The world of fast fashion and weekly collection releases has created (and exacerbated) numerous environmental and social issues. This is evidenced by the fact that around 92 million tonnes of textile waste are generated each year globally .
But we don’t really have to subscribe to the idea that fashion is inherently wasteful and unethical because it’s not – not systematically. Style is about self-expression, and it can be done ethically and sustainably.
Buying second-hand clothes, or using fair trade, organic and recycled materials are ways to do so. Paying workers living wages and ensuring safe working conditions play another crucial role. On our part, it is all about conscious consumption and caring for what we own.
If you are looking for an ethical brand you can trust, check out these 7 sustainable clothing brands that we have deciphered for you.
- Cost per ware (CPW) philosophy
- Transparency and detailed listing of materials
- Versatile basics
- Unique UX by allowing shopping by material
- Detailed information on production cycle
- Climate-neutral certified
- Plant based materials
- GOTS certified organic cotton
- Detailed fair trade working conditions
Tradlands - US
Founded in 2012, Tradlands is a sustainable clothing brand dedicated to giving timeless and effortless pieces for women. Durable and easy to care for, their items are indeed the embodiment of longevity.
One of their core beliefs is that dressing up shouldn’t be a stressful endeavor. Women should be able to be carefree with their clothing while still emitting personal style and radiance.
The Sustainable Collection
Tradlands’ clothing collection is full of versatile basics that are wearable for various occasions. Their color palette leans strongly towards fall colors with plenty of orange and brown hues.
However, they still have all of the classics like black, white, or beige. If plain colors don’t cut it for you, they also have a few patterns, and you want something more fun.
This clothing brand stocks dresses, overalls, sweaters, t-shirts, pants, hats, and more. They even have some clothes that’ll work as maternity clothing!
If you are a fan of pieces that you can layer and experiment with, their ethical clothing selection is worth checking out. They have an especially notable collection of long-sleeved button-ups that will work with so many different outfits and styles. Their buttons ups(for example) are available in multiple colors that’ll fit in work or casual settings.
Pair it with some slacks, denim jeans, or any one of your favorite bottoms. You’ll find that this piece will quickly become a closet staple (and favorite).
Tradlands has a very particular focus on creating high-quality items that might fetch a higher upfront price but will last longer than conventional fast fashion.
As such, they also create clothing using high-quality materials. They only use consciously sourced fabrics that wear nicely and don’t break down after just a few wears.
The brand does not have a dedicated page for their materials alone, but each product listing accurately details the materials used. Some of the fabrics they use are cotton, linen, spandex (in small amounts), wool, and recycled fabrics.
Since they use wool, they aren’t considered vegan. If you’re vegan and want to read more about sustainable vegan clothing brands, check out our besties here.
This sustainable fashion brand heavily advocates for an increased cost per wear (CPW) in fashion and promises a high CPW in all of their clothing. A high CPW also helps limit your emissions since you are consuming less over a period of time.
Although their clothes may cost a little more upfront, the cost will be more than made up for by the garment’s longevity.
Ethical clothing brands like Tradlands don’t only focus on quality but also ensure that their pieces are made under ethical and fair labor practices.
The brand works with two factories, one for their knitwear and one for their woven clothing. These factories operate under US-based labor standards, and all employees are paid fair wages.
All suppliers must also comply with the brand’s requirements regarding following regulations, ethical practices, fair wages, worker health, and other safeguards to protect garment workers.
Kotn - Canada
With the fourth-highest B Impact Score in the North American apparel industry, Kotn is now a leader in the ethical clothing sector. They are changing how things are made in hopes of being better for the people and the planet.
The Sustainable Collection
The Kotn collection is mainly made up of basic articles of clothing. The ones you can layer and wear with countless other outfits.
And though they started as a t-shirt brand, their collection now hosts other versatile pieces like turtlenecks, cardigans, denim jeans, and even dresses.
At the core of all their clothing lies one common theme: comfort. All of their pieces look and feel comfortable. They are perfect for days when you don’t really feel like creating complex layers but still want to look presentable.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with their pieces! These garments are intended to stand on their own or act as a base for any of your outfits.
The brand’s color palette is predominantly earthy and neutral tones, colors you’ll be able to wear any time of the year. Aside from tops and bottoms, they also stock underwear like boxers and bras. These undergarments are of the same quality and make as any of their other clothes, so comfort is the utmost priority.
For more sustainable brands making underwear with inclusive sizing, we have a separate guide on vegan underwear. They also have accessories like socks, hats, gloves, and scarves if you want to gear up for the cold weather.
True to their name, Kotn predominantly uses cotton in their clothing. However, instead of sourcing it from intermediaries, they apply direct trade.
Direct trade is a way of sourcing directly from farmers and avoiding much of the markup and price manipulation throughout the supply chain. This allows the brand to pay farmers better and ensure their customers have access to reasonably priced sustainable clothing.
The brand uses the finest natural fibers and sources from farms in Portugal and Egypt. Instead of the regular upland cotton that most brands use, Kotn uses the more premium Egyptian cotton—which is softer and finer than other cotton types.
Their cotton from Portugal is sourced from BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) farms. Although we know you would prefer to buy organic cotton, it still isn’t possible for many of the farms that Kotn works with.
However, they do have a goal of going 100% organic in the next 5 years. And in light of this, they are helping small farms set up the systems necessary to get certified.
Kotn, since its inception, has always been interested in building systems and infrastructure to nurture their communities. This means providing jobs that pay a living wage and extending their help through community projects.
Most of this sustainable brand’s products are cut and sewn in either Egypt or Portugal, with production locations being within 100km of each other. This simple choice further reduces their environmental impact.
As is essential in any sustainable clothing brand, workers are not subject to forced labor or unsafe working conditions. Kotn works with factories with high retention rates, ensuring that employees are given a chance to explore their career potential and opportunities.
Kotn’s best outreach project is building and funding schools for farming communities in the Nile Delta and Faiyum, Egypt. They have since built 7 schools and funded 10. This project allows children of farming families to have a shot at education and the opportunities that come with it.
If you buy anything from this clothing brand, you are—at the very least—contributing to the education of children from halfway around the world.
MATE - US
Clean from seed to skin, MATE is a Los Angeles-based brand with the goal of cleaning up the fashion industry one piece at a time.
This ethical and sustainable brand is a member of 1% for the Planet and is Climate Neutral Certified. They are organic, clean, ethical, and women-centered.
The Sustainable Collection
MATE’s collections are predominantly loungewear and casual wear—sweatpants, sweaters, biker shorts, and plenty more. But even though these clothes are great for when you’re staying at home, they’re also excellent staple wardrobe pieces.
Throw on one of their Layering Tanks and a pair of their Organic Biker Shorts, and you’re good for a quick run outside. If you are a fan of versatile loungewear that can double as streetwear, you should check this brand out.
They also have a great jumpsuit collection for days when you want to look effortlessly chic. The Linen Short Sleeve Jumpsuit is available in three colors (one essential and two limited editions).
It’s your typical collared jumpsuit with short sleeves and a hidden pocket on the side. You can dress this piece up or down as you prefer.
Add a few accessories to dress it up or wear as is to maximize the laid-back nature of the piece. It has a super relaxed fit, so it’s perfect for running errands, or when you know you’re going to have a long day and need as much comfort as possible.
MATE is dedicated to spreading love (not chemicals!), so their materials directly reflect the clean fashion they represent. The brand uses materials like cotton jersey, Tencel, linen, and organic cotton thermal. You can shop by materials on this page.
The page also details specifics about each blend of fabric and its weight. For instance, if you’re looking for a lightweight, breathable fabric, especially during the warmer months, cotton jersey may be the best choice for you.
Most of their materials are free from pesticides, insecticides, and microplastics. In addition, all their garments are free of 31 chemicals and 49 dye substances.
The jumpsuit we featured earlier is made of 100% linen, making it incredibly breathable and comfortable throughout the day.
Each product listing also features relevant information regarding the environmental impact of the materials used and the production process. Each listing also includes the cost per wear (CPW) of the clothing item—pretty helpful in determining if it’s worth the buy!
To top off being an environmentally conscious industry leader, MATE also focuses on ethical production.
They are incredibly transparent about their supply chain, and all their factories are located within a 17-mile radius of their headquarters. This reduces their carbon emissions and makes it easier for them to manage the entire supply chain.
They work with a couple of factories in LA, which you can read more about on their factories page. In the spirit of transparency, they also detail why they work with that particular ethical factory and what it’s like being an employee there.
Ethical brands like MATE always have to make more of an effort than their fast fashion counterparts. As such, the brand also provides information on the entire production cycle of their products.
From being spun in India to finally being assembled and distributed in LA, you’ll know exactly how many steps it took for your clothes to arrive at your doorstep.
MATE also has a set of eight guiding principles that guide their daily operations: clean, essential, organic, ethical, women-centered, plastic-free, circular, and local.
This dedication to such a holistic mission genuinely makes MATE one of the most sustainable clothing brands in the industry today.
Fair Indigo - US
Fair Indigo is an American sustainable clothing brand heavily inspired by buying less, buying better.
Using only the best organic materials available, Fair Indigo strives to be one of the top brands that utilize sustainable materials not only for the environment but also for the people involved.
The Sustainable Collection
Fair Indigo’s clothing collection is mainly clothing for the feminine aesthetic, but they also have clothes for men and kids.
The collection’s colors strongly lean towards deep shades like plum, gray, and olive. But they also have a couple of softer hues. All clothes come in solid colors, and there aren’t any patterns in the collection.
The organic Terry Jumpsuit caught our eye in particular. It comes in black and olive and is laid-back enough to wear casually and formal enough to rock in official functions.
This jumpsuit will easily flatter any body shape and size. It has a drawstring waist to provide a more fitted silhouette, and the shoulder straps can easily be adjusted to accommodate your height.
Fair Indigo mainly works with organic cotton—specifically organic Pima cotton. If you haven’t heard of this type before, it’s because it comprises only about 2% of the world’s total cotton production. Organic Pima even less than that.
Pima cotton is far softer and more durable than your regular upland cotton. It won’t pill and keeps beautifully without breaking down after just a handful of washes.
The brand uses four different fabric blends in their collection:
- Encanta- A french terry made of 97% Pima and 3% Spandex. It has a bit of a stretch and is mostly used for garments that need a more fitted silhouette.
- Serena- 100% organic Pima cotton. Clothes made with the Serena knit naturally stretch a little due to the make of the fabric.
- Pura- A 100% cotton jersey fabric that’s super lightweight and comfortable while retaining optimum durability.
- Eterna- This fabric is a stretch jersey consisting of 95% cotton and 5% spandex. This is Fair Indigo’s most popular fabric, and their classic shirts are made of this blend.
The cotton is sourced from two family-owned farms in Peru, certified organic by Control Union Certifications BV of the Netherlands.
Peruvian Pima cotton is harvested by hand to preserve quality, making the entire process much more eco friendly than using heavy machinery.
In addition, the brand also utilizes clean and eco friendly dyes that meet the best standards in the industry. Their dyes are REACH and OEKO TEX 100 compliant.
Fair Indigo understands that for them to be a truly ethical brand, they can’t stop at environmentally sustainable practices. In the fashion industry, the value of ethical labor should be just as valued as our planet.
The brand works with the same family-owned businesses to cut and finish their eco friendly clothing. All workers operate under safe and healthy working conditions and are paid living wages.
Employee retention rates are incredibly high in their workshops, so that’s a testament to how the sewing workshop treats its workers. If you want to know more about Fair Indigo’s ethical manufacturing, keep reading here.
They also run the Fair Indigo Foundation, which is a non-profit with the goal of supporting education for children in Peru.
The R Collective - Hong Kong
The R Collective is a Hong Kong-based ethical clothing brand that started back in 2017. Their goal is to create a social impact by making the fashion industry more circular. They mainly utilize leftover fabric from the fashion sector.
Interestingly, the brand was inspired by a cycling trip through China’s massive textile manufacturing sector. With the realization that it took so much to make our clothes, The R Collective was born.
The Sustainable Collection
The brand has a couple of clothing collections that contain wardrobe staples crafted from eco friendly materials. The collections are a bit different from each other but share a similar theme of waste avoidance.
Their core collection is called Start from Zero and has 8 versatile styles that will add plenty of value to your closet.
The Cayce Jacket is a beautiful oversized long-sleeved top that you can use as an overcoat or a casual jacket. As a piece that transcends trends and time, this embodies slow fashion and buying for the long haul.
Another notable piece is the Recircle Dress (from the Recircle collection). It’s a pretty sage green racer-front style dress with an elegant scooped back. Like many of the clothes we featured so far, this one can be used casually or formally.
You could even pair it with the Cayce for an added layer! Accessorize if you want to take the outfit up a notch. The R Collective is the perfect place to start building your ethical fashion collection. They have excellent pieces to add to a capsule wardrobe for any occasion: casual, work, formal, you name it.
The R Collective is serious about circularity in fashion. As a result of this value, they mostly use sustainable and upcycled materials from the fashion industry like:
- Upcycled cotton
- Upcycled Silk
- Upcycled Wool
- Upcycled Rayons (Lyocell, Modal, Viscose)
- Upcycled Polyester
- Upcycled Nylon
These fabrics, on their own, may not be the best materials; case in point, polyester, and viscose. However, their environmental effect is significantly reduced because they are already supposed to be industry waste.
The brand does not clarify whether these fabrics are pre or post-consumer, but we are inclined to think they are rescuing pre-consumer cut-offs (deadstock). We have a separate (and more in-depth) discussion in a separate article.
To make the most out of your clothes, make sure to take care of them properly. Wash them as infrequently as possible, use cold water, and line dry. Extending your clothes’ lives is one of the best ways to make your fashion habits more eco friendly.
The R Collective’s primary manufacturer is in Thailand, but the brand also works with a factory in Hong Kong.
All workers are paid fair wages and are not subject to unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. You can check out the brand’s Code of Conduct if you want to know the specifics of what they require from their partners.
Overall, R Collective remains one of the affordable, ethical clothing brands available in Asia. If you are in the region, we highly recommend giving them a chance.
Milo+Nicki - US
Made for women by women, Milo + Nicki is a brand heavily advocating for transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry.
Their items are vegan, sustainable, zero waste, ethical, biodegradable, and cruelty-free. The brand prides itself on being one of the all-around ethical clothing brands you can trust.
The Sustainable Collection
M+N is a female clothing brand, and their collection leans towards feminine styles. Unlike the other brands on this list, theirs is a relatively small collection.
Their color palette is predominantly orange and blue tones, exhibiting a carefree and casual vibe. These are the types of garments you would wear if you want to go out and just wear something relaxed but dressed up at the same time.
The Siesta Dress is a bohemian free-shape dress that comes in three gorgeous colors. You can get it in a rust orange and two variations of indigo.
It isn’t a very shapely dress, so you will need a belt or something similar for a more fitted silhouette. But if that isn’t your thing, that’s totally fine! You can very much wear it as is or pair it with a jacket for additional layering.
The brand also stocks a few accessories in their collection, one of which is a zero waste headband. You can use this extra accessory to add dimension to your outfit at any time. It can also serve as a scarf, wrist accessory, or even as a bag scarf.
If zero waste fashion is your cup of tea, you will enjoy the ethical dresses in their collection.
If you are going on vacation in summer, their collection is the perfect place to shop for your vacation wardrobe. With simple, versatile styles you can experiment with, this collection is not only sustainable but also chic.
Ever since the brand’s inception, they have been using only plant-based raw materials in their clothing. There are no plastics or animal-based components, just purely plants. So if you’re vegan, their entire collection is good for you.
They predominantly use three fabrics in their clothes: banana fabric, linen, and GOTS-certified organic cotton.
Although you might be familiar with certified organic cotton and linen, there’s a chance this is the first time you’ve heard of banana fabric. That’s because M+N is one of the first ethical clothing brands worldwide to use this fabric.
Banana fabric is made from the stems and stalks of the banana plant, resulting in a very resilient fabric. It is naturally water and tear-resistant and will biodegrade with little impact. The fabrics are dyed with AZO-free dyes and plant-based dyes where applicable.
M+N uses high-quality organic fabrics to preserve the longevity of their clothes, but it is also essential to do your part and take care of them properly. Hand washing in cold water and line drying is the best way to clean your M+N pieces.
For plant-dyed pieces (indigo), the brand generally recommends dry cleaning for the first few times or throughout the product’s life if possible. This is to preserve the bright hues of the fabric.
At their core, M+N is all about conscious consumption and production. We’ve already seen their unwavering attitude towards the environment; how about for the people?
Fortunately, the brand does not disappoint. Their products are made in NYC and India, all under fair trade conditions. Employees are paid living wages and work in a safe and healthy working environment.
Employees in India are also given time to practice religious and cultural activities as needed. Of course, they never operate under forced labor scenarios, and measures are in place to ensure a discrimination and harassment-free workplace.
Clothing made in NYC is done by a family-owned factory with similar fair trade practices ensuring safe and healthy working conditions free of discrimination.
From this, it is clear that all the steps taken to produce M+N clothes are done in conjunction with sustainable and ethical fashion. While M+N clothes are a bit expensive and don’t fall under our list of affordable, ethical clothing brands, you can trust them to deliver sustainable, slow fashion.
Tentree - Canada
nspired by and made by nature, Tentree is a Canadian outwear brand that believes in our responsibility to protect and care for the planet.
Sustainable, accessible, and comfortable, the brand truly lives up to its name by planting ten trees for every item purchased from their store.
The Sustainable Collection
Being an outerwear brand, Tentree’s collection is mostly focused on jackets, puffs, sweaters, hoodies, and the like. They have clothing for men, women, as well as children. Regardless of the style, though, all Tentree clothes are made for comfort for the wearer.
If you are looking for a particular feature, you can easily browse through their collection by material, color, or size.
Our personal pick from their selection is the Treeline Canvas Unisex Jacket. It comes in foxtrot brown and olive green for those of you who like earthy colors.
It is made of eco friendly materials and is 99% compostable! Once at the end of its life, you can simply remove the buttons and compost the remaining fabric. It’s partially made with organic materials (a blend of organic cotton and kapok), so you know it was crafted with eco friendly practices.
It is also well-insulated and features a water-resistant finish. By buying this piece, you save more than 1800 liters of water and almost 2kg of carbon emissions.
If you’re looking for something more creative, they also have sweaters and shirts with super cute prints like this Baobab Crew sweatshirt. The prints are adorable and advocate for better treatment of our trees.
Since Tentree makes our list of sustainable and ethical fashion brands, the materials they use do not disappoint. As an advocate for better products in the fashion industry, the brand only uses earth-friendly fabrics like:
- Organic Cotton
- Recycled polyester (recycled plastic bottles)
These eco friendly materials are meant to result in high-quality, ethical fashion that doesn’t sacrifice style for ethics.
We have always advocated for sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and hemp since these are natural textiles and will biodegrade at the end of their useful life.
Most of the brand’s clothing is made with a blend of their available fabrics, creating eco friendly clothing with many valuable properties.
You can read more about their materials here. Each product listing also specifies the exact breakdown of the blend you’re getting, so you know exactly what the piece is made of.
Tentree is a B Corporation, which means they operate under safe conditions both environmentally and socially. Being a B Corp is a serious marker that a company is doing what it can to make a positive impact through their business.
That said, Tentree produces their clothing in multiple locations worldwide. You can check here for a complete directory. They detail the name of the factory, its location, whether there are third-party audits, and other relevant information.
Some of these factories are fair trade certified (especially those in India). There are some high-risk locations where it’s vital to be fair trade certified to ensure ethical conditions.
Other certifications include BSCI and SA8000.
Tentree is proud of creating ethical fashion that consistently puts its people first. They make sure all employees are paid a living wage (not just minimum) and work with benefits such as insurance. You can read more in their Code of Conduct.
On top of that, the brand has planted more than 65 million trees all over the globe. They aim to plant 1 billion trees by 2030, and considering they plant 10 trees with every purchase.
Why Choose Sustainable Fashion Brands?
Now that we’ve talked about several sustainable clothing brands let’s add to the discussion by rationalizing sustainable fashion.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry is notorious for its waste generation and unethical business practices. If you are reading this article, then you’ve most likely heard of all the atrocities many garment workers go through, especially in developing countries.
From unsafe working conditions and inhumane wages to pesticides and trash, the clothes we wear have an enormous impact on the environment and society.
In today’s time, we place a high currency on self-expression through fashion. Trends are coming out at alarming rates, and we’re also throwing out clothes at a similarly shocking level.
The direct counterpart of fast fashion is slow fashion, which is the practice of becoming more conscious about our clothing choices. Sustainability and slow fashion go hand in hand.
To practice sustainable fashion, you have to recognize that your clothing consumption doesn’t always have to align with trends or fads. Instead, it should align with the idea that we can always slow down.
Always think more about materials, processes, and the overall impact of our fashion. In choosing sustainable materials and ethical clothing brands, we don’t have to give up our love for fashion to become stewards of the environment and society.
Sustainable Materials: The Basics
For a beginner, we understand that it can be very overwhelming to search for the perfect, sustainable fabric. There are so many options to choose from, and it seems like every single clothing brand is marketing their items as eco friendly.
But be careful of greenwashing. Just as many brands are advocating for actual change, there are also countless brands telling their customers a particular type of fabric is eco friendly when it’s not.
Knowing how to identify which ones to buy is key to achieving change. Here are some things you should know about:
When it comes to sustainability, we almost always prefer plant-based fabrics that go back to the earth once their purpose has been filled. However, you can do even better than that and go for recycled materials.
Many fabrics nowadays can be recycled, and it turns out these recycled materials are actually better for the environment. For instance, recycled cotton has proved to have a lesser environmental toll than organic and conventional cotton.
If you are buying performance-based garments like swimsuits or athletic wear, make sure to purchase from brands using recycled polyester or other recyclable plastic fibers. Although this isn’t the perfect solution, it’s much better than using virgin plastic.
Some sustainable brands on the market use recycled PET bottles to make their garments, and it’s a pretty good take on waste. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that the problem with plastic will end.
Many fabrics will still end up shedding microplastics over time, regardless of whether they’re recycled or not. As such, we must think critically about the sustainable fabrics we buy.
Recycled polyester or recycled nylon(here’s our guide on nylon if you want more information) can be suitable for specific scenarios. However, we would not always classify them under our list of eco friendly fabrics.
Here at Puratium, we have always emphasized a great appreciation for plant-based textiles. However, this line of reasoning isn’t infallible and is bound to be wrong sometimes.
Cotton is one of those cases.
Although it is technically made from natural fibers, cotton is an incredibly environmentally damaging fabric due to the way it’s conventionally made.
It takes around 2700 liters of water just to produce a single cotton shirt, which is the amount of water you’re likely to drink in 3 years . Plus, it also impacts the environment through the persistent use of agrochemicals .
Cotton is basically inescapable, though. So, where you can, we highly encourage purchasing organic since it is the best option. Other natural fabrics like linen and hemp(here’s our guide on hemp) are also excellent fabrics!
When buying natural fabrics, just be careful and really dig deeper. Just because a fabric is natural does not at all mean that it’s sustainable.
However, although many companies market them as eco friendly and sustainable fabrics, that’s not actually the whole picture.
Semi-synthetic fabrics (especially viscose) are often made with tons of chemicals before being cut and sewn into clothes. It is this chemical-intensive process that makes semi-synthetic materials not very sustainable.
But fret not; it’s not all bad news. Recent iterations of semi synthetics (e.g., lyocell) now have plenty of potential to be sustainable!
There you have it! A solid list of clothing brands with ethical and sustainable practices. Most of the ethical clothing we featured are wardrobe staples that you can use for the years to come, regardless of trends or season.
It’s high time that we moved away from the narrative of fast fashion that has dominated the industry for the greater part of the last three or four decades. It’s time we started looking into our habits and making changes for the better.
However, watching our levels of consumption is essential in making truly positive changes. Don’t buy another shirt when you already have multiple organic cotton t-shirts at home.
All things considered, the most sustainable purchase is simply buying less.