Opening Hours: 10am - 5.30pm Monday to Saturday
0114 4381428
info@goodtaste.org.uk

Ethical Clothing Brands – Our Top Picks

Ethical Clothing Brands – Our Top Picks

We recently posted this picture on our Facebook page and it became one of the most engaged with posts we have ever posted. What does that tell us? It encourages us that our customers care about the person who made their clothes and the environmental impact clothing manufacture is having.

We were asked by one of our customers if we could recommend any clothing brands. So we took the challenge and did some research into clothing brands which offer ethical and fair trade clothing. We’ve looked at a mixture of brands and asked these three questions: Why are they on our list, what are the clothes like and how much for a pair of jeans and a t-shirt? Sadly, all but one of the companies on our list are online shops. It will be a long time, I imagine, before we see a fair trade clothes shop on the high street.  We hope you find our research useful, there are links in this article to the websites and particular items of clothing (these were correct at time of writing) to make it easy for you to see the companies we are talking about.

(Please be aware that these are our own opinions and we are not affiliated with any of the companies listed)

People Tree

Why are they on this list?

When most people think of fair trade clothing they often think of People Tree, and quite rightly! They have been pioneering fair trade and sustainable fashion for 27 years.  People Tree follow the principles of Fair Trade in every aspect of their business. All of their products are made by artisans and producers who work to Fair Trade standards. They were the world’s first clothing company to receive the Fair Trade product mark. The majority of their clothing is made from organic, fair trade cotton and non-harmful dyes. They choose natural and recycled fabrics instead of synthetic and non-biodegradable materials.

What are the clothes like?

People Tree sell a wide selection of Women’s clothing, you can buy everything you need for your wardrobe here – from underwear to jackets and they also sell footwear too which is a great bonus! The clothes are beautiful, but they come with a hefty price tag which takes them out of many people’s budget.  Their knitwear is stunning, this 100% wool honeycomb cardigan is absolutely beautiful but at £139 it is a stretch too far for most of us. However, their white high top trainers at £65 are a similar price to their Converse equivalent.  Delivery is free, if you don’t mind waiting a few extra days for your order and returns are free too. People Tree are the only ethical brand in our search to offer both free delivery and returns, which when you’re forced to shop online is what you need (and I think what the customer should expect).

How much for a pair of jeans and a t-shirt?

The beautiful, organic cotton ‘equality’ t-shirt is £35 and a pair of People Tree jeans is £95.

Our Verdict

You can’t argue with People Tree’s ethics or values or in fact with the quality and style of their clothes. However the price is a sticking point for us, as it makes their clothes (and fair trade certified fashion) out of the average consumer’s reach. It would be worth signing up to receive emails from them as their sale offers some great discounts, with lots of seasonal pieces heavily reduced. My favourite bunny rabbit jumper has a massive £30 discount, making it a far more reasonable (but still not cheap!) £39.

Nomads Clothing

Why are they are on this list?

Nomads clothing is one of the few fair trade certified clothing companies. They are a member of BAFTS (British Association of Fair Trade Suppliers) as well as many other bodies which govern sustainable and ethical production. They have a statement of their fair trade policy clearly displayed on their website. Their clothing is made from natural and organic fibres and is free from harmful chemicals which are regularly used in clothing production. And if you thought they couldn’t get any more wonderful, they ship your order in fully biodegradable packaging!

What are the clothes like?

Offering a fairly comprehensive selection of clothing choices for women (and a small selection of shirts for men) Nomads clothing offers a timeless wardrobe selection. Our favourites include their cord bomber jacketcosy tunic dress and a button down cord pinafore dress.

Delivery starts at £3.50, regardless of how much you spend, however returns are free.

How much for a pair of jeans and t-shirt?

Short sleeved t-shirts are currently half price at £15, but a current season long sleeve t shirt will cost you upwards of £40. They don’t do jeans, but a pair of plain slim leg black trousers is £48. Nomads is on the pricey side, with some pieces being well over the £100 mark, but they are unmatched in their ethics and much of their clothing is timeless meaning it should last you for years if properly cared for.

Our verdict:

Beautiful, timeless and elegant. If you want to invest in some fair trade clothing this is a brand to try.

Thought

Why are they are on this list?

Thought use natural, organic and recycled fabrics, such as cotton, hemp and bamboo. Their polyester is made from recycled plastic bottles and their rayon from recycled tree pulp. As proud supporters of slow and thoughtful fashion, they work to ensure that every person who touches their clothing is treated respectfully with fair wages and working conditions. The clothes are created completely in one place (rather than being shipped around) and they are committed to ‘slow shipping’ in order to keep their carbon footprint down. They are a member of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF), a not for profit network which champions ethical production.

What are the clothes like?

We currently stock bamboo socks, tights and leggings from Thought and we have been impressed with the quality of these items. They are comfortable, well fitting and long lasting. In fact, Thought’s bamboo socks are one of our best sellers so our customers clearly agree with us! Thought offer a wide range of clothing choices for men and women, including coats, trousers, dresses, underwear and nightwear.

Their clothing is available to order online, shipping is free over £60 (£3 if under) however unfortunately the customer needs to pay the postage cost of any returns.

How much for a pair of jeans and t-shirt?

You’re not going to get much change from £100 for the standard jean/tshirt combo. Their t-shirts generally sell for between £20-30 and their jeans are £60.  However keep an eye out for their sale as they tend to do great reductions on many of their seasonal products. This hemp t-shirt is currently retailing at £19 in the sale and is definitely worth a look if you’re trying to move away from cotton.

Our verdict

Thought take great care to present themselves as an ethical clothing brand and are really embracing the sustainable and recycled fabrics.

Lucy and Yak

Why are they on this list?

Lucy and Yak are a wonderful example of a small company who cares for all their employees and the environment. They work with one factory in India and their workers there are paid 4 times the national minimum wage, meaning that many of them can work part time. They have also introduced a bonus scheme to encourage excellence, which most of their workers receive every month for beautiful work. They have replaced the existing factory with a larger, safer, cleaner and air-conditioned (solar powered!) one.  They haven’t forgotten their warehouse workers in the UK either who are paid over the national living wage. Their clothing is dyed using low-impact dyes and is shipped in biodegradable packaging. They are aiming to become 100% plastic free.

What are the clothes like?

Lucy and Yak’s signature designs are their dungarees which come in a range of fabrics and colours. They also stock dungaree dresses, tops, trousers, socks and small range of menswear. Their style won’t be for everyone but their combination of style, fun and excellent quality is exceptional. My favourite pick of the website is probably the Purple Striped Dungarees as well as the Cropped Pink Oversized Shirt

How much for a pair of jeans and a t-shirt?

An organic cotton t-shirt will cost you £18 and a pair of trousers (they don’t do jeans!) is between £20 and £28.

Our verdict

Lucy and Yak won’t be to everyone’s taste, but their commitment to a new way of creating fashion is refreshing and market-leading. Their transparency regarding wages and working conditions is second to none and many companies (including some ethical brands) could learn a lot from them.

Rapunai

Why are they on this list?

Self proclaimed ‘eco-clothing’ Rapunai are committed to making quality clothes without the environmental impact. One of the few brands we looked into which addressed the water usage issue around growing cotton and was open on their website about what they are doing to reduce their water use.  They also take care with clothing dyes, they use a recirculating system, meaning that the water is filtered, cleaned and used again for the next batch of dyeing on a closed loop system.  Their factory is powered by renewable energy sources.

What are the clothes like?

Rapunai offer a great selection of mens and women’s clothing. T-shirts made from organic cotton and a great selection of hoodies, sweatshirts and jumpers. Particular favourites of ours are the cosy men’s merino wool jumper and the women’s rainbow recycle top.  Also their bundle of 7 organic cotton t-shirts which at £50 provides a great value basics selection. They also have a selection of mens underwear and bamboo socks. Delivery starts at £3 and returns are free and if an exchange is required this is sent out free of charge.

How much for a pair of jeans and a T- shirt?

Sadly Rapunai don’t sell jeans (or trousers of any sort!) but a t-shirt will cost about £19.

Our verdict

A great option for casual wear and stocking up on basics such as t-shirts and sweatshirts. Not a massive selection of styles but Rapunai clearly know their audience and as a result their collection is streamlined to what their customers want.  Sometimes keeping it simple is enough – and in this case we think they are doing a great job.

Marks and Spencer

Why they are on this list?

We felt that a list made up of exclusively small-scale brands, which although most definitely the best way to shop from an ethical perspective, is not the reality of what many of our customers want. Most people shop on the high street so to exclude high street options from our research was something we were keen not to do. M&S is one of just a small number of companies to take action on the issue of forced labour in Uzbek cotton fields, and has taken practical steps in removing Uzbek cotton from its supply chain.  M&S is also working on phasing out toxic water pollution from its production process. They are the first and only carbon-neutral major retailer and are committed to becoming a zero-waste business by 2025. Sadly they no longer appear to sell their Fairtrade certified cotton t-shirts and they score poorly in the Clean Clothes campaign report, Tailored Wages,, which looks at efforts made by companies to pay a living wage to workers at supplier factories. However, while much of the high street appear to make empty promises, M&S is genuinely ahead of its competitors by engaging with some of the biggest ethical and environmental issues facing the clothing industry today.

What are the clothes like?

There isn’t much that M&S doesn’t sell!  We are very pleased to see their jeans made from sustainable cotton and they also have a fairly good range of organic cotton baby clothes. Obviously you can shop in store and try things on before you buy, however delivery is free over £50 and returns are free of charge.

How much for a pair of jeans and a tshirt?

M&S sustainable cotton straight leg jeans are priced at an incredible £15, whilst a cotton t-shirt starts at £6.50 (£22.50 for organic cotton)

Our verdict

Small brands, whilst wonderful, don’t have the power to transform the industry, M&S however, may do just that. There are still problems which need to be resolved and improved, but rewarding a company who is really trying to move in the right direction, is something we can easily do when we shop on the high street.

Charity Shops

We are big advocates here at Good Taste of buying second hand (or pre-loved!) clothing. Whether you shop in charity shops or on Ebay, by buying secondhand you are reducing the amount of clothing that goes into landfill as well as helping to raise money for charity. It is our throw-away fast fashion culture which is the real problem here, the big fashion brands are unlikely to change while we still demand high volumes of clothes at low prices.

So, when it comes to clothes, shop small, shop second-hand and ultimately shop less.