The Best Ethical Clothing Brands - 20 for 2020
Looking for ethical clothing brands but can never think of anyone when it comes to online shopping? Fear not, let these 20 ethical fashion labels kickstart some serious style envy. These are some of my favourite ethical brands for this year.
Mon 24 Feb 2020
Let's talk ethical clothing - from why we need it, to why the world needs and my favourite ethical and sustainable brands that cover of most style bases this year - and of course there's menswear too.
Why is ethical fashion important?
Over the last 15 years our consumption of the amount of clothes we buy has doubled. We are literally drowning in cheap Tshirts and £1 bikinis. If you want to move away from the incessant drops of new fashion and don't want to add to the growing landfill mountain of chemically soaked clothes, then embracing ethical clothing is one of the ways to go.
From kick ass jumpsuits to men's everyday work shirts, perfect fit jeans and Tshirts that use innovative materials, these ethical clothing brands are some of the most exciting fashion players out there at the moment and I'm proud to have worked directly with them all, even hosting a few of them at our pebblefest events.
Every purchase you make is a vote for the kind of world you want to see in the future. While buying less and working with secondhand and vintage clothes is essential, if you're buying new, these ethical brands are worth your money.
Here are a few ethical fashion facts to kick off with
There are mulitple issues to fix in fast fashion (from microplastics to overconsumption, animal and worker's rights, toxic waste, water scarcity...) and sadly no ethical clothing brand can hope to solve them all. But the scale of the fashion industry and our clothing waste is what's so hard to get your head round as a consumer.
Cotton is great because it's not plastic and a natural material but one kilogram of cotton - equivalent to the weight of a shirt and pair of jeans - can take as much as 10,000–20,000 litres of water to produce.
And talking of water, in 2016, WRAP estimated that the water footprint of clothes used in the UK was 8 billion cubic metres.152 Globally, the fashion industry consumes an estimated 79 billion cubic metres of fresh water annually.
By 2030 the fashion industry is projected to use 35% more land for fibre production - that's land not used for biodiversity, conservation or to grow crops or build homes.
Polyester is the most used fibre for clothing - it accounts for 60% of our clothes but it's most likely made from virgin plastic (a growing number of ethical clothing uses recycled plastic fibres) but either way it produces microplastics. Here's everything you need to know about microplastics.
Sadly up to 35% of microplastics in our oceans are from synethic clothes. A single wash can release up to 700,000 fibres.
Want to know what clothing brands are sustainable? Scroll on down for some of my favourite and best affordable ethical clothing brands for 2020.
I haven’t included ethical fashion heroes like Everlane, People Tree and Pact (and those guys are awesome all year every year), because this list is about discovering some new sustainable fashion superstars and sharing the love - because more and more small designers, rental outfits and make your own clothes brands are growing in confidence and style and deserve your eco-inspired attention.
The Best Ethical Clothing Brands - 20 for 2020
1. Origin Africa
Long a pebble favourite, this pair of former aid workers started Origin Africa, a unisex, organic cotton street style brand to fund African NGOs - in fact that’s where all their profits go. Fall for the comfy sweatshirts with traditionally woven patch pocket, it’ll become a go to favourite, especially when you’re (slow) travelling.
2. Just Wears
Not all fashion is pants. Just Wears are full on comfy boxers without the balls. Delivered to your door in cardboard packaging as a mulitpack, this new ethical men’s underwear prides themselves on being sustainable and transparent. Their boxers are made from sustainable Austrian Beech trees, with 40% cellulose, and the wood pulp also powers the production facility. Fancy.
3. The Natural Edition
Organic basics aren’t always the most exciting things to buy but The Natural Edition make super soft Tshirts and simple dresses feel like a luxurious purchase. Their organic cotton T-shirts come in cute paper bag packaging and will be your go to top for every weekend outfit. This is sustainable fashion that’s simple and easy.
4. TAMGA Designs
While this isn’t an ethical fashion brand from the UK, TAMGA Designs focus on sustainably produced womenswear (their summery floaty dresses will see you through every holiday) that will last you a lifetime. Think eco luxe basics, plus kimonos, tailored trousers and summer outfits that are affordable and ethical. They choose eco-friendly materials, water-saving dyes and plastic-free packaging and give back 1% of their revenue through 1% For The Planet.
Fancy being ECO-HOT? It’s all about transeasonal pieces, minimal waste and slow fashion over at Cossac, who have plenty of experience of what not to do from the fast fashion industry. Say hello to stylish jumpsuits, checkered skirts and wrap dresses than have a modern vintage vibe. The tailored silhouettes and grown up fabrics mean they’ll be in your wardrobe for many wears to come. I'm in love with their kimonos.
6. Ninety Percent
Sustainable fashion brands don’t get much better than Ninety Percent, a sustainable womenswear label that shares out 90% of its profits. It’s not just about the black, white and grey everyday workwear basics, Ninety Percent can also be a riot of colour, like these jade sweatpants plus holiday worthy tie-dye (without the nasty chemicals).
Every time you buy an ethical fashion piece you get to vote where the money they give back to goes, from five charities. All of their twice yearly collections are made from well cut organic cotton or organic merino wool and designed to last.
Men often get left out of the sustainable fashion scene but not at ethical menswear label, Rozenbroek. It’s based in the UK and has a very modern British sense of style. Each piece is handmade to order to reduce waste and air miles, the factory is in Yorkshire and even their tote bags are made with leftover fabric.
Choose from organic shirts, sweatshirts and Tshirts or straight leg jeans or chinos - and know you’re investing in a slow fashion classic. Rozenbroek will also repair and mend anything you manage to break, meaning you’re keeping it in circulation longer and cutting down on your carbon emissions.
8. Selkie Patterns
The sustainable fashion revolution is always about buying new off the rack every time. There has been a huge shift towards making (and mending) our clothes, more in line with what our grandmothers would have done.
Selkie Patterns is one of my favourites. They produce unique patterns for tops and dresses that are easy to make at home (for every body shape) and create their own eco-friendly material, inspired by their iconic home city, London. I’m loving their new Lin jumpsuit pattern that works with shorts or longer trousers.
9. Charl Knitwear
Ethical knitwear isn’t always easy to find, so I’m loving new label Charl Knitwear. Created in England and made in Italy, it infuses British classic style with a modern ethical twist. Aiming to keep heritage skills alive when it comes to knitwear, Charl’s designs make the most of traceable, organic yarns to spin them into oversized cardigans, oatmeal coloured sweaters and square shaped loose jumpers inspired by traditional Norfolk fishermen. While it’s more luxurious than affordable, Charl Knitwear is a slow fashion dream.
Got a fear of falling out of fashion? United Change Makers have the Capsule Denim Collection to keep you cool for years to come. The timeless designs of these beautiful ethical dungarees and jeans are making a sustainable dent in our disposable fast fashion industry. They are soft, 100% organic and have adjustable knot tie shoulder straps for your eco ease. UCM’s pieces are durable, high quality and GOTS certified to support a healthy earth. This transparent brand pays their workers a fair living wage and ensures they operate under excellent conditions.
Pangaia prove that there’s nothing that seaweed can’t do - including being turned into Tshirts. Lightweight saltwater seaweed fibre is mixed with organic cotton to create a must-have Tshirt that is also treated with peppermint oil, so it stays fresher longer, meaning less washing for you.
Pangaia clothing’s focuses on textile innovation and is a collective of scientists, technologists, designers who make everyday essentials from innovative tech and bio-engineered materials. Future fashion indeed.
Finisterre are one of my all time favourites to go to if I need something that’s going to keep me warm. Whether your adventure is up a mountain or down the street, their lightweight eco-friendly jackets last forever and keep you cosy and dry, no matter the weather. Their collections now encompass more everyday items as well, such as jumpsuits, jumpers and swimsuits and they offer repairs on anything you buy to keep it out of landfill.
Plus you’re helping one of the most pioneering British clothing brands - these guys are a BCorp, support masses of charities like RNLI and invest in British manufacturing and innovative solutions to replace the microplastics in our clothing.
13. Thought Clothing
Looking for womenswear that works as workwear and a weekend wardrobe for when you want to get out of jeans and a Tshirt? Thought Clothing produce a couple of capsule collections a year, focusing on bright prints, super soft organic cotton and thoughtfully designed clothes that flatter every shape and curve. They’re transeasonal but trendy enough and built so you treasure the styles forever. Invest in Thought’s sustainable clothing, you’ll be happy to see year in, year out, like old friends.
If you've seen me talk at events or at pebblefest, I'm often in Thought Clothing - because it's so comfy and all the dresses have pockets!
14. Gung Ho London
London based Gung Ho, is a sustainable womenswear label that loves a theme and runs with it. From collections based around food waste, with patterns of food most likely to be leftover or the biggest air mile culprits arranged all billowing dropped hem dresses to its classic embroidered sweatshirts (the bee is my favourite), Gung Ho London is an investment worth making. Eco-fashionistas all love Gung Ho for good reason - it’s super stylish, transparent, ethically sourced, produced in London and offers up smart collections that say something and feel designer.
Watch out for their twice yearly collection launches that could feature anything from a climate change pub quiz and poster exhibition to a pop up supperclub. Find out about more ethical events here.
15. Lyme Terrace
London based ethical menswear label Lyme Terrace make simple sweatshirts out of organic and recycled materials, but they look top drawer. There are short sleeved versions made of surplus materials, plus brushed organic cotton Oxford shirts - basically everything you need for an off duty look. Their motto is ‘the world is changing, dress accordingly’ - I couldn’t put it any better. There’s no excuse not to embrace eco-friendly clothing.
16. Mud Jeans
Made for both men and women in numerous styles, Mud Jeans are making a clean dent in the formerly dirty denim industry. Here’s how: Water. Per pair, they use thousands fewer litres than a standard jeans and filter it so that it comes out clean. Recycled cotton and renewable energy. Their factories are so full of it that MUD have climbed their way to Carbon Neutrality. Recycled post consumer denim. Their ethical jeans are 40% made from it and they aim to get that figure up to 100%. Packaging. Return what your eco-friendly jeans arrived in and it will be reused. They also have the Nordic Swan Ecolabel certification, which means no toxins or chemicals are going into those skinnies, or coming out of them.
You could also try their ‘Lease a jeans’ system. Simply send your slacks back after 12 months and pay per month instead of upfront. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a little frayed, or whether you just fancy a change - you can swap them for some new sustainable jeans.
Fine, timeless and considered, you can tell that Henri's beautifully cut clothes are made from the finest 100% organic cotton, 80% of which is handwoven. Henri have a range of ethically made womenswear for every season, with basics beginning at around £30 and all-in-ones creeping close to £200.
Because they are diligent about keeping everything to do with their cotton organic, neither workers nor the natural world are harmed by chemicals and pesticides in India.
Designed and made by Henrietta (i.e. ‘Henri’) herself, the clothes are made in London and Portugal by trusted manufacturers. Each piece is trialled, washed, worn and lived in for weeks before it passes the test to be put into production.
Find out more about Henri here: Woven in time: Cotton's complex story could have a happy ending
18. Organic Basics
Clean, straightforward style.Organic Basics stock a range of men's and women’s ethical underwear. Their practices and principles are as strong, simple and beautiful as their basics. They only choose fabrics, and work with factories, on the basis that they care for the environment as much as they do. Simple! From super soft bras and simple singlets to multipacks of pants and briefs, all of their materials are natural, renewable, recycled or biodegradable and the classic styles mean they'll be go to pieces in your ethical wardrobe for years to come.
Sustainable British brand Lowie put a trendy and unique spin on everyday style. This brand blends traditional techniques and heritage elements with unique knits and prints. It results comfortable, casual clothes that have a tailored air and a hipster edge.
Lowie are loath to compromise. They aim to fulfill their philosophy of crafting design, ethics and durability into each of their pieces in the following ways: Designer Lowenthal promises that Lowie: ‘aimsto pay our hand makers and small manufacturers a decent price, while small production runs ensure each piece is a limited edition’.
The brand also has an award-winning repairs service. They offer free lifetime repairs on all Lowie products to help elongate the life of your wardrobe, whilst stalling the expansion of the landfill.
Komodo have been around for decades. They’ve been pushing for more ethical fashion for almost 20 years but now more of us are embracing it, they’ve stepped up their designs as well. Spring 2020 for men takes in long sleeved striped organic cotton sweaters and indigo shirts while their sustainable womenswear focuses on oversized sleeved Tencel dresses and busy prints on soft bamboo shirts. This is ethical fashion that’s excellent for everyday and there’s nothing these guys don’t know about being eco-friendly.