Everywhere we look, the world is taking strides to becoming more ethical. We're more conscious now about everything, from what's on our plates as well was the clothes hanging in our wardrobes.
Bloated on a heavy diet of fast fashion, many of us are increasingly turning to ethical brands and designers to get a fashion fix that's as sustainable as it is stylish. Ethical fashion is officially en vogue.
However, the term 'ethical fashion' can fall prey to marketing spiel, where brands use it to appear greener to conscious shoppers. Other times it's used without being totally sure of what it means.
So, in an effort to set the record straight once and for all, here's the ES Best mini guide to ethical fashion.
Let's start with the definition: what does ethical clothing mean?
Broadly speaking, the term looks at the origins and methods used in making clothes as well as things like workers’ conditions, product quality, waste generated and whether the materials used are sustainable.
That's a lot of boxes to check, but it's worth it if you know nothing was exploited to make that outfit you love so much. Naturally more awareness in the area has led to an uptick in demand from shoppers. In turn, fashion has responded by cleaning up poor practices and making ethical collections that are cleaner, greener and guilt-free.
How can you tell that a company is ethical? As well as those who give back to improve their workers' daily lives, keep an eye out for brands who try to have a low impact on the environment. GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard – is the leading certification for organic, non-toxic fibres and clothing. It means that brands who have this certification sell products that contain no dye with heavy metals, no formaldehyde, no pesticides and no PVC, among other things. However, cotton uses a vast amount of water in production and it's important to remember that all new clothing will have some environmental impact. To be truly 100 per cent sustainable, vintage brands and pre-owned clothing is your best bet.
There are however, more ethical fashion brands around than ever, and the easiest way to shop them is online. If you’re looking for fair trade, sustainable style, you've come to the right place.
Below you'll find our hot list of the best ethical fashion stores, divided into sections so you can find what you're looking for quickly. There’s everything from childrenswear to shoes and accessories and mens and womenswear, all boasting sustainable credentials.
Our selection of the best online ethical clothes shops is made up of brands that are ethically conscious, perfect for anyone curious or committed to buying organic and ethical clothing.
Shoes and Accessories
This playful brand specialises in children’s (up to ten years old) and maternity clothing – with splashes of colour and genius patterns. But best of all are the materials used which are soft and lovely to wear.
Global Organic Textile Standard certified, Frugi clothing feels like quality from the moment you touch it. Each piece is built to last.
These pyjamas which can be matched with a parent and are so soft on the skin, promising a peaceful night’s sleep.
Made using organic fibres, mainly cotton, the Newbie range is sustainable and soft on the skin. Any non-cotton fibres used by this Swedish company are either organic or recycled.
We love the designs too – traditional with muted tones and pattern which tend towards natural flora and fauna.
These unisex dungarees are a baby’s wardrobe staple and useful for any season.
Mini Rodini, a Swedish brand which has sustainability and Fairtrade practices at its heart boasts a range of kids’ wear and soft furnishings all designed by the company’s founder Cassandra Rhodin.
This reversible quilt with a striking galloping horses pattern is made of organic cotton and is both GOTS and Fairtrade certified. The padding is 100 percent recycled polyester.
Athlesiure brand Evveervital takes an environmental and social conscious approach to its fitness wear. Designed in London, the pieces are created with minimal effect on the environment using sustainable processes and bio based materials. The leisurewear is even packaged in recyclable plastic bags. Combining fashion and function, the vibrant collections will make a sophisticated alternative to your current active wear and are breathable, sweat-wicking, quick-drying and anti-bacterial to take you from the gym to your weekend plans.
Nobody’s Child is not your typical ‘fast fashion’ brand. The label offers transitional pieces that are designed to be worn time and time again and not end up in the landfill.
Encouraging you to shop with a conscience, the brand has created initiatives to reduce textile waste such as creating the collections in small quantities, repurposing leftover fabric as well as donating unused fabric to up and coming designers to support the next generation. Head to Nobody’s Child for its range of disco jumpsuits, heart print co-ords, linen essentials and oversized gingham smock dresses.
With Nothing Underneath – or WNU – offers a range of oversized boyfriend shirts, the ultimate wardrobe staple that every that every fashion-conscious woman should own for day to play. In a simple, no fuss style, the shirts are designed to stand the test of time, while withstanding trends for a touch of casual luxury. The label offer cotton or linen shirts and use sustainable methods, from production and labour, to materials.
As its name suggests, Thought is a company whose ethos is based on consideration for the environment. Using naturally grown bamboo, cotton, wool and hemp from responsible sources to make its clothing, customers can rest assured they are being kind to the planet.
This beautiful russet coloured polka dot pinafore mini dress is made from organic cotton.
For some 30 years, Komodo has been in operation, offering 100 per cent vegan and eco-friendly clothing which manages to be both affordable and stylish. Komodo is Soil Association & GOTS certified. It rejects ‘fast fashion’ and the company trade fairly with factories all over the world.
The menswear is awesome – check out the Carl sweater – but this two-tone geometric print jumper, made from 100 per cent cotton, is cosy enough to ward off the winter chill but still offers a slim silhouette.
People Tree has been around for more than 25 years now, blazing the trial for ethical and sustainable fashion. It partners with Fair Trade producers, farmers and garment workers to make sure that people living in the developing world have access to fair opportunities.
People Tree uses cotton which is grown in a way that has a low impact on the environment – for example employing methods which maintain soil fertility.
Its collections for both men and women include interesting colours and fabrics and have a relaxed vibe about them. If it’s good enough for Emma Watson..
As the name suggests it uses organic fabrics which have been traded fairly. With two collections released each year, this is slow fashion with classic pieces which will last and last.
Special mention to this gorgeous smock dress which can transcend the seasons with the help of some opaque tights and a sim black rollneck.
Founded by designer Sarah Zellweger, from whose initials this Hackney-based, Jaipur-made clothing company takes its name, SZ Blockprints showcase a riot of colour on an array of items designed to take you from beach to bar and beyond.
With 2019 being the year that sees the sourcing of organic cotton for SZ Blockprints, the company ups its already impressive sustainable credentials, which include working with local artisans and sourcing products locally in India. A minimum of 10 per cent of SZ Blockprints’ annual profits goes to The Sarah Zellweger Foundation, which supports charitable initiatives which will educate and empower girls and women in Jaipur.
Using one of India’s oldest printing techniques, each design has a deep heritage which just adds to the beauty of these pieces. The disco pant below comes in a variety of colourways.
For beautiful, ethical lingerie, turn to Luva Huva, which has also developed a clothing line. It uses mainly natural fabrics that are sustainable, such as organic cotton and soy, as well as end of the line fabric remnants that the fashion industry is prone to wastefully throwing away. Its lingerie is delicate and playful and comes a variety of colours and styles.
In light of its mission statement- ‘ethical fashion should look like fashion’- you can expect to see a lot of beautifully tailored pieces that are anything but frumpy. With a greater focus on creating classic, timeless designs than replicating seasonal trends, it wants to encourage its clients to focus on quality, rather than quantity, when it comes to fashion. Sharp tailoring in classic colours is the order of the day with Outsider.
Winter is approaching and we’ll all need some cosy knitwear. Ally Bee is an ethical brand that specialises in this - creating everything from jumpers to scarves and gloves. It mainly uses alpaca wool, which is much more sustainable than sheep’s wool and all its products are free from chemical dyes.
You already know ASOS as one of the largest online fashion stores, but did you know they also work with a range of dedicated eco-brands? With a commitment to reducing its impact on the planet, ASOS has teamed with a range of eco-friendly brands to bring you clothing, accessories and beauty products that are from a sustainable source.
All of Gather & See’s collaborators have to fit at least three of their founding philosophies - Fair Trade, organic, eco-friendly, small scale production and heritage - to be sold on their website. Its curation includes coats and beachwear amongst the everyday clothing. Its jewellery range is gorgeous, too.
Soul Seeker, the sustainable menswear brand, has just launched online, bringing its range of streetwear staples delivered straight to your home. The label plays in to a strong British heritage, while taking classic styles like denim, bomber jackets, and t-shirts and gives them an alternative twist. Think denim joggers that are lightweight with a relaxed fit and a drawstring waist. The premium apparel label uses only sustainable labour and production methods where everything is made in London.
Finally one dedicated solely to the fellas: Brothers We Stand includes a vast collection from a range of brands that believe in ethical production, both for people and the planet. Its range of t-shirts and shirts is particularly strong and it has a great selection of surf shorts.
This sustainable luxury brand takes inspiration from nostalgic influences for its range of swimwear and beach apparel with vintage cuts and designs. The high end collections are made up of multi-tie shapes that can be adapted to fit and flatter all types of figures and structured pieces in a whole host of prints and patterns. The brand uses bespoke and recycled materials and has also been awarded the Positive Luxury’s prestigious Butterfly Mark for its eco and social conscious practises.
Love Brand & Co. was founded by Oliver Tomalin in 2010 with a commitment to protecting endangered and vulnerable wildlife. The brand donates five per cent of the company’s revenue to support charities, projects and communities that are doing just that. With stores in Chelsea, Notting Hill and Barbados, the brand offer a range of swimwear, polos, t-shirts and linen pieces for men and children. The swimwear is created from recycled plastic bottles with bold prints that take inspiration from the conservation projects that the label supports with rhino, tuna and elephant designs.
Marble Swimwear offer bikinis and one-pieces made from plastic bottles – keeping them out of the landfill. With stylish silhouettes and playful patterns, the pieces are made entirely from environmentally conscious practices, from the material, to the packaging that the swimsuits are sent out in. Handmade in Bali, the range offers a long life guarantee to take you from year to year, beach to beach.
Deakin & Blue are revolutionising swimwear – from the pieces themselves, to the brand’s campaign imagery. Forget flimsy pieces portrayed in overly airbrushed sexualised photos, this label offers swimsuits made of regenerated ocean waste through eco-conscious methods and shown on women of all shapes and sizes. Composed of old fishing nets and industrial plastic, the ocean-friendly swimwear has a comfortable and sculpting fit with one pieces and bikinis in a range of colours and designs.
Shoes and Accessories
This label specialises in highly functional backpacks and bags for both men and women with minimalistic designs. While the pieces may appear simple, the designers at Ucon Acrobatics pay the utmost attention to detail in terms of their construction to ensure that they will have your back during any of your outdoor adventures. Composed of plastic bottles found in the ocean – approximately 20 bottles per backpack – they are transformed into durable bags that designed to last and withstand all weather conditions.
behno was set up after the founder visited India and was shocked to see the conditions the garment workers were working in. Its mission is to move away from the connotations associated with ‘Made in India’ labels and provide women with safe working environments and benefits for themselves and their families. You’ll find colourful bags, pouches and cardholders, with each collection focusing on a different theme.
This is a great option for accessories — and it’s not just for girls either- its range of bags for men is just as delectable. With a focus on using non-animal products, you’ll find one of the largest selections of vegan leather and recycled materials. It also has an impressive portfolio of brand ambassadors, including the likes of Natalie Portman and Adrian Grenier.
Boots, bags and belts are all part of the Wills Vegan collection but it's the footwear that really shines. The latest big name in vegan shoes, the brand has swiftly climbed the charts in sustainable footwear since it first launched in 2012. The London based brand is entirely vegan and produced fairly in Portugal.
The quality is top shelf, from the stitching to the Vibram soles and sustainable packaging — these shoes don't just look like the real deal, they are the real deal. Well made, honestly produced and damn good looking.
Wills Vegan also makes the best faux suede we've ever seen. Just sayin..
Beyond Skin started back in 2001 when there really were no stylish vegan shoes anywhere. With a vision to create beautiful shoes at affordable prices, it is now flourishing and has a great online shop. With everything from cute ballet flats to knee-high boots and bridal shoes, this really is the only stop you need for your footwear. It even has a men’s line coming soon too.