2021 guide to Ethical & Sustainable Fashion Brands

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Last year, I shared a list of 10 ethical fashion brands to support. Brands I had worked with in the past or highly admired. This year, I wanted to share an update to that list and highlight some new (to me) brands focused on sustainability within the fashion industry. I worked with a number of these brands this year and wanted to highlight all the wonderful work they do in their respective spaces and the ways they all work to make our planet a better place and support artisans to create better lives. I encourage you to shop these brands for the holiday season, as each one is a small business not only will they be excited to see your purchase you will be providing dignified work to artisans around the globe!

Astor & Orion – ethical & sustainable

Shop Astor & Orion

A&O creates beautiful jewelry from recycled gold & silver designed here in the US and made at an ethical factory in China. 

You want to do better for the earth. You want to help other women. You want to wear your values because you know beauty without justice, isn’t beautiful.

But sometimes it’s just so hard to know where to start.

It’s simple: our jewelry is designed to be a part of your daily self-care ritual that reminds you of who you are and what you’re willing to fight for. We’ve reformed our process to take waste and pollution out from the very beginning. Our products are designed to be endlessly recycled or composted to regenerate the earth.

KINdom – ethical & sustainable

Shop KINdom

My KINdom pieces are as unique as they are stylish, I love how they instantly add print and movement to my wardrobe. I love how versatile these pieces can be with adjustable lengths and handwoven details using indigenous techniques.

KINDOM uses sustainable, natural, recycled, reclaimed, and indigenous materials, fair trade-made in ethical and compliant facilities, while also offering size-inclusive & gender-inclusive fashion. 

GOEX – ethical & sustainable

Shop GOEX

GOEX creates great basics using USA-grown or recycled fibers, all their pieces are made at a factory in Haiti providing living wage jobs to help keep families together!

A better shirt starts with better pay. We choose to pay our workers in Kansas City and Haiti fair wages. On average, one of our workers earning a fair wage supports six family members. A better shirt starts with better standards. We are proud to say GOEX is one of the elite few who have passed the Fair Trade Federation’s (FTF) rigorous screening!

Nisolo – ethical & sustainable

Shop Nisolo

Handcrafted shoes, and accessories of the highest quality and they pay their artisans a living fair wage. Nisolo even publishes their lowest wages for maximum transparency. 

Taking a circular fashion approach is a journey that we are very far from perfect on, but today, for us, starts as early as the material selection at the design phase, which is why we’ve introduced upcycled and recycled materials into our design process and packaging and will continue to do so in years to come as our manufacturing capabilities expand. It’s also why we’ve transformed our supply chain in the last few years to allow for 95% of our leather uppers to originate from Leather Working Group Certified tanneries, which meet the highest standard of environmental responsibility in our industry. In a dirty industry where renewable energy is largely non-existent, it’s why solar panels span the roof of our factory in Peru, further reducing our carbon footprint. 

We have strived to pay a living wage to those working in our supply chain since inception. This was a huge part of why we started Nisolo in the first place. In our factory in Peru where approximately 70% of our products are manufactured, we’ve measured our producers’ expenses (by way of internal impact assessments) to ensure we provide a living wage that meets the actual needs of our shoemakers and their children since 2014. We do this by asking our shoemakers themselves how much they pay for housing, food, education, healthcare, utilities, transportation, clothing, and other essential needs (for them as individuals and for their children). This is one way we calculate a raw, living wage calculation.

Liz Alig – ethical & sustainable

Shop Liz Alig
Use code stylishlyshelby fro 25% off

Liz Alig designs her pieces here in the US and focuses on accessible and locally sourced fabrics & fibers for her pieces based on the location of the artisans she works with. My Liz Alig pieces are perfect for dressing up or down & are the perfect balance of timeless & unique for lots of wear! 

We have gone from producing thousands of pieces a season to large retailers globally back to selling directly to our customers online (because it is way more sustainable and less stressful), but today our goal is still the same – to make clothing people want to wear while giving those who make it meaningful jobs. A large portion of the line is still produced with recycled materials, but we now incorporate sustainable and handwoven textiles as well.

We partner with over ten fair trade workshops that range from one women sewing from her home to large factories with hundreds of employees, but in all cases we have a long-standing relationship with the goal of supporting those producing the clothing and sourcing sustainable textiles in new innovative ways. They are so much different than traditional production houses. They use funds to offer free skills training to women, they offer free nursery for young children. They not only pay well but give paid holidays and benefits to employees.

Bamboo Clothing – sustainable

Shop Bamboo Clothing

I struggle to spend money on athletic wear, mostly because I don’t use it for athletic purposes and mostly just hang out at home in things meant for moving around. After working with Bamboo Clothing this year, not only was I introduced to a higher quality of sustainably made athletic wear, I realized it is worth every penny to buy well-made athletic wear pieces, even if I’m mostly lounging at home or walking the dog in them. You don’t need to be a world-trained athlete to wear great athletic wear.

We believe in the difference bamboo clothing makes to our planet. Bamboo absorbs five times more carbon than hardwood trees. It needs half the land cotton needs to produce the same amount of fibre and it doesn’t need irrigation or pesticides. Add to that how well it works as performance fabric and you can see why we love bamboo. Bamboo Clothing is also working to ensure every person in our supply chain – right the way back to the growers – is paid fairly and treated with dignity. 

WAMA Underwear – sustainable

Shop WAMA
Use code shelby10 for 10% off your purchase

I say hemp, you say, what does that have to do with fashion? Hemp is more than a plant, it produces CBD oil, which has it’s own great qualities for your health but hemp is also a plant that can be turned into a robust textile. Hemp fabric is naturally anti-bacterial, with anti-odor properties. Super comfortable, breathable and gets softer with every wash. Hemp is also organic, eco-friendly and can help save the planet. Hemp is the perfect fabric for your underwear.

The worldwide leader in hemp textiles is China and that is where all of our manufacturing is based. Being a niche crop, hemp is mostly grown on small family run organic farms.

We believe in partnering with factories that improve their employees lives with fair wages and quality working environments. Transparency with our factories is key, therefore, we have a WAMA team member based out of China to oversee everything. This way we can audit our factories easier and have better communication.

Ethic Goods – ethical 

Shop Ethic Goods

Recently, I was on the hunt for an anchor pendant necklace in gold that I could layer with a few other pieces already in my jewelry box. I found this one from Ethic Goods and knew it not only hit the nail on the head for what I wanted. It was also made in a way I could feel good wearing day in and day out.

Ethic is based in Washington, DC. We work with our artisans to design each line, and while we are designers by trade, our real mission is to use what we love (FASHION!) to help women across the globe heal, step into their potential, and leave a great legacy for their kids. We believe in solving problems creatively, living with purpose, and loving big. Our artisans inspire us to live a beautiful life, regardless of what’s happened.  We think their courageous, adventurous, and resilient spirit is contagious in each piece.

Starfish Project – ethical

Shop Starfish Project

Starfish Project works to rescue women from prostitution in Asia, providing them with dignified jobs and skills training to go on and do wonderful things in their lives. I love my starfish earrings, always beautiful and perfect for dressing an outfit up! The pair pictured are my most recent addition to my jewelry box, I love how light they are and neutral to go with everything in my closet.

Every week, we visit brothels and invite women and girls to experience freedom from their lives in the sex industry. We equip exploited women and girls with the tools they need to build an independent life through our holistic care programs and life skills training. We provide specialized vocational training to help the women develop careers in fields such as design, photography, and accounting.

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