10 Essential Things To Look For In Ethical Fashion Brands

Want clothes that match your values? Here's what to look for in an ethical fashion brand.

Anyone else go blank when you go to Google something you really need? Sometimes it’s a lot easier to talk about ethical fashion than finding the right brands to buy.

But the next time you’re in the market for new clothes, shoes or anything else, here’s how you make sure the brands you buy believe in the same things you do.

We’ve worked with Mamoq, the ethical fashion store that wants to end mindless consumption, to come up with 10 essential things to look for in ethical fashion brands.

Chances are most brands don’t do all of the below, but pick ones that do at least two or three. A

nd we’ve added in some awesome brands that wear their green hearts on their sleeves, to get you started on your ethical fashion journey.

10 Essential Things To Look For In Ethical Fashion Brands

1. Gives back

Look for brands who consistently give back and demonstrate a relationship or an ongoing commitment to a charity or social enterprise.

This can come in the form of donating a percentage of profits or the ‘buy to give’ model.

Kipepeo is a social business in Tanzania that turns school children’s drawings into T-shirts.

A portion of each sale supports educational projects in the country, which in turn inspire more T-shirts.

2. Artisan crafts or handmade

Support brands that work directly with highly skilled artisans or craftspeople or help keep traditional skills alive.

Handmade fashion is the definition of slow fashion, so plump for stuff that’s going to last.

African inspired womenswear brand Mayamiko works with local tailors and seamstresses in Malawi to create beautiful clothes and local job opportunities.

Their Fashion Lab workshop also has a free crèche and runs educational programmes.

3. Cycle it

Brands that recycle or upcycle materials instead of using raw materials are committed to making better use of resources and often have adopted a circular or closed loop manufacturing system.

Upcycling and recycling decreases the amount of waste going to landfill and can get the creative design juices flowing.

Swedish ethical shoe brand Resole makes trainers from upcycled fabrics sourced from old buses, trains and trams.

They’re also handmade in Portugal and they donate to environmental charities for every pair sold.

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4. Be eco-conscious

Choose fashion brands that are actively committed to limiting their environmental impact and reducing their carbon footprint.

The fashion industry is the fourth biggest polluting industry in the world but more sustainable brands are coming with increasingly innovative ways to reduce their eco-impact.

Make sure you check any brand’s website for details on their environmental commitments and processes.

Veryan make womenswear from GOTS certified organic cotton, that’s dyed with non toxic materials and other natural fibres, in its London studio.

It has a small and transparent fabric supply chain that’s a testament to its commitment to be as ethical as possible.

5. Economic empowerment

It’s not just about looking after the planet, ethical brands should look after people too.

Ethical fashion has a huge opportunity to create meaningful, fairly paid and skilled jobs for people in disadvantaged communities, especially women who have previously been marginalised.

Tales of Thread combines British tailoring with creating skilled jobs in Ghana for the women who have inspired the loungewear collections.

This sustainable fashion brand tries to work with as many factories that are owned and operated by women as possible and supports them with additional training. In fact, 85% of the Tales of Thread workforce is female.

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6. Made in Europe

If you’re based in the UK, look for brands who produce or manufacture within the UK or Europe.

Like the food industry, there’s a continual push and pull between organic (which often has to come from further away) versus local in fashion manufacturing.

Supporting local brands minimises the carbon footprint and environmental impact of large global supply chains.

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Stylish British menswear brand Lyme Terrace makes all of its shirts in Cornwall and London, they have a fully transparent supply chain and only use natural packaging.

7. Organic certified

Out of this list, the organic tag might be one of the most well known ways to find your favourite ethical brand but remember it’s only one aspect of what makes a brand eco-friendly and there’s little international regulation over ‘organic’.

Look for brands that use organic cotton as a starting point.

Organic cotton still only makes up 1% of all cotton grown globally and make sure it is GOTS certified (the Global Organic Textile Standard is the toughest standard for textiles manufacturing).

British lingerie brand, AmaElla, use Fairtrade, GOTS certified organic cotton for its slinky underwear – because if you want organic cotton anywhere, it’s next to your good bits.

8. Use natural materials

There’s a huge move back to natural materials amongst ethical fashion brands.

That’s things like cotton, linen, khadi or wool.

These natural fibres are biodegradable and don’t release microplastics into our water systems when you wash them.

Natural materials are also better at keeping your body temperature regulated when faced with hot or cold conditions.

La Petite Mort make awesome organic basics for men and women using all natural fibres.

All of its clothing is compostable and by not blending the cotton fibres it makes it easier to recycle each piece when you’re done.

9. Transparency is key

Whether you plump for organic, vegan, local or handmade, perhaps what is more important is that the ethical brand you’re spending your hard earned cash on shows you clearly how it sources and manufactures its clothes.

This could be showcasing credentials and accreditations, explaining what materials it uses in its packaging or explaining what it wants to achieve next.

Being honest about what it’s working on or looking to improve is just as important as what it’s ticked off.

Spanish ethical bag brand, Semura, makes sure it explains how its bags are made in Madrid and sourced from across Europe.

Every piece, from buttons to labels, is traceable back to its origin from a trusted group of European suppliers.

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10. Choose vegan

Vegan fashion brands are committed to cruelty free manufacturing and animal free production.

Vegan shoe brands are booming, there are lots of different alternatives to leather including Pinatex (from pineapples) and mycelium from mushrooms.

Vegan fashion brands, far from being beige or boring, are often on the cutting edge of textiles innovation.

Independent Fox make PETA approved vegan trainers in sleek, simple styles.

All of the materials are sourced from within Europe and the shoes are made in Hungary.