What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?

Even as we are stuck at home during the pandemic and economic recession, we can still buy comfortable, stylish clothes from ethical, sustainable fashion brands that promote eco-friendly garment production and fair trade labor practices. 

What is a fast fashion brand?

Fast fashion brands mass-produce inexpensive clothing intended for short-term use. Over the past 30 years, fast fashion brands have had a significant negative impact on the environment, labor equity and animal rights.

By supporting sustainable fashion, we make a conscious effort to avoid “fast fashion” and adopt purchasing behaviors that do not harm the world around us.

What is a sustainable clothing brand? 

Sustainable fashion – sometimes referred to as ethical clothing brands – prioritize the wellbeing of people, animals and the natural environment in the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing.

The fashion industry is undergoing a major transformation in the ways materials are designed, produced, manufactured, transported, stored and sold.

Each stage of a garment’s life cycle has severe and often negative economic, environmental and societal impacts.

Why should we buy sustainable clothes brands?

Sustainable brands help workers, protect animals and conserve the natural environment.

#1 Protect the environment:

Sustainable fashion utilizes eco-friendly production and supply methods to reduce toxic chemicals, water and energy consumption. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world following the oil industry. Water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and rainforest destruction are some of the most critical problems. 6

#2 Protect worker safety & rights:

Sustainable fashion companies pay their workers a living wage and ensure safe work environments that adhere to international codes of safety compliance. In addition to economic inequality, countries that serve as manufacturing hubs for the fashion industry typically engage in exploitive workplace practices, with physical and sexual abuse running rampant.

#3 Protect animal rights:

Sustainable clothing companies either avoid animal-based materials and fabrics, or source products via cruelty-free methods. Millions of animals are unnecessarily killed and harmed each year for their fur and leather.

What are the best sustainable clothing brands for women’s leisure wear? 

In compiling our list of brands, we refer heavily to Good On You, a comprehensive directory of sustainable fashion brands that adhere to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 12. The brands listed have a “good” or “great” rating in terms of treatment of animals, workers and the environment.


Toad and Co.

WOMEN'S MERINO HEARTFELT HOODIE
TOAD & CO. WOMEN’S MERINO HEARTFELT HOODIE

Location: United States

Price Range: $50 – $300

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Dresses, sweaters, hoodies, pants, sweatshirts, t-shirts, tanks

Eco-friendly: Yes, their clothes are ethically made using sustainable materials like organic cotton, Tencel, Lenzig modal, hemp, and recycled fibers.

California-based Toad and Co. considers fashion more than a business, but instead has a goal to reinvent the “dirty apparel industry” as a whole.  They offer a wide line of men’s and women’s clothes, sourced from an array of sustainable, vegan clothing alternative materials.  (This company uses cruelty-free, non-mulesed wool)

The company website states

“We’re a bunch of dreamers and mountain movers, preaching the gospel of sustainability and spontaneity – because every day is an adventure.”


Indigenous Organic Fair Trade Fashion »

essential knit cardigan black 2 What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
INDIGENOUS ORGANIC FAIR TRADE FASHION WOMEN’S ESSENTIAL KNIT CARDIGAN

Location: United States

Price Range: Varies

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Sweaters, shirts, t-shirts, hoodies, pants

Vegan Materials: No, Indigenous does use cruelty-free alpaca fur in its clothes. The alpacas are free-range and farmed by small-scale ranchers and their families in Peru. These communities have lived alongside the Alpaca for generations, and use humane processes to obtain the fur.

Ensures Living Wage for Workers: Yes, Indigenous has structured its supply chain to address the needs of its production team, which in turn strengthens their local communities. They pay a fair, living wage to employees all along the supply chain.

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes, the company maintains a work environment that follows international safety standards.

Indigenous Organic Fair Trade Fashion has established itself as an ethical company whose primary purpose is to improve the lives of its workforce. The employees at the bottom of the supply chain are often the most exploited and underpaid in the fashion manufacturing ecosystem.

The company website states

“Our ethical women’s clothing and ethical men’s clothing are designed to minimize the strain on the environment and our natural resources. With our ethical fair-trade clothing, you can rest easy knowing you’re doing your part to minimize exploitative labor, environmental damage, the use of hazardous chemicals, waste, and animal cruelty.”


Wholesome Culture »

What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
100% Organic Cotton Sweatshirt

Location: United States

Price Range: $20 – $50

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Hoodies, sweatshirts, t-shirts, tanks

Eco-friendly: Yes, their clothes are ethically made using sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles and bamboo. They ship products in biodegradable packaging.

Vegan Materials: Yes – the company does not use any animal byproducts and prints using water-based ink.

Ensures Living Wage for Workers: Yes, the clothes are produced in WRAP factories where workers are confirmed to be paid a living wage.

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes, the clothes are ethically produced in the USA.

Wholesome Markets separates itself from the crowd by printing clothes on demand in order to reduce over-production and waste, donating to animal rights groups and giving excess product to people in need. To date, they have given more than 7,000 garments to the Salvation Army.


Tree Tribe »

MountainsWomen sTee What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
“Mountains” women’s tee

Location: United States

Price Range: $25 – $50

Shipping: Worldwide

Eco friendly fabrics: Yes, uses Supima cotton grown in the USA. The company also plants a tree for each sale.

Vegan Materials: Yes

Products: Athletic wear, t-shirts, underwear, shorts

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Unknown


Unspun »

women mission mercury blue blue thread c bd15d147 e9cd 48a3 bb6d What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
Women’s mission mercury blue jeans

Location: United States

Price Range: $100 – $250

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Jeans

Eco friendly: Yes, has initiatives in place to reduce greenhouse emissions and chemical waste

Vegan Materials: Partial – the company uses a shrimp-based dye

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Unconfirmed.

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety:

Unspun uses algorithms to electronically design and fit jeans based on your 3D avatar. Shoppers create a Sims-like character that is used to create the jean design pattern, which is used to make your size-free jeans. When you purchase with unspun, you are also supporting their mission to reduce global carbon emissions by 1%.

Unspun’s labor processes are good, but still a work in progress. The company has developed a project improve wages for some employees in its supply chain, but has not finalized these efforts. The company visits its supplier warehouses regularly.

The company’s apparel is mostly vegan, however it does use a shrimp-based dye in some garments.

Some of my favorite sustainable picks from Unspun:


MATE the label »

3154 What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
Organic Terry Raglan Sweatshirt

Location: United States

Price Range: $40 – $160

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Accessories, Bottoms, Tanks, Tees, Sweatshirts, Sleep wear

Eco friendly: Yes, manufactures locally and uses GOTS certified materials

Vegan Materials: Yes

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Partial, the company does not have a formal code of workplace conduct, but does ensure a living wage for most of its supply chain.

There are a pair of charcoal fleece, relaxed sweatpants that I currently have in my MATE the label cart. Their ethical clothes look amazingly comfortable, while their products are made sustainably in Los Angeles with non-toxic and natural cotton materials.


Nube »

What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?

Locations: United States

Price Range: $30 – $95

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Bottoms, leggings, tanks, t-shirts

Eco friendly: Yes, the products are made from recycled waste

Vegan Materials: Not applicable to this vendor’s product line

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Unconfirmed

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Partial, there is no official code of conduct, but the company has issued a safety statement

Nube makes comfortable active wear that incorporates recycled plastic bottles into their leggings and tops. Their clothes are perfect for busy days around the house, working out, running after kids, or playing backyard, socially-distanced sports.


For The Love of Animals (FTLA) Apparel »

BURNOUT FRENCH TERRY WINE What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
Vegan Heart French Terry Burnout Sweatshirt

Location: Online

Price Range: $20 – $75

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: tops, bottoms, sweatshirts, sweatpants

Eco Friendly: In progress – the company does not publicize its environmental policies

Vegan Materials: Unconfirmed – the company asserts that all products are vegan and cruelty-free

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes, according to company statement

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes, employs workers locally.

Specializing in sustainable style and fashion designs for animal lovers, FTLA’s greatest asset is its focus on cruelty-free, ethically made clothes. However, their website does not provide information on how the fabric materials are sourced and made.

Some of my favorite picks from FTLA:


Living Crafts »

What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
FLORA 100% Organic Cotton Hoodie

Location: Germany

Price Range: $15 – $150

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Underwear, tops, bottom, outerwear, sweatshirts

Eco friendly: Yes, uses renewable energy and non-toxic additives in fabrics

Vegan Materials: No, some products are made from Merino wool

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Partial, confirms that some along the supply chain are paid a living wage, but does not confirm what percent

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Partial, does not have an official statement but follows internal safety procedures. 

Living Crafts is an ethical clothing brand based in Germany that creates organic, sustainable materials and clothes from certified organic cotton, organic Merino wool, and bamboo blend, among other sustainably-certified materials. Living Crafts fashions are good for both home and work.

The majority of the company’s products are vegan, with the exception of products made from Merino wool.


Sundried »

Sundried Grand Tournalin Women's Training Top
Sundried Grand Tournalin Women’s Training Top

 

Location: United Kingdom

Price Range: £15 – £60 (prices in pounds UK) 

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Underwear, tops, bottom, outerwear, sweatshirts

Eco friendly: Yes, uses a combination of recycled materials and coffee and produces garments locally

Vegan Materials: No, the company uses wool from an unspecified source

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Unconfirmed – the company says workers are paid a living wage but does not provide confirmation information

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Partial – the company addresses workers’ rights in an official statement, but does not have a verified code of conduct

Sundried utilizes environmentally-friendly, vegan materials, including fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled coffee, to create durable, comfortable garments and apparel.


Phil and Lui »

Signature white hoodie
Phil and Lui all time signature hoodie

 

Location: Germany

Price Range: €40 – €150 (prices in euros)

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Tops, bottom, outerwear, outdoor, sweatshirts

Eco friendly: Yes, uses GOTS certified fabrics and manufactures products locally

Vegan Materials: Yes

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes – the company employs workers in the European Union and pays a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes – the company has adopted the GOTS code of conduct

Phil and Lui manufactures their fashion line using eco-friendly, vegan fabrics and textile materials, including certified cotton. Products are produced locally to reduce their carbon footprint in distribution. Phil and Lui create cute, affordable styles, but products go out of stock quickly.  Jump on new looks quickly when you find them.


Suco »

Location: United Kingdom

Shipping: United States

Products: Tops, t shirts, bottoms, outerwear, outdoor clothing, sweatshirts

Eco friendly: Yes, uses GOTS certified fabrics and manufactures products locally

Vegan Materials: Unconfirmed – there is no evidence that Suco uses animal products, but the company does not verify

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes – the company employs workers in the European Union and pays a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes – the companies’ factories are evaluated through the Business Social Compliance Initiative

Price Range: $45 – $100 (prices in pounds UK) 

Suco creates soft, fine knit, certified organic cotton t-shirts. Their products are chemical-free, vegan and manufactured at environmentally friendly factories. Their new t-shirt line, SUSTAINABILITEES are perfect for home, office and social-distanced weekends at a picnic with family and friends.


Armedangels »

women's T-Shirt made of Tencel Lyocell
Armed Angel’s women’s T-Shirt made of Tencel Lyocell

 

Location: Germany

Price Range: €20 – €200 (prices in euros)

Shipping: Worldwide

Products: Tops, t shirts, sweatshirts, jeans

Eco friendly: Yes, uses renewable energy, GOTS certified fabrics and limited chemicals and wastewater

Vegan Materials: No – the company sources wool from non-mulesed sheep

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes – the company verifies its workers are paid a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes – the company is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation

Armed Angels uses Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton. The company makes an effort to avoid toxic chemicals as much as possible in production. It uses renewable energy in its direct operations to reduce its climate impact. Its use of eco-friendly materials limits the amount of chemicals, water and wastewater used in production.

The company promotes equitable employment, and ensures employees receive a fair wage at every stage of the supply chain. 

For the most part, the company avoids using any animal-sourced materials, with the exception of wool from non-mulesed sheep.


Honest Basics »

Women's Hoodie in black
100% organic cotton women’s hoodie in black


Location: Germany

Price Range: $15 – $100 (prices in euros) 

Shipping: Europe

Products: Dresses, tops, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, jeans

Eco friendly: Yes, uses renewable energy, GOTS certified fabrics and limited chemicals and wastewater

Vegan Materials: Yes, certified by PETA

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes – the company verifies its workers are paid a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes – the company is GOTS certified

Honest Basics’ creates affordable, sustainable apparel for any budget. It’s perfect for lounging around the house, but can be dressed up if needed for business casual. The primary material used is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton. The company also avoids the use of toxic substances, such as chemicals, water and wastewater in production.

The company employs equitable labor practices, monitors the health and safety of its employees and ensures all receive a living wage.

Some of my favorite picks from Honest Basics’:


 

Pangaia »

Heavyweight Recycled Cotton Hoodie
Heavyweight Recycled Cotton Hoodie

Location: Germany

Price Range: €30 – €300 (prices in euros)

Shipping: Europe

Eco friendly: Yes, uses renewable energy, GOTS certified fabrics and limited chemicals and wastewater

Vegan Materials: Yes

Products: Dresses, tops, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, jeans

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Unconfirmed – the company has not verified that its workers are paid a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes – the company’s production is in the European Union and has a Code of Conduct that includes some of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedoms

Pangaia’s uses 50% GOTS organic cotton fabric and 50% up-cycled materials, combined with non-toxic dyes to create a colorful, vibrant line of comfortable leisure wear. Pangaia also uses compostable packaging to deliver the product, and limits the amount of water and wastewater used in production.

Pangaia is in the process of validating its supply chain and labor practices.  It does employee workers in high-risk countries and has not yet confirmed that it pays workers a living wage.  The company does however verify that it visits manufacturing sites regularly to ensure workplaces are safe.

Some of my favorite picks from Pangaia:


WAWWA Clothing »

Hoodie in Lilac
ANGLO HOODY LILAC

Location: United Kingdom

Shipping: Worldwide

Eco friendly: Yes, uses renewable energy, GOTS certified fabrics and limited chemicals and wastewater

Vegan Materials: Yes

Products: T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, sweaters

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Unconfirmed – the company has verified that its workers are paid a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes – the company’s production is in the European Union and has a Code of Conduct that includes some of the ILO Four Fundamental Freedoms 

Price Range: $30 – $200

WAWWA takes an innovative approach to creating sustainable clothing that is equitably manufactured, while capturing the youthful feel of 1990s skater culture. 

The company primarily uses recycled materials in the production of its clothes, including plastic water bottles. WAWWA also uses renewable energy in its production process to reduce its climate impact. The clothes do not include toxic chemicals or dyes.

In terms of labor practices, WAWWA has confirmed that it pays employees a living wage at every stage of the supply chain.  However, they have not officially published a code of conduct. 

Some of my favorite picks from WAWWA:


Beaumont Organic »

What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?

Location: United Kingdom

Price Range: $20 – $200

Shipping: Worldwide

Vegan Materials: No, they source cruelty-free wool from the EU in accordance with very strict regulations on farming practices. The wool is collected using non-mulesing techniques that adhere to animal rights advocacy groups. 

Products: Bottoms, dresses, sweaters, sweatshirts, pants, hoodies

Eco friendly: Yes, uses renewable energy, GOTS certified fabrics and non-toxic dyes. When possible, the company uses recycled yarns rather than creating new material.

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes – the company has verified that its workers are paid a living wage

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Unknown

U.K. based Beaumont Organic creates ethical, environmentally-safe clothing for women. Their product line also includes baby clothes, accessories, and home goods.


Threads 4 Thought »

TWA4168 NTSKY What are the Best Sustainable Clothing Brands for Women?
Lira Feather Fleece Hoodie

Location: United States

Price Range: $50 – $120

Shipping: Worldwide

Eco friendly fabrics: Yes, organic cotton, recycled polyester, Lenzing Modal.

Vegan Materials: Yes

Products: Athletic wear, t-shirts, underwear, shorts

Ensures a Living Wage for Workers: Yes

Enforces a Workplace Code of Conduct and Safety: Yes, operates Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified facilities

 

Final thoughts on sustainable fashion brands – here’s the deal:

In the 1950s, most Americans had an average of 9-10 outfits.  Since the year 2000, this has increased to an average of 50 outfits per person. 

Clothes have a much higher cost than what we actually pay at the cashier. There is a direct link between what we buy and how those items shape the world around us. 

Before the 1990s, most brands would release 2-3 “collections” per season.  That has increased over the past 30 years to brands now releasing an average of 52 micro-collections each season, resulting in 80 billion garments per year.1 The majority of those items end up in landfills, and the processes used to create them destroy the environment.

There is a better way.

Read on to learn more about sustainable brands, fair trade manufacturing and where to find the best brands for men and women on a budget.

The fashion industry is undergoing a major transformation in the ways materials are designed, produced, manufactured, transported, stored and sold.

Each stage of a garment’s life cycle has severe and often negative economic, environmental and societal impacts.

How should the fashion industry protect people, animals and the environment?

Textile processes must be changed in order to preserve our natural environment, protect animal species, and empower workers with basic human rights and a living wage.

As a result, innovation in textiles is happening as forward-thinking companies change their processes to become a sustainable fashion brand.

A key part of ethical fashion is transparency in the manufacturing and supply chain. We need to know where our clothes comes from, what chemicals are used to treat the fabrics and how workers are treated.

Advocacy groups have collaborated to create the Transparency Pledge Coalition 2, which requires a minimum standard for supply chain disclosure. In addition, the Open Apparel Registry 3 has been developed to map garment warehouses around the world and determine high-risk locations due to weak government oversight.

In the past these facilities have been allowed to operate in undisclosed locations,  without scrutiny from a centralized organization.

Sustainable clothing brand & labor equity:

Sustainable, fair-trade brands ensure that its workers have safe work environments that follow international safety regulations and that employees all along the supply chain receive a living wage.

  • Provides workers an equitable and safe work environment.
  • Offers workers a livable wage at every stage of the supply chain.
  • Ensures the workplace follows onsite safety compliance according to international codes of conduct.

The Asian Floor Wage 4 Alliance was created to define a specific process for calculating the living wage of a specific area. Calculating wages according to the employees’s home region is important to ensure employees receive a fair wage, but that pay variations are not too extreme. This prevents the “race to the bottom”, which occurs when companies pull out of one country to move manufacturing to another country with cheaper labor costs. 5

Equitable work environments require companies to ensure their warehouses they work within must be safe. This requires company owners to regularly visit their supplier warehouses, even when they are located outside of the country or origin.

Sustainable Brands & Animals

Eliminate animal testing and use of fur, leather and any materials sourced from animals

  • The ethical fashion industry rejects the use of animal ingredients and testing.
  • Ethical fashion and sustainable fabrics are often vegan, or utilize practices that do not harm the wellbeing or safety of animals.

Sustainable Brands & the Environment

Utilize production, manufacturing and distribution processes that are carbon-neutral and have limited use of water, energy, land, wildlife and ecosystems.

  • Eco-friendly fashion companies actively work to become carbon-neutral, conserve natural resources and eliminate any pollution of their surrounding environment.
  • Fabrics and materials are created through the use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.
  • Garments are created from natural, recycled polyester, cotton, linen and fabrics in garment production.
  • New apparel is created from recycled polyester, denim and other materials whenever possible.

A breakdown of sustainable practices

1. The environment

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world following the oil industry. Issues like water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and rainforest destruction are some of the most critical problems. 6

A pair of jeans that costs $29.99 at a big-box retailer has an environmental and human cost which is far greater than the heavily subsidized price tag.

In a report by Worldbank.org 7, researchers found that it takes 3,781 liters of water to create a single pair of jeans 8, from production to final delivery to the brick and mortar store. That is an incredible cost to pay for a single pair of Levis.

The industry overall contributes 10% of the yearly global carbon emissions 9 – surpassing emissions generated by both international air travel and maritime shipping combined. 

2. Worker rights

The human capital required to create budget-priced fabrics and materials inflicts enormous damage on society, via slave labor and unsafe work conditions. 

Reported in article on SmartAsset 10, in 2013 an 8-story factory in Bangladesh collapsed, taking the lives of 1,129 men and women. In addition, Bangladesh has a minimum wage of $68 per month, which is far below what an average person requires to support themselves – even in a third-world country.

In addition to economic inequality, countries that serve as manufacturing hubs for the fashion industry typically engage in exploitive workplace practices, with physical and sexual abuse running rampant. 

3. Recycle, reduce, reuse to create a circular product life cycle

The “Green Strategy” organization based in Sweden maps out a multi-step lifecycle 11 which ensures that garment materials are going through a circular process of use and renewal.

  • Garments should be manufactured on-demand – avoid overproduction.
  • Utilize high-quality, biodegradable materials in production, focusing on popular, proven design styles.
  • Ensure workers at each point in the supply chain are paid a living wage.
  • After purchase, consumers should utilize their clothes to the fullest extent – repairing and repurposing when possible.
  • When garments are no longer wanted, they should be donated or given away rather than thrown away.
  • If the garment is unusable, it should be given to a textile recycling collection point to be reused to create new items.


In our next article, we explore the best vegan clothing brands for faux leather and suede.

 

Footnotes

1 https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/old-fast-fashion 

2 https://transparencypledge.org/

3 https://openapparel.org/

4 https://archive.cleanclothes.org/livingwage/afw/about

5 https://cleanclothes.org/livingwage-old/calculating-a-living-wage

6 https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/old-environmental-impacts

7 https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/09/23/costo-moda-medio-ambiente

8 http://web.unep.org/es

9 https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/09/23/costo-moda-medio-ambiente

10 https://smartasset.com/credit-cards/the-economics-of-fast-fashion

11 https://www.greenstrategy.se/sustainable-fashion/seven-forms-of-sustainable-fashion/

12 https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/