Is it just me or do clothes wear out way to quickly? Maybe I’m just hard on them. I dread having to replace them because sourcing ethical sustainable clothing on a budget is no easy thing. We all know that the fashion industry generates a huge amount of waste and pollution, with a recent report citing fashion as the 4th most polluting industry in the world. Being keen to try before I buy I continually scour charity shops for clothes but for some reason I never seem to find anything I like that fits so I’m often faced with having to buy new from sustainable ethical retailers online.
I appreciate that everyone’s definition of ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ differs. For most of us it includes no fur! For others it means no animal derived products like wool, silk or leather but even if you’re okay with using animal derived fabric you may baulk at mainstream silk which typically involves boiling the silk worms alive when the fibre is harvested. I’ve compiled a separate post on the sustainability / ethics of the most popular fibre types. You can use this to decide your own definition of ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’. Just remember, sometimes all we can do it make the least bad choice.
And when you’re ready to shop here are some companies that caught my eye in my search for sustainable, ethical, Europe-based clothing companies. I have included some non-European brands where there is an Irish stockist. If you’re looking at clothing in stores here’s a helpful guide on how to spot good quality clothing
Post Publication Note: I’ve decided to cull some of the brands I’ve listed here. That might sound like a bad thing, it’s not. As more and more sustainable ethical clothing brands come onto the market I think it’s only right that we refine our definition for sustainable ethical clothing. The one I’m going to work off is based on my own understanding of sustainable clothing manufacture and is subject to change as I learn more. For the moment a company has to satisfy at least two of the criteria listed below in order to be added to this blog post.
- use certified organic fabric or have GOTS certification for an entire supply chain
- use recycled fabric
- use existing fabric (end of roll or offcuts) or upcycle end-of-line or donated clothes
- make clothes locally from fabric made within the same or nearby country
- are fairwear or fairtrade certified
- actively work against fashion cycles and fast fashion selling methods
- are part of a social enterprise or donate a reasonable percentage of sales to charities or NGO’s
- have credible waste minimisation procedures for themselves and their customers
You may notice a couple of small independent Irish and UK brands listed that only satisfy one criteria. This is because I believe buying local is central to living sustainably so if an Irish company is making clothes in Ireland from locally grown / raised / sourced fabric I’m going to cut them some slack.
Also the criteria I apply to other areas, like underwear or bags, will most likely differ because each market is at different stages of development and involve different challenges. As a market grows I’ll redefine the criteria for them too.
Grown is an Irish company that aims to only use fully organic, biodegradable and recyclable products. They make t-shirts from Tencel and organic cotton and they plant a native Irish tree for every t-shirt that they sell. They donate 1% of our annual sales to help protect the environment and to celebrate Earth Day they planted 150 indigenous Irish trees on the grounds of Ballinlough Castle in collaboration with the Body & Soul festival.
Fresh Cuts is another Irish owned ethical clothing brand offering garments for men and women in cotton, organic cotton, bamboo, recycled cotton and recycled polyester and rayon. They claim that all of their suppliers are focused on socially responsibility with a zero tolerance policy with regard to child labour, forced labour and excessive working hours, and some of their suppliers of Fair Wear Foundation, an organisation set up to uphold these policies. They also have the GOTS logo for organic cotton and the Soil Association’s Organic logo on their website. You can buy their clothing online or in their store in Dublin 2. They also sells clothing from other ethical brands including Armed Angels, Dedicated, Mud Jeans, Monkee Jeans.
Due South are a new eco clothing brand on the Irish scene – spotted by me at Bloom 2018. They make t-shirts, hoodies and sweaters from organic cotton, recycled cotton and recycled post-consumer (very important) PET. The garments made from recycled PET are blended with offcuts from organic cotton. This is a great use of the organic off cuts but blending fibres currently makes the final fabric un-recyclable, which is a pity. Their t-shirts are printed by hand in Ireland.
Bebhinn is an Irish brand creating a boutique collection of modern pieces made from Irish linen and Irish merino in Ireland.
Attention Attire made clothing from discarded tents and camping gear.
The New Art Tribe offer t-shirts and hoodies made from GOTS organic blended with recycled polyester and decorated with celtic inspired motifs.
Patagonia is a high-street and online outdoor clothing company that sell clothing and accessories made from recycled soda bottles and organic cotton printed with PVC- and phthalate-free inks.
On their website they give details on how they work with factories and mills to ensure ethical work-practices, good working conditions and processes that are less harmful to the environment. They say they are particularly invested in protecting migrant workings and guarding against child labour and human trafficking. The company also gives 1% of their sales to support environmental organizations around the world.
In an effort to help people move away from the idea of disposal fashion Patagonia launched their ‘Worn Wear’ campaign. They believe that one of the most responsible things that a company can do, is make high-quality stuff that lasts for years and can be repaired, so you don’t have to buy more of it. The ‘Worn Wear’ program celebrates the stories behind clothes, keeps gear in action longer and provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they’re beyond repair. Patagonia employs 45 full-time repair technicians at our service center in Reno, Nevada, which completes about 30,000 repairs per year. They’ve also teamed up with iFixit to create care and repair guides so customers can repair themselves. Recently they’ve begun selling used Patagonia clothing and merchandise in 5 cities in the US with plans to expand this initiative.
There is tons of information on the Patagonia website about the ethical and sustainable way they do business. I found the Environmental Assessment of Materials in Clothing particularly interesting. It talks about the reality behind some fabrics that are being sold as green.
With a philosophy of buying less and choosing well, Theo and George are an Irish brand, designing and selling select pieces made in factories that the company states maintains the highest ethical and sustainable production standards, some in Italy and Portugal, but no independent certification was quoted. They state that all of their packaging is reusable and/or recyclable and that they are committed to never send unnecessary waste. They have also partnered with a textile recycling company in Dublin.
Alice Halliday is a Cork based ethical fashion designer, specialising in unique made-to-measure Bohemian Bridal Couture & Event Wear. Her range includes dresses, separates, capes, veils & headpieces. Inspired by nature & nostalgia, every piece is created by hand, using vintage, antique and sustainably sourced materials.
Squirrel and Magpie is an Irish women’s wear design company offering some garments made from GOTS certified organic silk, recycled fabrics and GOTS certified organic cotton jersey. They also use digital printing to cut down on the environmental impact of the dying process. They work with a factory in Poland and one in Italy. Some of their garments are blended fibres, which would make them un-recyclable at the end of their life.
If designer brands are more your thing then check out the range of pre-loved designer clothing at Siopaella, either online or in their store in Dublin.
Northface Clothing have started to sell refurbished clothing from their website. Click the link to learn more.
Thought (formerly Braintree) is a UK-based clothing brand that aims to ensure that their fabrics and how our garments are designed, made and delivered is carefully considered and done so ethically, with the greater aim of minimising their environmental footprint. They offer clothing in wool, organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, recycled polyester, rayon, tencel and modal. The dyes they use are free from Azo (which they say is a harmful carcinogen) and they claim that their finishes are as environmentally friendly as possible. They only source wool from farms that comply with their Animal Welfare policy. Each piece of their collection is made in the same country so never needs to be shipped from place to place and when it is time to transport them they claim to choose a slow option with great consideration for the environment. They’re also a founding member of the Ethical Fashion Forum.
People Tree in the UK has been named as the Best Ethical Fashion Brand by the Observer and Best Ethical e-tailor by Cosmopolitan, twice. They are accredited by the WFTO, the Fairtrade Foundation, and the Soil Association. Most of People Tree’s organic cotton also carries the Fairtrade Mark and is certified in India by Control Union (an international Dutch based organic certification body). Their new colours for organic clothing are also said to meet stringent requirements for organic dyes and they explain that although some of our organic cotton products use low impact dyes they don’t carry the mark because the screen print workshop they want to support a small family run business that are working towards meeting the organic criteria. Other garments are dyed using with safe GOTS certified and azo-free dyes. They also have 9 stockists around Ireland.
Nomads in the UK offer fair trade clothing in certified organic cotton and non-organic cotton since 1989. They are a member of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) and the British Association of Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS). A percentage of Nomads profits are used to support TAMWED, a non-profit charity based in south India.
Loskey offer timeless Fairtrade t-shirts made in GOTS certified organic cotton. They also use paper made from elephant and rhino dung for their labels,100% recycled cardboard for their mailbox packaging, off-cuts from t-shirt manufacture as the ties.
Some of the garments made by Birdsong in the UK are made from Tencel and organic cotton. All their garments are made either directly to women paid a London living wage, or to the charities that support them. They also work in the comfort and safety of their women’s group or charity. That often means they’re around counsellors, friends and professional mentors. They also refuse to do any photoshopping in their marketing photographs.
Ria Burns is a UK based artisan maker of knitted garments from local plant dyed British yarn.
UK brand Vildnis make clothing from Tencel, certified organic cotton, certified organic linen, recycled merino and recycled polyester in a small factory in Portugal. They avoid angora, fur and any non-certified wool. The company say that they are committed to using environmentally friendly packaging, and choosing carbon neutral couriers. Unfortunately a few of their garments are made with blended fibres which would make them non-recyclable and non-compostable. They also use an less toxic form of polyurethane and a fabric called Seacell, which is a fabric made from sustainably harvested seaweed which is certified as being compostable.
UK-based Komodo make garments in GOTS certified hemp, meusling-free wool, bamboo, rayon, Tencel, linen, soya and GOTS certified organic cotton. They also use recycled rubber in their shoes. KOMODO is a member of the Ethical Fashion Forum, and their London offices has CarbonNeutral® status. The majority of the factories that they work hold certifications like SA8000 and GOTS or are independently audited by bodies like UL and the company visits them regularly to assess conditions.
UK based Rakha’s approach to design and garment making is sustainability, through products made from eco-friendly or repurposed materials which can be bio-degraded or re-cycled, whilst contributing to the development of sustainable communities throughout our supply chain. They aim to work only with green manufacturers, with established environmental management systems, standards and certifications, limiting the carbon impact of our operations. They also aim to use only recycled or bio-degradable materials for our garments and all of their organic or sustainable materials are certified. The fabrics they use include; Woolmark certified Merino Wools , (GOTS) certified Organic Cotton, Bamboo, Lenzing certified cellulose fibers, and (Rpet) Recycled Fabrics.
UK based Outsider offers some very stylish well-priced clothing from undyed cotton, organic cotton, hemp and hemp silk, bamboo, merino wool, Tencel, silk and Peace Silk/ Eri Silk (made from the spent cocoons of the wild Eri moth and therefore cruelty-free). The company works with three factories, one in the UK, one in India and one in Macedonia and they say that they visit the factories regularly and have ensured the working hours and pay are fair and conditions are of a high standard. They also source their organic cotton in India, so as to minimise transportation and the resulting carbon emissions. No independent certification visible on their website.
UK-based Beaumont Organics is an international ethical ladies wear brand that uses organic, fairtrade and eco fabrics. They use off-cuts where they can for sampling and limit travel to subsidiaries in other countries to a minimum in order to reduce their carbon footprint.
Based in Bath, England Bibico use 100% natural materials to make garments, including organic cotton. Currently they work with two women’s cooperatives that are both fair trade certified by the WFTO. The cooperatives provide women with training, education and work, empowering them to move themselves and their children forward and out of the world of poverty.
All Nancy Dee garments are manufactured in Britain and their fabrics are mostly made from renewable natural sources such as soya, bamboo and organic cotton, or rayon. Some items are made using up-cycled material that would otherwise be consigned to land-fill. Additionally their patterns are designed to minimise fabric wastage and leftover fabric is used for the following season’s samples, or re-dyed and used for a brand new design and most of their pieces can be machine washed.
UK-based Palava make the most delightful ‘storybook’ dresses and skirts for women and children out of GOTS certified organic cotton in factories in Turkey, Romania, and Lithuania.
Earth Kind Originals have their certified organic cotton and Tencel easywear made in Izmir on the coast of Turkey in a small factory that they have been working with for four years. All workers at the factory are over 19 years old, receive a fair, fixed salary for their hard work and work decent hours.
Sanchos Dress is a UK store retailing certified fair trade and/or organic clothing constructed from sustainable natural materials. Their clothing is available from an Irish retailer Ethical Souls Boutique
Ally Bee is a UK brand that makes knitwear in Scotland and the UK, predominantly from yarn sourced in the UK, including wool, cashmere and alpaca. Any merino sourced is non-mulesed and most is C2C certification from the Cradle to Cradle Institute, which audits herd traceability, fair payment of farmers for their fleece, spinning and dyeing using 100% renewable power and clean water dyes. They use plastic-free packaging for shipping of recycled kraft cardboard packing boxes, water soluble packaging tape and no plastic bags. Ally Bee is also a member of the Ethical Fashion Forum and Common Objective.
Silverstick in the UK make long-lasting adventure clothing from GOTS certified organic fabric dyed with azo and chlorine free clothing dyes and made in an accredited factory in Portugal.
Wales based Howies offer casual clothing made from organic cotton and recycled polyethylene.
Currently ranked the UK’s most ethical menswear brand by Ethical Consumer Magazine, THTC is a clothing label that produces eco-friendly, politically conscious street wear from hemp, carbon-neutral organic cotton, and recycled salvage plastic fibres. They also resell organic cotton from Stanley & Stella, who are members of the Fair Wear Foundation – an organisation that helps ensure that garment workers are paid a fair wage. All of their cotton garments are GOTS certified, and their company is ranked in the Responsible 100; an index of socially and environmentally responsible companies in the UK.
Most of t-shirts and sweatshirts made by UK brand Lost Shapes are from the EarthPositive range by Continental Clothing. EarthPositive Apparel is 100% organic with 90% Reduced CO2, and Fairwear Foundation approved. The company also prints on Continental Clothing’s Salvage range – sweatshirts and t-shirts made from recycled organic cotton and recycled polyester. Some of their tops are made from Tencel fibre made from eucalyptus fibre, while others are produced by the trade company Stanley and Stella clothing, who use only Fair Wear certified organic cotton, or other sustainable fabrics such as tencel or recycled polyester. They ink used by Lost Shapes does not contain CFC’s, HCFC’s, aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile solvents, lead, heavy metals or any toxic chemicals , and is suitable for vegans. And as they do not use photo emulsions for their screens they are also able to do away with the need for solvents in the cleaning process. They also provide plastic free packaging, all of which is recyclable, and most recycled.
Finisterre is a UK-based company that promises innovation built to last from responsibly sourced fabrics and factories while developing relationships with people they believe in. In 2005 the company decided to place wool at the centre of Finisterre’s fabric development. They forged a relationship with Lesley Prior, a small UK-based farmer of Bowmont Merino sheep. Once the sheep are sheared, they transport and hand deliver the bales of fleece to the spinners in Yorkshire, where it is scoured, combed and spun into yarn. It is then dyed and knitted into jumpers and beanies in Scotland. True to their philosophy of building things to last the company offers a repair service on their jackets. They also offer swimwear made from ECONYL®, a nylon yarn recycled from old fishing nets and other waste material and they donate 10% of profits from the sale of ECONYL® swimwear to Surfers Against Sewage, an environmental charity protecting UK waves, oceans and beaches.
Rapanui was started in a shed on the Isle of Wight with £200 by brothers Rob & Mart. The products they design and produce are made from organic cotton, recycled PET bottles or British Wool, using low waste printing technology in an ethically accredited, wind powered factory. Their products can be traced from seed to shop and they give credit notes to anyone who free-posts one of their garments back to them at the end of its life. The also support employment for residents of the Isle of Wight and have made their supply chain open-access so that anyone can build a businesses using their tech and supply chain, for free.
UK brand Cossac use organic cotton, Tencel and modal to make garments in ISO and GOTS-certified factories in Portugal and Turkey and they say that they regularly travel to their factory partners to make sure the processes are overseen and are compliant with ethical production standards. They keep paper waste to a minimum and their business cards, swing-tags and boxes are made from recycled paper.
Zola Amour‘s long-lasting capsule wardrobe garments are ethically handmade in the UK from natural, certified organic certified fabrics and textiles given a second life. From the recycled polyester zips on their trousers to the shell buttons used to fasten their shirts, they claim that every item is considered by ensuring all the materials used are fully biodegradable or recyclable. They also use GOTS organic cotton threads to stitch. I did notice that they state that their OEKO-TEX bamboo fabric is biodegradable. I have never come across research that has established this to be the case.
Madia & Matilda in the Cotswolds in England make clothing from old garments and remnants, some of which are organic. The garments they upcycle are sourced from markets, kilo sales, textile recycling centres, ex-stock/end of line and old stores that have closed down.
Fabric for Freedom in the UK make clothing in the UK from organic and recycled materials, including ends of rolls.
Ethcs make t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants from organic cotton in Fairwear certified factories. They say that they use little packaging and no frills to keep waste to a minimum.
Wawwa Clothing make fairtrade and vegan certified clothing from recycled polyester and organic cotton. They use factories that use sustainable energy such as wind and solar power, plant a tree for every printed item ordered and donate hats and other garments to the homeless. They are also a living wage employer and the packaging they use is plant-based and compostable both in an industrial composter and a home composter.
Gung Ho Design in London from fabric like Tencel, which is substantially biodegradable, and organic cotton. Some of their garments are made in Fairwear certified factories in India, while others are made in London. To minimise waste the company only offers two sizes on some of it’s garments.
Raeburn make clothing for men and women from sustainable fabrics in England sometimes in collaboration with big brands like Timerland or Finnistere. They underlying principle is for everything to be remade, reused or recycled. Whether reworking surplus materials, minimising carbon footprint with local manufacturing, or simply producing smaller batches, they believe that waste can be always be reduced. They also offer free repairs on their garments.
Doc Cotton make garments, to order, from sustainable cotton in London. All of their staff are paid a living wage. They also give apprenticeships to those that live locally.
Zaramia Ava are against fast fashion and state that all of their garments are designed to be timeless, most of them lined to increase durability. They are season-less made to be worn any time of year, produced with quality, and made to last. They also try to minimise waste at every opportunity and most of their garments are handmade to order in the UK, unless stated otherwise. They use end-of-roll fabrics and organic fabric and pattern cutting and fabric cutting is done to eliminate the amount of waste. They also recycle what they use including all fabric-off cuts, samples, pattern paper, card etc
Where does it come from sell organic cotton shirts made from cotton grown in India and spun and woven by hand by workers in a local co-operative, part of the khadi movement promoted by Gandhi to support traditional skills and empower rural workers, particularly women. Virtually no carbon is used during production plus they use low water techniques and eco-friendly dyes. The shirts are 100% plastic free with either wood or shell used for the buttons. They package their orders using recycled tissue and double thickness re-usable posting envelopes and have worked with the Tiny Box Company to create shirt boxes from recyclable cardboard. Wherever they do use plastic they’re working to eliminate it. The company is a Fairtrade company and a member of British Association of Fairtrade shops and suppliers, which assesses their sustainable and ethical procedures annually. They work with a fairtrade accredited supplier Moral Fibres for their children’s denim clothing range. The company also collaborate with charities on fundraising initiatives.
The Natural Edition sell classically-styled GOTS certified organic items in recycled cardboard packaging, which they say has allowed them to remove all plastic from their supply chain. They also plant trees with the non-profit One Tree Planted
Outland Denim is an Australian brand with a UK outlet working to offer sustainable employment and training opportunities to women who have experienced exploitation in Cambodia, through the sale of long-lasting organic cotton jeans made with water and energy saving production methods. It is also a B-corp.
Well out of my price-range but stunning all the same are the garments from Mother of Pearl, a UK based sustainable clothing brand that makes high-end clothing from certified organic natural fibres and recycled wool. All of their new wool is non-muesling and they streamline their production line so that garments travel as little as possible. They also trace the entire supply chain for their garments to ensure it’s fairness and sustainability. Finally the digitally print their textiles in Britain, stating that digital printing uses less ink than other forms of printing.
Cariki make t-shirts for men and women from organic cotton, Tencel and recyled polyester which they source from factories that have Fair Trade or Fair Wear policies and are WRAP (worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certified. They also state that they try to reuse and reduce waste as much as possible throughout the lifecycle of their products.
Gnarly Tree make all their t-shirts and hoodies in factories affiliated with the Fair Wear Foundation from GOTS standard organic cotton, Tencel and Modal, and printed with water-based inks. They also use recyclable sleeves and paper bags for packaging
One Denim sells jeans made with less carbon emissions and water than traditional jeans. According to them their production methods use 98% less water wasted in our production process and achieve a 92% reduction in greenhouse emissions. They also state that their cotton is grown with 65% less water and with no pesticides. Some of their fabrics are organic and some recycled. They also use recyclable shipping boxes.
Hiut Denim Co offer repairs for life on their Welsh made jeans.
Eco Wear sells GOTS organic cotton and recycled polyester garments for men, women and children.
Ascension Clothing in the UK offer very well priced certified organic cotton t-shirts manufactured solely using renewable green energy generated from wind and solar power in fairly traded factories and printed with environmentally friendly processes. They also donate 10% of their gross profits to charity.
Chandni Chowk in the UK sell handprinted and hand-dyed Indian styled clothing, all of which is said to be fair-trade and some of which is said to be organic cotton, although no certification is mentioned on their website.
Namaste Clothing in the UK claims to sell clothes that have been made fairly but it doesn’t appear to be accredited as such by any independent organisation, although it says it is recognised by BAFTS, the British Association for Fair Trade Shops as a fair trade importer. Their products are printed with azo-free dyes and they say that many of their products are made entirely from recycled materials.
Mossberry Clothing is a UK company that claims to sell only products that are manufactured ethically and have the lowest possible impact on our environment. Their current collection includes tops and dresses in block-printed fabrics from Anokhi in India, organic cotton wear from Ideo in France and chic evening dresses from Les Fees de Bengale, and organic cotton children’s clothes from La Queue Du Chat. They say that their packaging is recycled, recyclable or biodegradable, that they are Ethical Junction Members and in the Book of Green (whatever that is!). They vow to visit their manufacturers every year to ensure their ethical standards are maintained but there is no sign of independent verification or certification on their website.
The New Zealand brand Kathmandu, who have stockists in the UK, buy carbon credits to offset their air travel and recycled 100% of their polybags in New Zealand. They also work with small cooperatives that provide employment to disadvantaged individuals and say that they’re working towards being Zero Waste. They have few garments made from recycled fibres and organic cotton, but some are blended fabrics, making them un-recyclable. They’ve also have a range of hoodies, earthcolour, dyed with plant based dyes instead of petrochemical dyes. I’m mentioning them here because they have UK Stockists.
Although not all of the clothing from UK brand The Level Collection satisfies my definition of sustainable, quite a few do and I like their socially positive business model. Their 100% organic crew neck sweaters are manufactured using only renewable green energy from wind and solar power and their printed garments are done by hand in the UK using water-based eco inks. And although not all organic, all of their T-shirts, sweaters and hoodies are FairWear Foundation approved. The beanies they sell are handmade in Romania in collaboration with a social enterprise creating opportunities for families to help themselves out of poverty.
Weekday is a H&M spin off selling clothing in organic cotton and recycled fibre. They’ve stores worldwide with the closest being in the UK.
The Netherlands / Holland
Dutch brand Hood Lamb make vegan clothing for men and women from GOTS certified organic hemp and recycled materials. They are a PETA approved brand and support Sea Shepherd in their defence of marine wildlife worldwide. They also donate at least one percent of annual revenue ‘to help create a more healthy planet’.
Mud Jeans in the Netherlands don’t sell jeans, they rent them! And when the jeans have reached the end of their life they recycle them in factories in Spain or Italy. You can watch how they recycle the old jeans here. They’ve also managed to remove the need for damaging chemicals (potassium permanganate) in the treatment of jean fabric. Instead they use a laser and ozone, which is converted back to ordinary oxygen before being released back into the environment. Also the companies claim that using Ozone over chemical bleaching or stonewashing reduces the number of washes and rinses down from the standard 6-7 to 2-3, and that this new techniques results in stronger jeans because the yarns are damaged less than it would be by the manual brushing employed with the traditional sandpaper and potassium permanganate technique. The fabrics they use contain at least 98% of cotton, they only use printed logo’s, use hangtags made out of recycled paper and buttons made out of recycled cotton on their knits. The company also avoid polybags in their packing and only use send out its products with RePack, a returnable and reusable packaging. The company doesn’t appear to be certified as Fair Trade but there is an audit report of one of it’s factories in Tunisia available on its website. You can get some of their jeans from Fresh Cuts in Dublin 2.
Kings of Indigo are a Dutch brand making long-lasting, fairtrade jeans, and other clothing for men and women with a high percentage of sustainable fabrics. They are members of the Fair Wear Foundation and BSCI and they state that their products are made from materials consisting of (at least) 90% sustainable fibres such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled wool, organic wool, TENCEL®, MODAL ®,hemp and linen. They use laser and ice blast for abrasion, rather than water, ozone for a washed effect and eco chemicals instead of chemical sprays. As water waste is huge in denim production, all of the water used in their laundries is intensively cleaned and recycled where possible. All of their paper tags and packaging are made from recycled paper and they use recycled boxes for shipping their bulk goods. The company also repairs and recycles garments.
Kuyichi in the Netherlands make garments from GOTS certified organic cotton, recycled cotton and recycled polyester. Kuyichi has joined Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to improving labour conditions for garment workers around the world.
Based in the Netherlands Rhumaa have garments made from natural fabrics including organic cotton in factories in Peru, Portugal and Turkey. They also say that they recycle fabrics, and look for ways to reduce waste and repurpose where they can. The company also has a foundation with the goal by supporting projects to help art communities, fair fashion and sustainability. Every time a purchase is made, they make a donation via the foundation to organisations, like ‘Learn to Earn’, who development creative skills for young people and then help them to find jobs.
Unrecorded use GOTS certified organic cotton and closed-loop dying processes that are free of toxic chemicals in making their garments. They don’t design seasonable collections, encouraging us to wear a clothes longer and minimising fabric waste in the factory. They also give vouchers for any returned garments, which being a single fibre fabric is fully recyclable.
Lanius is a German company making ethical sustainable clothing from natural fibres including organic cotton and wool. Also the entire production of some of their garments have GOTS organic certification, which is no easy feat. The company also uses factorie, that have various certificates to ensure the social standards in the company, including GOTS certificate, the SA8000 standard, the WRAP certificate, the BSCI Code of Conduct and the audit by the Fair Wear Foundation. Exceptions are made by small family businesses, which work according to our social standards and which we visit regularly on a regular basis. some of their garments GOTS certified organic fabric, some of which are GOTS certified. Although the company does use some animal products in their clothing, they also offer some vegan clothing, which has been softened without animal products. You can read a full list of the materials that they use here.
Gundrun Sjoden in Germany uses fabrics including organically grown cotton, naturally retted flax, Tencel® Lyocell, Lenzing Modal®, silk, alpaca, recycled fibres, vegetable tanned and dyed leather along with wood and rubber. Their manufacturers are certified to standards such as GOTS, Fairtrade and STeP by OEKO-TEX. The company also sell some items for charity.
Thokk Thokk is a German brand offering casual clothing made from organic cotton, sometimes blended with synthetic fibres. They have a Fairtrade Licence for its basic shirts and is certified as being organic by GOTS. They also offer free shipping.
Skunkfunk are a German brand that make some garments from recycled polyester, Tencel, organic cotton, recycled leather, linen, ramie or hemp. They claim to work side-by-side with their suppliers, in China and India, to ensure our production complies with international standards. (BSCI, ETI, FLA, FWF, SA 8000 or WRAP.) They reuse 2% of their cardboard boxes from shipments, use bioplastic bags as an alternative to traditional plastic bags and use recycled cotton paper for their tags. In terms of carbon footprint, 90% of their goods are transported by sea freight, 42% of their online store shipments are carbon neutral and their headquarters are 100% powered by renewable energy, certified by Goiener. Conveniently they have a store on 2 Blooms Lane in the Italian Quarter in Dublin 1.
Wunderwerk is a German men and women’s clothing brand using only certified fabrics such as organic cotton and what they call low-carbon fabric like beech wood and eucalyptus (rayon). They avoid using plastic in all of their accessories such as zips, tags and packaging. More than 90% of their production and finishing takes place in Italy and Portugal or other European manufacturing facilities and using innovative and environmentally friendly denim-washings methods they have reduced water consumption per jeans from 90 to 160 litres down to 3 to 9 litres. They also use less damaging dye techniques and restrict the usage of polluting chemicals like chlorine and potassium permanganate in their manufacturing processes.
Armed Angels is a German brand making ethical fairtrade clothing for men, women and children using only sustainable materials such as organic cotton, organic linen, organic wool, recycled polyester, Lenzing Modal® and Tencel®. They have been GOTS certified since 2011 and work with Fairtrade and Fair Wear Foundation to ensure they are working to ethical standards. They are stocked by Fresh Cuts and Genius in Dublin 2.
Living Crafts is a German fair and certified organic clothing brand. Their organic textiles are certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) along the whole value creation chain. They say that they also pay attention to the working conditions of the producers and to fair trade and the company is an official member of the Fair Wear Foundation . They offer a range of clothing for men, women and children, including underwear and some homeware made from organic cotton, organic wool, organic linen or silk.
Jan n June is a Hamburg based clothing label that uses a factory in Poland to make its garments from GOTS certified organic cotton, GOTS certified linen, GRS certified recycled polyester, GRS certified recycledpolyamide and Tencel. They’re fabrics are certified OEKO-TEK, meaning they’re free from a set list of toxic chemicals. They’ve linked up with social enterprises to make use of any offcuts from production and unlike most clothing companies they do not ship their clothes in plastic. They also minimise waste and use recycled paper throughout the company, as well as reusing boxes as much as possible before sending for recycling.
Germany company Langer Chen makes coats from organic cotton, eco-wool, Tencel, organic linen and recycled polyester in their own factory in China. With the goal of making demonstrating that not all clothing from China needs to be fast fashion in 2009 the founders of this company opened a Jiecco textile plant just outside of Shanghai. Now the Jiecco facility is a GOTS certified organic and fair facility that specialises in the production of sustainable fashion. Some of their garments are blended with synthetic fibres which would make some of them non-recyclable and non-compostable.
Monkind make organic clothing Portugal, in factories that have either already met the requirements to be certified under the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), or are actively working towards this certification. They state that the bags that they pack finished items in are 100% recycled and 100% biodegradable. The company also only uses electricity created from renewable energy sources and recycled paper in the office. They also ship all of their items from either our warehouse located close to their production in Portugal or their warehouse in the Netherlands, whichever is closest to the customer. Interestingly they explain that they don’t do free returns and explain that often free returns result in lots of perfectly good clothing being destroyed because large retailers don’t want to invest the time or money in processing them.
Ekyog make clothing from GOTS certified organic cotton, linen, Lyocell and Modal, recycled polyester, silk, wool and naturally tanned leathers. They state that their own ethical charter goes beyond the regulations and that they ask their partners to guarantee the traceability of the models, from the material supply to the confection, including the dyes.
Sezane have a large range of clothing in natural fibres (85%) with about 10% of that in what the company call ‘eco-friendly’ fabrics such as flax and are working to increase that percentage. They’ve reduced the proportion of synthetic fabric to 15% and around a third of their leather products are vegetable-tanned. Two-thirds of Sézane’s designs are produced in Europe, and the rest is produced in the most appropriate countries globally. Some of Sézane’s knits and all of their silks are produced in China in factories that they state that they inspect regularly. All of their shoes are now manufactured in Europe, in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In 2018, the company sent over one million euros to charity. All of their French-made cardboard boxes are made from FSC-certified and/or recycled cardboard. Whenever possible, they replace boxes with envelopes that are lighter (and hence less carbon-intensive to ship). (Source: Ecocult)
Two Thirds is a Spanish brand offering clothing from men and women, some of which are made from organic or recycled fabric. Their buttons are made from vegetable ivory (corozo), their zippers come from a company that only manufactures in Europe (YKK) and the padding in their jackets is raw cotton and therefore 100% biodegradable. They also avoid using leather on their clothing and have vegan backpacks made from canvas.
Diarte in Spain only use materials from European suppliers and the production for knits and woven garmetns is 100% made in Spain. Also all yarns for Diarte knits have an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification.
Ecoalf is a Spanish clothing brand for men and women that uses recycled wool, recycled cotton, recycled polyester (from plastic bottles) and recycled nylon (from fishing nets) to make clothing. They even combine used coffee grounds with recycled polyester to make yarn and make flip flops from Recycled Tyres. Through it’s foundation Ecoalf are involved in a project to clean our oceans of waste called Upcycling the Oceans
Thinking Mu is a Spanish brand offering fairtrade certified clothing, some made from organic cotton or organic merino for men and women. Unfortunately their website doesn’t list the fabric used to make each garment.
Cus from Spain make garments from linen, recycled cotton, Tencel, recycled wool, hemp and GOTS certified organic cotton and organic wool. Garments in their Cus VIVA range are fully GOTS certified, meaning that all the suppliers involved in the production of each of their certified garments undergo periodic on-site inspections to certify environmental and social responsibility. Some of their garments are blended with synthetic fibres which would make some of them non-recyclable and non-compostable.
Portuguese brand Naz make clothing from natural fibres, including organic cotton, and Lyocell in Portugal in factories that they say treat their employees fairly.
Danish brand Klit Moller Collective use sustainable materials whenever possible, including organic cotton, linen and natural fibres such as merino and lambswool. They currently produce in Portugal and Germany at smaller, mostly family owned, factories, that they visit on a regular basis. They deliver all of their products in recycled paper bags and cartons and aim to minimise packaging a much as possible. No evidence of independent certification was visible.
Danish brand Serendipity Organic are best know for children’s clothing but they also offer a few items of women’s clothing, made from 100% organic cotton yarns that are GOTS certified. All of their cotton garments are Fair Trade certified (SA 8000) and most are GOTS certified in full finish, meaning the entire production process from cotton growth and spinning to finished production lives up to the standards set forward in Global Organic Textile Standards. Their digitally printed garment are not GOTS certified but the company says it also use low-impact colours on them and that the prints are fully tested and adhered to the strictest regulations. Also the filling in their our quilted products is 100% organic cotton and GOTS certified and all buttons are made from either seashell, coconut or taugua nut. When a natural alternative the company chooses nickel free products. Production of their cotton garments takes place in India, where their certified organic cotton is also grown, thus avoiding excess transportation, while their Alpaca & Ilama wool styles are semi-handmade or fully handmade in Bolivia from Bolivian or Peruvian yarn by small groups of women.
Colourful Standard simply make colourful simple t-shirts and jumpers from organic cotton in Portugal. They also donate 5% of their profits to a charity football club and activity centre they set up for kids in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dedicated Brand is a Swedish company offering clothing and headwear for men and women made from organic and certified Fairtrade cotton and recycled polyester from plastic bottles. On their website they provide information on the certificates each of the factories they use have, some of which don’t appear to have independent certification for fair working conditions. Also just to note that their cotton is organic but it isn’t certified as such, it’s only certified as Fairtrade. You can get some of their clothing from Fresh Cuts in Dublin 2.
Maska in Sweden create long lasting knitwear from organic cotton, hemp, wool, cashmere, silk and Tencel that seldom need laundering and require lower washing temperatures. All of their knitwear yarn is spun in Europe apart from the cashmere and silk blend, and all knitwear is produced in the EU following the labour laws of the European Union, apart from one style which is produced in Nepal at a Swedish-owned factory, which complies with guidelines set by the Fair Wear Foundation. No evidence of independent certification was visible.
BYEM in Sweden fashion clothing for women from certified organic fabric. In fact, not only is their fabric GOTS certified but their entire supply chain is certified, which is very unusual. They state that they only work with companies that provide fair working conditions and who can prove that their supply chain is free of child and slave labour. They also plant, through the Swedish aid agency Läkarmissionen, a plant in South Sudan every time an order is shipped.
Nudie Jeans makes jeans from GOTS and Fairtrade certified organic cotton in a water and energy efficient manner in Fair Wear certified factories. They also reuse denim from old Nudie jeans, either using them as patches or turning them into shorts. Some of denim is recycled and integrated into the fabric for new jeans. Their knitwear includes recycled merino wool and they offer free repairs on all their garments for life. They’ve also replaced their leather waist patch with a vegan friendly paper one.
Amendi makes timeless garments in organic cotton and recycled fabric. They promote transparency and you can search the supply chain of your garment by entering the SKU number on the label. Also their swing tags display the carbon emissions, water used, and cost breakdown of a garment. All of their suppliers are based in Turkey and they provide details on who they are. The company donates to charity and during the coronavirus pandemic donated 25% of their profits to the Salvation Army in Stockholm.
Slovenia brand Mila Vert make clothing from natural fibres, some of which are organic, and bamboo in two family-owned sewing companies, both located in Slovenia, which they visit often. . The company also states that also aim to reduce packaging waste and that all orders are packed in cotton backpacks that can be reused.
During my research I found a few online ‘department stores’ specialising in ethical products, including fashion. They includes
- Ethical Souls Boutique is an Irish online store that stocks Alice Haliday, Sophie Rieu, Wear we Wander, Mafrika, Kampala Fair, Elegantees, Sanchos Dress and Komodo
- Stiall in a Irish online retailer for ethical non-toxic, high quality clothing made from biodegradable or recyclable materials. The brands they stock include Thinking Mu, Armed Angels, Beaumont Organic, Frieda Sand and Knowtow.
- Belleetik is a Cork based online retailer of ethical sustainable clothing including brands amana, Deborah Lindquist, Delete, FIN, Jonano, La Vie Devant Soie, Les Fees de Bengale, numanu, People Tree, and Unicorn Design
- Fresh Cuts in Dublin stock the following clothing brands, Monkee Jeans, Mud Jeans, Dedicated and Armed Angels.
- Oh My Gum in Galway stocks clothing by Thought, Armed Angels, People Tree, Kite and Frugi, Armed Angels and Sea Salt.
- VIVID in Kilkenny sell Thought, Armed Angels, Boody, Swedish Stockings, Hara and Vivid.
- Oxfam (UK) sells branded second-hand clothes that have been donated to them.
- Compare Ethics (UK) is another portal that matches consumers with brands that share their ethical values. It also has the facility to rent clothing.
- Mamoq (UK) is a portal for ordering clothing by a range of sustainable ethical brands. Unlike other e-tailers they don’t hold onto stock themselves, instead the individual brands post the item out to your directly. This might impact on delivery costs if you’re ordering from a few brands
- Give Wear Love (UK) sells a selection of brands from ‘ethical’ brands along with vintage items.
- Honest Department (UK) is a social enterprise selling garments from brands that are either fairtrade artisanal or use organic or biodegradable materials. They reinvest at least 50% of our profits to a rotating group of charities which support our mission. They also offset the carbon footprint of every delivery by helping to plant a tree for every package sent.
- Spirit of Nature (UK) stock Peopletree, Nancy Dee, Thought, Patagonia, Nomads, and Komodo,
- Gather&See (UK) offers a curated selection of cutting edge sustainable fashion labels including A Peace Treaty, AAKS, Apricoss, Arela, August, Barocco, Beaumont Organics, Carolina Wong, Conditions Apply, Cossac, Cus, Danielle Foster, Edge of Ember, Kemp Gadegaard, Kind Jewelery, Kowtow, Lalesso, Little by Little Jewellery, Little Joy Jewellery, Matt & Nat, Mudd Jeans, Nathalie Bond Organics, Osei Duro, Pic, Rakha, Riyka, Satva, TINCT, Tricotage, Veryan, Vildnis, Woron, Moea, Stidston.
- Natural Collection (UK) stocks Thought, Braintree, Nomads, Patagonia, People tree, Nancy Dee and Asquith
- Mi Apparel (UK) stocks Armed Angel, Beaumont Organic, Jan N June, Cus, King of Indigo, LangerChen,
- The Natural Store (UK) stocks Kommet, Fabryan, Kiab, The White T-shirt Co, Environmental Justice Foundation, Edun, No Balls, Bam Bamboo, Ruby Moon and Silverstick
- Frank and Faith stock All Riot, Ally bee, Boody, From, Nancy Dee, Marzipants, Mudd & Water, Natural Collection, Asquith, People Tree, Silverstick, Patagonia, Thought, Nomads and Komodo.
- Lowie (UK) stock a huge range of sustainable ethical brands. They also have their own label of clothing made from wool they say is ethically sourced and leather that is free from azo, benzadrine and chrome 6.
- The Keep Boutique (UK) stocks brands Armed Angels, Beaumont Organic, Bibico, Komodo, People Tree, The Organic Company, Thought, Thinking Mui
- The Eco-Edit on Asos (UK) allows you to search for ‘ethical’ products, including their fairtrade label Asos made in Kenya and some organic cotton pieces. Unfortunately their definition of ‘ethical’ is broad and you can’t refine the search based on your own particular ethics.
- The Ethical Superstore (UK) stocks All riot, Asquith, Komodo, Matt & nat, Nancy dee, Natural collection select, Nomads, Onyx & green, Pachamama, Patagonia, People tree, Silverstick and Thought (formerly braintree clothing),
- Fashion Conscience (UK) stocks a huge range of ethical clothing brands, which you can filter based on your ethics, although what they consider ‘ethical’ is quite broad. They also have their own range FC select.
- Fab Organics (UK) offers clothing in bamboo, hemp, and organic cotton items. Brands include German brand Living Crafts (see above) and the confusingly-named American brand Ethos Paris, German company Madness, and American brand Blue Canoe
- FAAM (Holland) stocks the following brands; Armed Angels, Dedicated, Froy & Dind, Greenbomb, Hippoblo, Kings of Indigo, Komodo, Kuyichi, Langerchen, Munoman, Monkey Genes, Oy-Di, People Tree, Recolution, Swedish Stockings, Thought, and Wunderwerk
- Ethical Market (UK) is an online marketplace for small makers of ethical goods, including clothing, footwear and accessories for men, women and children.
- Social Supermarket (UK) stock clothing by Kathaa jackets, Know the Origin and Hopeful Traders
- The Big Issue (UK) sells organic cotton clothing designed by formerly homeless artists and 100% cotton shorts made by community cooperatives in Africa.
- Mama Owl (UK) sells clothing made from natural fibres including some organic cotton from brands Monkind, FUB, Poudre Organic, Serendipity Organics, Cosilana, Konges Slojd, Pure Pure.
- Fine Yellow (UK) stock clothing by Armed Angels, Beaumont Organic, Dariadéh, Diarte, Elementy, Jane & June, Jungle Folk, Lanius, Naas, Organic Basics, Rhumaa.
- Reve En Vert (UK) stock clothing by a large range of sustainable ethical designers.
- Greenlabels (The Netherlands) sells clothing and accessories by Afriek, Armedangels, By Signe, Cossac, Friday’s Project, Kings of Indigo, Kowtow, Lemon Spicy, Naomi Rachel Timan, Vega
I also came across some useful additional resources;
- Common Objective’s searchable database of clothing brands. You can search by category, country and / or ethics. I found it particularly useful if you’re looking for something specific.
- Rankabrand is a very useful website that, as the name suggests, ranks brands based on their sustainability.
- The Good Shopping Guide uses a traffic light system to rate the performance of a number high-street brands against a range of ethics . The top three brands were People Tree, Sea Salt and Fat Face.
- The Good on You App helps you find brands to suit your ethics. They’re an Australian based company so i’m not sure if it’ll be of much use to us here in Ireland.
- A fashion footprint calculator
- Finally if you need more info on why we need to move towards sustainable clothing you’ll find plenty of book recommendations from Fashion Studies Journal here
- And for the latest news on sustainable fashion read the Centre for Sustainable Fashion’s blog
Finally buying sustainably is only part of the equation, making your clothes last as long as possible is another. Not only does the website Love your Clothes have guides on how to buy the best quality, they also have tips on how to care and repair your clothes