Thirty years ago, so called “ethical fashion” was essentially non-existent. The manufacturing boom brought with it all sorts of high profile disasters, from child slave labor to unethical sourcing of materials, and big name brands were disproportionately more concerned with making a buck than creating socially and environmentally-responsible items.
Now, more and more traditional mega brands are recognizing the importance of sustainable fashion. And alongside them, dozens of stylish, ethical brands are finding their place in the sun.
What is ethical fashion?
Ethical fashion has come a long way since its dull, scratchy, eco-beginnings. Today, many sustainable brands lead the charge when it comes to creating classy, beautiful garments that also honor what it means to be a responsible creator of goods.
The Ethical Fashion Forum says it this way:
“Ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacturing of clothing which maximizes the benefits to people and communities, while minimizing impact on the environment.”
But what does that mean exactly?
Ethical fashion brands are commonly judged on whether or not the brand cares about the following:
- Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
- Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
- Supporting sustainable livelihoods
- Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
- Using and/or developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
- Minimizing water use
- Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
- Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
- Resources, training and/or awareness raising initiatives
- Animal rights
Another way to look at it is through the lens of the “Triple Bottom Line.” This means that—rather than examining a business purely from a profit-perspective—that the brand’s attention to social and environmental aspects is also considered.
With those criteria in mind, here are the five newcomers to the ethical fashion scene! You may want to consider adding these companies to your Christmas gift short-list.
The Simple Kind
The Simple Kind is an ethical fashion company that celebrates women and children by making ”whimsical and timeless dresses that reflect the hearts of the little girls who wear them.” Every item is designed in-house in Denver, Colorado, then carefully made by groups that empower women all over the world.
The company releases just a few specially constructed pieces at a time with the intent to see their high-quality garments last for generations to come. All materials are intentionally and thoughtfully sourced in ethical and environmentally-friendly ways.
You can find out more about the company and its origins here.
UNIFORM, a new clothing line featuring hip, minimalist clothing, is taking sustainability to the next level. The company was founded by Chid Liberty, a Liberian-American who pioneered Africa’s first Fair Trade Certified apparel manufacturer, Liberty & Justice, and got its start via a Kickstarter campaign.
UNIFORM is on a mission to give back to its West African community by investing in local manufacturing and donating school uniforms to children who otherwise could not attend school.
Help them get to their goal of 50,000 uniforms donated here!
Sseko Designs is an ethical fashion brand that “hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals, to enable them to earn money through dignified employment that will go directly towards their college educations.” So far, Sseko has sent more than 70 women to university.
Sseko Designs blends a financially self-sustaining business model with a cause: sending young women to school in Uganda and other regions of East Africa. Peruse their website to discover beautiful goodies, from footwear to leather bags and other accessories.
Have you ever shopped ethical brands? Which are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!