Early this year (and clearly bitten by the January Resolutions Bug), we cleaned – nay, overhauled – our closets. I shared the process in this post, which included the 8 simple things you can do right now for happier mornings as you get dressed and ready for the day! But our closet clean out didn’t stop there; it continues daily with a vow to work harder and smarter towards making the more ethical choice in fashion. To be clear, I am so far from being a leader on the topic, but we’re here to learn from each other! We’re taking the first steps. We’re putting in effort. If you haven’t yet, take a read through the comments on that post. You’re so thoughtful in your efforts towards sustainability, and it was really inspiring to learn your take. You make us want to do better.
What does it mean to be ethical?
The definition of ethical (or eco or sustainable) fashion is so incredibly vast, that I think it can feel overwhelming to know where to begin. The definition alone can be the trickiest part to navigate, so I’d like to preface this by saying: Do your part where you can. Try for your best. If you’re questioning your choices in the first place, you’ve already taken the first steps towards the more mindful choice.
But if I can get technical for a moment, to be ethical in our shopping choices encompasses more than just the physical textile. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t want to flub this, so I’ll quote the most clear-cut definition I could find:
Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare. (via)
Consider shopping secondhand.
Perhaps the easiest first step we could all take towards supporting a more circular economy would be to shop secondhand. I’m constantly amazed by our friend and neighbor who has the most incredible thrifted wardrobe, and she owns it. Scott and I love a good flea market or vintage furniture shop more than anything, but when it comes to clothing, we know this is an area where we could improve. In college, the thrift store was my second home, and looking back, I miss that creativity and thrill-of-the-hunt when it comes to finding a unique piece. If sifting through those (admittedly overwhelming) racks of clothing sounds daunting, consider a more curated online approach, such as ThredUp! You can even earn cash or credit when you send them your gently used clothing, too.
So, in summary…
I’m making this list for me as much as for you, because I could stand to put better practices into place. This list is far from complete, but I’ve pulled this list together using the brands you mentioned over and over again in the closet post that started it all, as well as my Instagram callout.* I’ve also double checked these brands against their personal mission statements, a quick Googling and a new-to-me app, Good On You. Good On You has incredibly strict guidelines, and I’ve found that it’s important to read all of their notes on each brand to determine if it’s right for you. Thank you for your feedback, and feel free to leave additional sources for us all in the comments!
*To keep this post from spiraling, I’m sticking to fashion. However, there could easily be an entire post dedicated to beauty and home! Perhaps you’d like to leave some of your favorite beauty and home brands in the comment section? Here are a small handful of our go-tos to start: Thrive Causemetics (I love and use their setting powder), Glossier (cloud paint in puff for life), Milk Makeup, Schoolhouse and Rejuvenation.
shrunken cotton shirt | cotton square crew | high rise button fly
smallbirds runners | men’s runners | women’s tree toppers
3| Eileen Fisher
striped box top | tencel wrap skirt | boyfriend denim jacket
4| Christy Dawn
dawn boot | scarlet dress | frannie sweater
5| Girlfriend Collective
compressive legging | topanga bra | flex bodysuit
oversized slub pocket tee | cotton chambray | wrap dress
7| Whimsy & Row
flora pant | lilah plaid crop | liz jacket
8| Amour Vert
perryn sweater | perla grey pump | ribbed jogger
dari boot | elayna sneaker | mariella mule
10| People Tree
oliana jumpsuit | cornelia tunic | stripey dress
eddie tee | high straight jean | reign top
12| Alternative Apparel
t-shirt dress | powder puff | french terry pants
- Baggu (reusable bags + totes)
- United By Blue
- Boody (undergarments)
And Here Are Helpful Resources to Get You Started:
- Good On You (clothing app)
- Think Dirty (beauty app)
- Why is sustainable fashion so expensive?
Since a lot of ethical brands and items are way beyond my budget I shop exclusively second hand (except for undergarments). Even when I do have money in the budget to shop new I can’t bring myself to do it. As my style elvoles I also dont feel bad about donating something I no longer wear because I didnt spend much to begin with. As an artist, the thrill of the hunt, finding high quality items at a fraction of their usual price and the compliments I get on my looks all appeal to me. Also, I’ve been burned by new clothing looking great until the first washing. What ever still looks great at the thrift store is something I know wasn’t made to be disposed of after one season.
Love this. We definitely need to get back into thrifting for clothing!
Size inclusive brands are hard to find in general and are almost non-existent in ethical clothing. There were a few in there, girlfriend collective for instance, but I would love to be able to find quality made ethical clothing that actually fits. If you’re over a size 14 in lots of cases and over a size 16 in almost all cases it just isn’t out there and you are forced into fast fashion.
That’s a great point, and it’s something I was noticing during the round up. Thank you for calling that out! Does anyone have any other recommendations for a broader size range?
There was a great round-up of eleven ethical clothing brands that offer extended sizes on The Good Trade recently: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/plus-size-ethical-fashion
Thank you, Charla!?
I follow @thegarmentlife on Instagram and she is really conscious about finding ethical brands with inclusive sizing! It has been a good resource to find makers I wouldn’t have thought twice about!
Another rec for The Garment! She seems to be really trying to seek out size inclusive brands and to encourage and support brands to become more size inclusive.
Also check out Marielle Elizabeth on Instagram, she has a lot to say on the topic and currently is doing a survey about size inclusivity https://www.marielleelizabeth.com/sizeinclusivesurvey
I’m a 14, and have had luck shopping at Everlane (though not all their things) and Brass (they have started extending their sizing, and plan to slowly make all styles inclusive!) I know Eileen Fisher goes up in size, and is really oversized anyways.
Instagram has good inspiration from some in-between or plus slow fashion ladies: shannydoots, thecurvycapsule, and marielleelizabeth. The latter has a survey about this http://www.marielleelizabeth.com/sizeinclusivesurvey
Don’t forget PACT! Love their underwear!
I second this! Pact is amazing — so comfortable, soft, and well-made, and if you shop them on sale, no even that expensive! Plus, they have clothing for both women and men, plus kids, something I noticed was a little lacking in this list.
Ooh, good to know! Will check them out. Several of the brands above also carry men’s clothing (and even fewer, kids), but I noticed a general lack in the kids department too. I’m hoping this will change as more of us demand sustainable clothing, although I see children’s clothing be more of a hard sale, since they tend to outgrow them quickly. We love specialty secondhand kids clothing shops (like Once Upon A Child), whenever possible!
Has anyone tried For Days? I’m thinking of trying their t-shirt membership program.
And of course the most sustainable choice of all is to be mindful of what we’re purchasing and buy only what we need and love and will wear instead of falling into the trap of a good deal or “I love it!”
I love a lot of things but I’ve been working on realizing that I don’t need to possess all the things to appreciate them. It’s a process.
Thanks for the round of of brands that are making an effort to be mindful in how they produce their product. I haven’t put as much thought into who I buy from and I know I could do better.
That is the thrift store trap- buying it because it is such a good deal, then never using it.
So. I haven’t bought anything from them yet, but Encircled keeps popping up on my IG as an ethical fashion brand. And their stuff looks beautiful. Plus they have a minimalist wardrobe handbook (for those of us who don’t know how to dress ourselves yet. Le sigh).
Will look into them, thank you!
Great list, but I also love FRANC/wearfranc.com they are ethical and pretty affordable (comparatively), also thier quality is fantastic.
Don’t forget Elizabeth Suzann and Grana
Thank you for blogging about this! It makes me crazy how unethically so many clothes are manufactured.
I love a lot of the brands above, but also love Tonle! They are zero waste as well which is super cool. Another neat way to find more unique ethical pieces is to shop at higher end craft shows – I’ve found some awesome makers that way.
Pact is pretty great for kids basics too. Our 4 yes old has some leggings from them that have washed and worn really well for a year now.
Also for nursing clothes (you know this is on my mind) Boob Design!
More ethically made brands include Prana, Earth Creations, Toad and Co. And possibly Patagonia (not positive though).
Here’s an eye opening podcast episode on outlet shopping and mainstream manufacturing in case you’re interested https://www.maximumfun.org/adam-ruins-everything/adam-ruins-everything-episode-22-why-fast-fashion-fails-us
Ps: I could go on about this for days, but for beauty a few brands include Osmia Organics (I’m so in love with the quality, it’s well worth the price!) and SmartyPits Deodorant.
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture is still ethically made in North Carolina, as are several other brands.
Wildly Co kids clothes are ethically made in NC – I’ve seen the factory first hand!
Ok, I’ll stop now :)
Thank you so much, Jane!!
I’m playing catch up on my reading today (mom life) and was so psyched to see this post! I’ve become very interested in ethical fashion this year. I also highly recommend Fair Indigo – they’re organic cotton and fair trade. At first I was hesitant to buy from them because the styling on the website can seem a bit plain or dated, but in person the t-shirts and tanks are super nice everyday staples at attainable price points. They literally are “forever in fashion” type pieces. Elegantees is another fair trade brand that makes organic cotton pieces (including Mommy & Me styles!). They provide fair employment to women in Nepal who have escaped sex trafficking.
There are also a ton of great ethical jewelry lines like Noonday Collection, Sela Designs, 31 Bits, Starfish Project, Redemption Market, etc. The price points are about the same as traditional retail stores but they’re made by artisans paid fair wages.
I didn’t meant to post so much – this is just a really exciting topic for me and I look forward to the day when ethically made clothing is the standard.
Thank you so much, Stephanie!!
Checkout WAMA Underwear. All of the underwear is made out of hemp which is the world’s most sustainable fabric. There are men and women styles and everyone gets 20% off their first order!! https://wamaunderwear.com/