More and more clothing businesses chose to be part of nature by operating based on the same principles that govern all life – reducing and reversing harm done to the Earth and its living beings. This often implies the use of natural, truly organically grown, biodegradable materials to produce fabrics and dyes, making us of waste products via collaborations with other initiatives, minimising packaging and paper use. It means fair compensation of those who give their time and skills across the company and supply chain, ethical work conditions rooted in direct, personal relationships, aiming for durability of products, rooting the business in local communities integrated in the existing web of lands, waters and cultural and societal fabrics. The planet is prioritised over money, supply chains are clear and transparent to everyone, and equity among all beings – human and otherwise – is aimed for, avoiding exclusivity.
The latter has become a major issue as nature and her reflection in the clothing business are viewed as a commodity which can be sold at high prices. Increased costs for the production of natural, fair clothing are often justified, but turning sustainability into yet another money-making tool is not. To be able to discern the two those who purchase raw materials and final products need to follow their innate wisdom which always delivers a clear picture. If we are connected to ourselves, then we are connected directly to nature’s intelligence and to everything around us. At first encounter of a product, store, or business our body signals whether we can trust, or should be wary. Pay attention to those moments of knowing before mental analysis kicks in.
Everyone has a right to healthy clothing for sheltering their body and for healthy, creative self-expression. Unfortunately many clothing businesses have not found a good balance yet between organic materials, fair trade and affordability. Perhaps our financial system and the ways in which we provide what is needed to meet basic human rights and requirements have to change in their entirety to ensure a life in dignity for all of us.
Ethical clothing reflects cultural responsibility by honoring everyone who has contributed equally esp. when non-local designs and services are used. Many people and many clothing companies love indigenous motives, colour schemes and patterns. Not only do these designs convey stories and cultural and historical meaning but they also reflect the skills and Earth-connectedness of those who produced them. Ethics here means full acknowledgement, permission for use and just exchange.
A business is a community of all those who contribute. Doesn’t that call for shared decision-making structures? Shouldn’t everyone who provides materials, skills and services have a say when change is wanted or needed? There is no one-size-fits-all answer but these are the questions we need to ask ourselves to create true sustainability. Below are some examples of exciting companies which are moving to the right direction (there are many more out there), reflecting no-harm principles consciously and as best they can. We are all still transforming, but progress towards ethical clothing is gaining momentum, and it is up to all of us to materialise it at a much larger scale. What are you supporting with your choices?
Denim/jeans, shirts, surf trunks: Fair trade principles. First company to pursue Fair Labor Association accreditation before ever shipping a product. 90% of sourced fibers are organic, recycled, or regenerated including organic cotton, Australian Merino wool, ocean plastics, plastic water bottles. 100% trunks are made with recycled or renewable fibers. Company regenerates fishing nets into ECONYL® products. Buttons are made from ocean plastics & nuts. Worn/torn S.E.A. jeans are repaired, or replaced and otherwise recycled by Outerknown. Partners with Ocean Conservancy.
Cotton & wool clothing & underwear for young people & adults made from organically grown cotton and wool from small farms in the U.S., Argentina, Peru, Nicaragua, Tanzania and India, spun by family-owned-and-operated mills in San Salvador, Peru & USA, turned into clothes by family owned knitting & sewing facilities in Peru & USA. Low-impact fabric printing & dying. Support of worker-owned sewing cooperative in Nicaragua. Fair trade principles. True transparency: company’s website shows how & where every product is made step by step.
Ultra-soft apparel & bedding made from organic Egyptian & Portuguese cotton & OEKO-TEX® non-toxic certified dyes. Plastic-free packaging. Water & material recycling systems. Safe & fair labor standards. Durability of clothing. Transparency of supply chain. Company works directly with more than 2300 small-holder farmers, increasing literacy in the Nile Delta & Faiyum of Egypt. Help farms become organic. Collaboration with Better Cotton Initiative (bettercotton.org). B Corporation.
Minimalist grounding running sandals which keep you connected with the Earth’s electric circuitry. Vegan. Low-impact dyes. Simple, minimalistic use of materials, yet highly functional. Copper & stainless steel earthing system in sole & laces.
Clothing made from sustainably-sourced natural bamboo with non-toxic solvents. Closed-loop water system to recycle water in the production process. Living wages. Garments sewn in a way that significantly reduces fabric waste. Use of recycled cardboard and vegetable-based ink for packaging.
British Columbia, Canada
Casual clothing made from organic cotton, tencel, hemp, recycled polyester (discarded plastic bottles). Planting 10 trees for every item purchased. Circular water usage & circular supply chains. B Corporation. Reduced packaging. Recycled paper use. Fair trade principles.
Kingdom of Wow
California & Cambodia
Footwear (slippers & espadrilles) made from Icelandic Lopi Wool (free-grazing sheep), cotton, bamboo, acrylic yarn & jute soles. Fair trade principles. Healthy work environment (including free lunches, secure employment etc.). Entire design & production process is managed from workshop in Cambodia. Use of mainly biodegradable materials. Zero waste. Unfortunately not organic yet.
Clothes made for comfort to the body & ease of movement. Supports local Asian artisans, promoting their unique, remarkable culture. Use of use upcycled, indigenous fabrics wherever possible. Reducing pollution, waste and use of plastics. Bio-degradable shipping envelops. Hangtags double function as bookmarks. Paper free invoice system. Supporting young artists.
Clothing made from organic cotton, recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), Tencel made from tree cellulose farmed on wasteland, linen, organic bamboo, rayon from sustainable tree cellulose, hemp, wool produced without Mulesing (breeding of sheep to produce more wool, leading to exhaustion, collapse and heat death of animals). Safe & fair labour conditions. Garments produced in Kathmandu, Bali & India by family run businesses. Strong long-term relationships between factories & Komodo. 1% for the Planet.
Hand-made, unique clothing made in collaboration with ca. 60 designers in different countries. Healthy work conditions, incl. fair wages, appropriate equipment, regulated working hours and paid overtime, a quality working environment, a variety of social benefits. Most workshops are family-run. Quality fabrics, incl. natural, organic fabrics. Full knowledge of supply chain.
High-quality footwear, entirely produced in Portugal. Raw materials sourced locally as much as possible, all from certified suppliers. Reduced waste & single-use plastics. Recycling & upcycling of materials. Healthy work conditions.
Slow Fashion Movement
Demanding change from the fashion industry and policy makers towards social & environmental sustainability, to create long-term well-being. Leaving behind mass consumerism & clothing produced in sweatshops. Creating durable, thoughtful quality fashion. Transparent supply chains. Waste reduction. Healthy work conditions.
Celtic Fusion Design
High quality designs featuring ancient Celtic & Viking symbolism – rooted in history & ancestry of western Ireland. Made from quality natural materials incl. raw jute, linen, hand-woven cotton, mostly unbleached & undyed avoiding use of toxic chemicals. Focus on supply chain knowledge & fair production. Supporting much needed native tree reforestation in Ireland.
New Zealand & Brazil
Women active wear for all sizes, created for performance & comfort, in vibrant colours, made in collaboration with New Zealand artists incl. indigenous Maori tattoo & digital artist. Made from biodegradable Amni Sol Eco® textile from Brazil. Emphasising community, knowing the whole production chain. Ethically produced in Brazil & New Zealand.
Switzerland, Venezuela & Colombia
Accessories like bags, pillowcases, purses handmade by marginalised Wayuu artisans using traditional techniques incl. different types of weaving, crochet, macramé, tapestry etc. Founded by human rights activists, embodying gender equality, transparency & fair trade that empowers indigenous Wayuu women & societies struggling with scarcity, crime, high child mortality etc. Mama Tierra provides work supplies, living wages, training, implements community-led social programs etc.
From 30-70% silk-sheep wool underwear to 100% woolen beanies. A complete garderobe full of durable, biological, fairtrade fashion for babies, youngsters & adults. No superwash, no mulesing, no unnecessary antibiotics, or genetically modified food. Sheep kept free on expansive meadows. Website in Dutch.
Slow-fashion company – Handmade, high quality scarves, towels & blankets, woven in Ethiopia with traditional weaving techniques & patterns typical to Ethiopian culture. Materials used: Ethiopian cotton or a cotton – Eri silk mix. Natural & certified dyes. Made for durability. Fair, sustainable wages. Reuse & recycling of materials. Honoring the tradition and culture of Ethiopia.
2nd hand & vintage clothing, naturally died & handwoven wool clothing – leaving behind destructive fashion industries & consumerism. Inspiring slow, agendaless & intentional living, while letting life on this planet regenerate. Focus on affordability, meaning, lasting societal change & community. Slow-living membership platform coming soon.
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Kate Alexandra Priestley
Based in Somerset, UK
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