If you’re tuned into the fashion industry zeitgeist, you’ve likely heard the phrase “ethical fashion” thrown around frequently. But what exactly makes fashion ethical, and is this the same as or different from “sustainable fashion”?
Sustainable fashion essentially looks at the environmental impact of producing clothing and accessories – how the brand impacts our earth and its natural resources – as opposed to fast fashion, which prioritizes making items as quickly and as inexpensively as possible, no matter the consequences. For example, a line of Certified Organic Cotton clothing would be considered sustainable if the brand chose to weave their products in the same town where the cotton is organically farmed, not only eliminating pesticides and toxins from local water sources, but also being mindful of the impact that transporting goods and materials has on global warming (burning through petroleum emits carbon dioxide and creates air pollution). Sustainable fashion lines examine each area of their supply chain, identifying ways to reduce their ecological footprint.
Ethical fashion encompasses a much wider scope of concerns. In addition to looking at environmental impact, an ethical brand will take the treatment of both people and animals into consideration, too. This means paying fair wages, ensuring safe working conditions, limiting the number of hours worked in a day or week, and providing benefits and opportunities for employees. But it doesn’t stop there – an ethical beauty company will likely choose not to test their products on animals and to be fully transparent, including all the ingredients used on their product labels. An ethical bridal gown atelier might be intentional about creating designs that work for diverse brides, honoring different religious and cultural traditions as well as flattering different body types, weights, shapes, and sizes. An ethical accessories brand may push against current societal gender norms and create only unisex products inclusive of all gender identities.
We think it’s important to constantly challenge the status quo and to take responsibility for our impact on both the planet and the beings that inhabit it, which is why we adore these affordable ethical and sustainable fashion brands. Every time you purchase an item of clothing, you are carving out the future of fashion, so make your decisions count! Read on to learn more about how they’re creating thoughtful, responsible, yet still completely gorgeous and accessible clothing and accessories.
Our Top 10 Ethical Clothing Brands
Priced well under $100, these handmade market bags are woven in Oaxaca, Mexico. When you choose one, not only do you make your shopping trips more sustainable by eliminating single-use plastic and paper bags, but you also support the men and women in these artisanal communities, providing them with fair wages and continued demand for their traditional craft.
Year of Ours
Designed to be multifunctional and inclusive with a wide range of sizing, this activewear line strives to balance performance with versatility, transitioning you from your workout to your Zoom work meeting and then to shopping at the farmer’s market. They take pride in owning their own factory, based in El Monte, California. This allows them to adhere to strict “Made in the USA” ethical standards.
When we sport accessories from Bembien, we get the most compliments, ever. While the bags and earrings are certainly chic, we realized there was something more – we radiate inner beauty while wearing these items, too! Nothing brings out that glow like the confidence created when you know you’re supporting and investing in important weaving communities from around the globe and their natural resources, which Bembien does both through their production and through their partnership with the nonprofit, Nest.
Adam Selman Sport
What separates Adam Selman Sport from other activewear companies? The cool styles are backed by ethical production. Adam shared, “We knew we wanted to develop biodegradable packaging and recycled shipping supplies. We found recycled nylon spandex for the core fabric we are using, and investigated different print techniques for our labels and hangtags using less toxic printing and water-based finishes." We love how they create something entirely new utilizing recycled materials!Jungmaven
Jungmaven believes fashion is activism: ”What we choose to wear says both who we are and what we stand for.” With that at the brand’s core, they set out to mitigate climate change through creating an apparel line exclusively using hemp – which creates one of the most sustainable materials – and advocating and educating on the benefits of this plant. They currently partner with reputable growers of hemp in China, who pay fair wages and ensure ethical working conditions for their employees.
One of the trademarks of eco-friendly clothing is slow, thoughtful, sustainable production – and upcycling vintage materials to create custom designs with new life is a great, imaginative way of doing just that! Unemployed Denim employs current fashion students and new grads to create bespoke pieces for their clients, using discarded, vintage denim clothing items as the foundation for all of its designs.Abacus Row
With an interdisciplinary background in ethnography and environmental conservation, founder and designer, Christine Trac, crafts jewelry by hand in San Francisco, utilizing only the best and most responsibly sourced materials. They also frequently partner with nonprofits, donating a percentage of proceeds to current causes that weigh on their hearts.
All jewelry made by this small, British brand is crafted from birch wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures that the forest where the wood is grown and harvested is responsibly managed and meets the highest environmental and social standards. They also exclusively use non-toxic adhesives in their designs and 100% recycled and recyclable packaging.
While Prickle People knows how important it is to monitor their business’s impact on the environment, they also recognize the ethics behind supporting other independent businesses. That’s why they purchase their wood from a local, trustworthy company, employ an independent artisan to laser cut their designs, partner with a small UK-based business on their gift boxes, and source all jewelry components from the United Kingdom.
These super soft, luxe sweats are basically what we lived in during 2020, and we don’t plan on mixing up our daily uniform anytime soon. Woven, sourced, and dyed in Los Angeles from 100% cotton, the brand adheres to strict, Made in the USA standards.
The Book Club
These blue light glasses aren’t just good for your eyes, but they’re good for the environment, too. Their full plastic frames are BPA-free and safe to recycle alongside your normal domestic products. The Book Club even provides easy-to-follow instructions, giving you zero excuse not to recycle. An affordable brand with high quality glasses who respects the planet – what’s not to love?
Farm Stand intends to be your one stop shop for ethical, sustainable fashion. Stay tuned as we continue to expand our offerings, providing you with gorgeous clothing and accessories from brands that believe in the importance of human rights, animal welfare, and preserving the environment.