to education;
- Promotes equal employment opportunities at their partner firms;
- Fair and safe working conditions at factories, evidenced by high employee retention rate;
Product Range of Kotn
Kotn makes clothes from the softest Egyptian cotton, giving buyers premium quality and affordable prices for each garment. The affordability of these clothes arises from the fact that Kotn deals directly with cotton farmers, eliminating middlemen in the buying process.
This means that the cotton farmers can get better pay for their cotton, and the cost efficiency is also passed on to the final buyer of the garments, you & me. Kotn’s product range consists of collections of wardrobe staples for men and women, such as –
- A couple of bags,
- Some footwear, and more.
They also have an Apothecary collection of scented candles, body creams, incense, and the like. This, too, is worth checking out.
2. ABLE Fashion (Womenswear)
With a passion for empowering women, ABLE’s sustainable footprint impacts the lives of women all around the world, especially those in underserved communities. Their story started in Ethiopia, where women rescued from the commercial sex industry made beautiful hand-woven scarves.
The scarves became so popular that they were able to sell 4000 pieces in 2 months. Inspired by the positive uptake of the scarves, ABLE expanded to other products, including clothing, leather bags, shoes, and jewelry. From their humble beginnings, ABLE has grown its production to countries such as India, Mexico, and Brazil.
ABLE is a fashion brand based in the US, but with manufacturing footprints in several countries including:
- Ethiopia (where it all started)
Ethical Profile of ABLE Clothing Brand:
- Fair Trade
- Fair Wages
- Women empowerment – 95% of the workforce are women
ABLE deals primarily with women’s’ wear, featuring fun summer collections of:
3. Neu Nomads (Womenswear)
Neu Nomads is an ethical clothing brand that deals primarily with women’s’ wear. They believe in producing luxurious clothing that’s well made and affordable. They also uphold sustainable practices in their processes, including these:
- Organic, eco-friendly materials used in production;
- Use sustainably sourced plant-based fabrics from Lenzing;
- Non-toxic dyes used to dye the fabrics;
- Energy efficiency by using solar energy at their Jaipur factory;
- Rainwater purification technology at the same factory;
- The packaging is made from 100% recycled fabric waste.
In addition to being sustainable in their processes, Neu Nomads also believe in slow fashion. They practice this by producing timeless designs, which remain fashionable and can be used in and out of season.
Neu Nomads’ Ethical Profile
- Fair and transparent wages – Neu Nomads pride themselves in paying their Delhi factory workers compensation that’s above the living wage;
- Fair pricing;
- Healthy and safe working conditions for workers;
- GOTS and OEKO certifications for the dyes they use;
- Empowering women.
Specific to women’s clothing – dresses, tops, bottoms, etc. View their collection here.
4. DL1961 Premium Denim
DL1961 is easily one of our favorite sustainable clothing brands at the moment. In fact, in our post on Sustainable Denim-7 Fair Trade Brands we Love, we looked at the ethical and sustainable practices DL1961 incorporates into its processes. Let’s quickly run through them next:
Ethical & Sustainability Profile of DL1961
- Fair wages
- Fair working hours and conditions
- Use of efficient energy systems, including a heat recovery system and use of solar power to complement regular energy sources;
- Waterless and chemical-free process to produce the distressed effect (character) on denim. Makes it safe for the workers and non-polluting to the environment;
- Water recycling and treatment of wastewater enables the brand to recycle 9% of the water used in tier processes.
Product Range of DL1961
DL1961 is all about denim apparel. What sets them apart from other denim brands is their sustainability footprint in production. We love the diversity in their collections, in terms of color and style. Their product range includes denim collections for:
- Pets (This, you will love! Check it out here.)
Started in California back in 1992, the founders of Prana found a style gap in Yoga and climbing gear apparel. Prana was formed to bring more creative designs and functionality to these two clothing niches while retaining an Eco-friendly approach.
Ethical & Sustainability Profile of PrAna Clothing Brand:
- Fair Trade Certified;
- Member of the Fair Labor Association. They uphold ethical practices, fair wages and right working conditions in their partner factories;
- Traceability of materials used in processing, to ensure that they are sustainably sourced;
- Plastic-free packaging;
- Use recycled paper;
- Responsibly sourced materials for fabrics, such as organic cotton (OCS/ GOTS certified), responsible down (partners with the Responsible Down Standard to ensure this), recycled wool
- Partners with Bluesign® and Canopy for environmental conservation initiatives.
PrAna’s Product Range
This brand stocks both men and women’s clothing that’s great for outdoor wear. What’s even better is that they stock inclusive sizes for most (if not all) body shapes.
PrAna’s collections include:
- Yoga clothing,
- Sustainable denim,
- Accessories – for Yoga and general outdoor use.
Coalatree is another brand passionate about the outdoors and an active outdoor lifestyle. They design sustainable apparel for both men and women, suited for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
They incorporate sustainable approaches in their production, using organic or recycled materials. The most notable combination of materials is the fabric made from a combination of coffee grounds and recycled plastic bottles.
Coalatree is a proponent of sustainable and eco-friendly processes, leaning more towards recycled and repurposed materials instead of creating new textiles.
Ethical & Sustainability Profile of Coalatree:
- Fair Wear certified factories, which means that workers are paid fair wages, treated ethically and work in safe environments;
- Bluesign certified. This means that Coalatree has met strict standards in its processes, and acts responsibly & sustainably with people, environment, and resources;
- Use of recycled yarns, blended with post-consumer plastic or coffee grounds has created a massive annual reduction of waste going to landfills;
- Energy-efficient and green factories, including one facility that created its wetland to support biodiversity around it;
- Water recycling at factories;
- Waterless dyeing technique which creates savings in energy and water during production;
- Packaging and clothing tags are made from recycled paper blended with post-consumer waste;
- Coalatree partners with several nonprofits in environmental conservation and community support (Giving back) initiatives. Take a look at their inspiring projects and partnerships here.
Coalatree’s Product Range
Because their focus is on the outdoors and active lifestyles, Coalatree creates apparel to suit tough conditions and weather. This includes:
- Kachula blankets – a specific collection of warm blankets, that come in beautiful tribal prints, some of which are waterproof;
- Accessories like hats, hammock straps, socks, even a packable dog bowl. So much to love in this ethical brand!
Patagonia is founded on a minimalist approach to fashion, creating outdoor apparel that’s both functional and sustainable. The brand has carried out years of research to find approaches to fashion that are both sustainable and low impact on the environment.
Patagonia’s Ethical & Sustainability Profile
- Fair Trade proponents. 76% of Patagonia’s clothing line is Fair Trade sewn;
- 50% – 100% of Patagonia’s technical clothing is made from recycled synthetics. This includes clothing like insulated jackets, base layer clothing in the Capilene range of clothes, activewear basics like shorts, skorts and more;
- They also use 100% organic, non-GMO fibers such as hemp and cotton;
- Ethically sourced wool and down are used for their fabrics;
- Use of non-toxic dyes for their fabrics;
- Upcycling, recrafting and repurposing returned clothing, through their Worn Wear Collection;
What we love about Patagonia is that no matter what item of clothing you purchase, you’re guaranteed that it’s been made using the most ethical and sustainable process available to the brand. They have such an extensive collection in their shop. You’re guaranteed to find just about anything you need for outdoor use. This includes apparel for:
- Sport-specific apparel like surfing, mountain biking, snow, climbing, kite surfing, fly fishing, and trail running.
8. OhSevenDays (Womenswear)
We love the sustainability concept of OhSevenDays. This womenswear brand caters to wardrobe staples made from off-cut fabric rolls and other fabric leftovers. Many times, unused fabric from excess manufacturing or miscalculated quantities gets discarded.
This fabric waste is what OhSevenDays takes up to create limited edition, ethical, and ecologically friendly collections worldwide. Take a look at their sustainability profile.
Ethical & Sustainability Profile of OhSevenDays:
- OhSevenDays empowers and supports women in business. This young, dynamic female-founded brand is passionate about narrowing the gap in unequal pay to women;
- Fabric for garments is sourced from deadstock from textile manufacturers in Turkey. This creates a sustainable loop, reducing the quantity of discarded fabric that would otherwise end up in landfills;
- Transparency about their workers and tailors who stitch the garments, to show that they care about the people behind the clothes. They give an open stitch-to-store brief on the team behind the garments;
- Proponents of slow fashion. OhSevenDays creates versatile and compact collections, which allow you to style in numerous different ways within your current wardrobe.
OhSevenDays features compact collections of women’s clothing and accessories, featuring things like:
- Jumpers & sweatshirts, and more.
And do take a moment to look at their Oh’ Women Journal, showcasing the lives and stories of inspirational women who are part of the OhSevenDays community.
9. Symbology Clothing (Womenswear)
Symbology is an ethical clothing brand that specializes in beautiful, handcrafted fabrics to make their clothing. Their fashion-forward designs are styled from hand-printed fabric, using traditional block-printing skills by female artisans in India. In this way, they create one-of-a-kind prints for customers.
The textile industry, especially in less developed countries, is predominantly a female-dependent industry. Unfortunately, these women are subjected to unfair treatment, poor working conditions, and meager wages, without higher-level interventions.
By getting involved directly with the female artisans who do block printing, Symbology can ensure that they are paid fair wages, above the livable wage, and that the women can support their families. Let’s run through Symbology’s ethical and sustainability profile.
Ethical & Sustainability Profile of Symbology Clothing:
- Fair Trade Certified;
- Symbology upholds ethical practices, fair wages and right working conditions in their partner factories;
- Passionate about preserving traditional artisan skills;
- Empowering women;
- Inclusive sizes to fit and flatter most body shapes;
- Womenswear staples – Symbology caters for womenswear and has diversified their product offerings around women’s apparel.
- Wedding dresses for preorder: Apart from the regular fashion staples, they also have a wedding collection, featuring simple but pretty designs for brides and their maids.
- 100% Organic Cotton Bedding – it’s a deviation from their fashion route, but still worth checking out here.
The driving motto behind Tentree is putting the environment first. For every garment purchased, they plant ten trees in different regions across the world.
Tentree’s goal is to plant 1 billion trees by 2030, and they’re well on the way to achieving this. To date, they claim to have planted over 42.9 million trees, very close to hitting 43 million.
Tentree’s Ethical & Sustainability Profile
- Carbon offsetting – Tentree has created carbon offsetting packages that anyone can take up and offset your carbon footprint. What better way to take responsibility for your carbon emissions.
You get to choose from about 32 carbon offsetting packages, according to the number of tons of CO2 that you wish to offset. We absolutely love this initiative – Find out more on how it works here, and take up a package for yourself.
- Use of sustainable materials to make clothing, obtained from 4 primary sustainable sources:
- Organic Cotton
- Tencel – which is a fiber made from wood pulp
- Recycled Polyester – post-consumer PET bottles
4. Tentree has collated the Peru Collection, specifically to support tree planting in the Amazon rainforest, which is disappearing at an alarming rate. This collection has both women’s apparel and men’s apparel, with each piece featuring a print of the Andes mountain or a Llama.
This Canadian Certified B Corp is known for its outdoor apparel and accessories. They produce clothing that’s inclusive in sizing, in designs that are both functional and trendy.
- Sapling Collection – this is the Kids Collection
- Accessories – blankets, bags, socks, beanies, water bottles and so much more;
- Dog accessories – watch this space as they build on this collection
- Eco Collections for both men & women, such as the Peru Collection
Why Support Ethical Clothing Brands?
There’s no Beauty in the finest cloth if it makes Hunger and Unhappiness.
Many clothing brands source their textiles from less developed countries, and also have their garments made in these countries. Some of these countries include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, among others.
Sadly the conditions in many of these countries are mainly exploitative, inadequate, and unsafe for farmers, artisans, and other workers.
- Many workers are paid wages that are well below liveable salaries, meaning that these people cannot sustain themselves, their families, or even develop economically.
- Also, farmers hardly receive fair payment for their source crops, especially cotton farmers. Many times, this is because of middlemen and brokers who negotiate selling rates with international brands. This means the farmers receive very little for all their work, while the middlemen reap the lion’s share of the profits.
- Women form the bulk of the workforce in the textile industry, especially in less developed countries where garment production happens. With men controlling the businesses in these garment factories, it is common to find that women are economically exploited and paid peanuts compared to their male counterparts.
- Women also find it difficult to get sustainable employment in male-dominant societies, where they may be required to seek the consent of spouses first. In some cases where women get employment, they may even be required to hand over their wages to their spouses, leaving them with little to support the children.
- Forced labor and child labor are common vices, where families in desperate economic situations have defaulted on loans and other financial obligations.
- Unsafe working conditions are a common thing in unethical factories, where business owners disregard the safety and wellbeing of workers to be able to maximize their profits.
These are some of the driving factors that created the need for ethical standards in the garment industry. The Fair Trade and Ethical Fashion movement were created in response to these factors, to eliminate exploitative trade from businesses.
Ethical Clothing brands ensure that the garments they produce did not exploit or endanger the farmers and workers who made them. Consumers want to feel good about their clothing. They are now keen to know where the clothes were made, by whom and under what working conditions.
People now need to see that the factory workers can work in decent, safe conditions and that they are paid liveable wages to enable them to sustain their livelihoods and grow economically.
Our buying choices greatly influence the way the fashion industry is run by buying from brands that actively subscribe to Fair Trade and Ethical production of their garments. This is why we have made it our business to create awareness of clothing brands that are ethical, sustainable, and environmentally conscious.
Join us on our journey towards ethical and sustainable living. Let’s do this together.