These ethical streetwear brands are changing the way we do fashion
By Katy Carik
Sure, we all accept that green is the new black, but here’s a new fashion truism for you: athleisure is the new casual, especially when it’s ethically made.
This somewhat surprising trend shows no signs of diminishing, and we pin its popularity on the rise of fitness and nutrition in American culture: being healthy and fit is more chic than ever, and wearing athleisure means you can show off the results of your hard work.
But that’s not the only reason for the strength of this trend. The rise of ‘behind the scenes’ celebrity social media accounts and reality TV shows has also given it a boost, as seeing influencers ‘dressed down’ has suddenly made dressing up look passé, and athleisure even more aspirational. However, given the sweatshop scandals Nike and other casual wear manufacturers have gone through, smart consumers are now demanding that their athletic clothing be ethically made.
Here, I’ve found some ethical streetwear brands that are getting it right, both in terms of style, and of transparency in manufacturing.
10 Ethical Streetwear Brands We’re Loving Right Now
Due to microplastic pollution, the most sustainable option is to avoid recycled plastic fabric that has to be washed frequently. That’s why when shopping the Stella McCartney x Adidas streetwear collections, the best items are those made from organic cotton, or recycled plastic items that don’t need to be washed often, like this jacket, below.
Whether it’s a jumpsuit, trackie bottoms, hoodie or tee, anything made by Ninety Percent is actually likely to be 100% pure, organic cotton. Made in ethical factories, each item of clothing they produce is not only comfortable enough to live in, but also stylish enough to wear out without feeling like you just left the gym.
I especially love their subtle use of tie dye in some items, and the softness of the fabrics they use.
3. People Tree
FairTrade production, GOTS certified fabrics, and beautiful functional clothing is what you might normally associate with People Tree. But guess what? They also have a great line of athletic wear, too – making them one of our favourite ethical streetwear brands.
Made from organic cotton, Tencel and other natural materials under ethical conditions, every piece is great for the gym, yoga class, or just running errands in.
We just discovered this London-based brand, and are in love! Blonde gone rogue is one of the newest (and hottest!) additions to the London sustainable fashion scene. The brand uses up-cycled, recycled and organic fabrics to create stunning clothing that’s ethically made.
Whether you choose an organic cotton hoodie, tights made from materials sourced from fabric recycling depots, or a jacket made from upcycled parachutes, you’ll be bang on trend!
If your favourite movie is Flashdance, or if you’re more at home in a dance studio than in an office, you’ll love this label! Inspired by elegant but athletic ballerinas, European brand Pepper & Mayne’s fabrics are all spun and produced ethically in Portugal.
Everything in their comfy collections is nature-based, be it sustainably sourced cashmere, organic cotton, or Tencel, all of which are better for your skin – and the environment.
6. NO KA’OI
Bold, beautiful, and ready for a workout, the NO KA’OI active wear range combines the heritage of Italian design with the modern trend for athleisure. Of all the ethical streetwear brands here, this one may seem to be the least eco, since they use synthetic fabrics for their range – but that depends on how you define ‘eco friendly.’
For example, to ensure it’s as sustainable as can be, the label has partnered with The Rilievi Group, which checks that all their garments are made via eco-friendly processes that conserve both water and energy. Rilievi is particularly well known for their handmade tailoring and embroidery work, which is done by artisans in Bologna, Italy.
Everyone needs basics, and we think Bassike is a great option for luxurious but sustainable staples that can be mixed and matched for yoga classes, gym workouts or casual Sundays.
Made ethically in Australia, most items are crafted from organic cotton jersey, which moves fluidly and feels super-soft on the skin. We love the 90’s inspired vibe of this brand, too!
8. Charli Cohen
We totally agree with Charli Cohen – sustainability shouldn’t be a choice or a strategy, it’s should be the foundation of a brand. And Charli puts her money where her mouth is: 70% of the fabrics she uses come from exclusively up-cycled materials.
The mills she employs produce in limited quantities to reduce waste, and the brand actively works to minimise the carbon footprint of their textile production. Charli Cohen’s design aesthetic is thoroughly modern and technical; we particularly love her comfy, soft – and frankly, rather unusually cut – track pants.
9. Bo Carter
After growing up in Communist Poland, Bo Carter learned how to make do and mend with scraps of fabric. The result? Today, she produces one of the most ethical streetwear brands. Her super soft tops, hoodies and track bottoms are , made from 100% certified organic cotton that has been dyed with vegetable colourings.
Worker ethics and a tough stance against animal cruelty are also dear to Bo’s heart, which is why you won’t find leather, or fur in her collections, which are all ethically made in Europe.
Of all the ethical streetwear brands, this is probably the best known. A strong proponent of eco-friendly, unisex and sustainable fashion, this British designer has long been concerned with the future of the planet, as demonstrated by his signature slogan, “Remade, Reduce, Recycle, Raeburn”.
The slogan could be seen printed in white letters on the black shoulder straps used on the pouch bags of his most recent streetwear collection, but I also love that he used upcycled knitwear, fishing nets and parachutes to create garments, too.