By Holly Litchfield
Ethical clothing can mean many things: vegan-friendly, cruelty-free clothing; garments that promote the preservation of traditions like embroidery or beading or ensuring the materials used to make the clothing don’t harm the earth, for example. But it can also mean giving a boost to those who need it the most by providing a steady stream of fairly paid work.
Here, we’ve found some fabulous brands that you should know about not only for the high quality and chic style of their ethical collections, but also because these labels are fully dedicated to doing good for women through the creation of fashion. Play it back, ladies!
In many cultures, growing older can be an alienating and lonely process. Without regular work or friends and family close by, many elderly people lose motivation. Enter the North Circular. The knitwear brand founded by model Lily Cole and her mate Katherine Poulton believes in using sustainable materials and artisanal skills to produce luxury knitwear sourced and handmade by “Grannies and Girls” in the United Kingdom. The brand also uses only natural biodegradable fibres and dyes their yarn to Global Organic Textile standards whenever possible.
Their network of talented home knitters has a passion for the craft which translates into lovingly made accessories. The North Circular is especially keen on personalising the process of production and rekindling the relationship between the producer and the purchaser, giving talented older women something to look forward to creating each day.
Bibico is an honest clothing brand that brings fuss-free, relaxed womenswear to the eco-conscious. Founded by Snow, her elegant designs derive from her European roots and are inclusive of summer green and Mediterranean blue tones that bring an essence of seasonal freshness to her collections.
What we find most inspiring about the brand however isn’t just the beautiful clothes, it’s the story behind the manufacturing processes and how Snow endeavours to ‘be the change’ our fashion industry so desperately needs. Bibico currently work with 2 women’s cooperatives that are both fair-trade and certified by the World Fair Trade Organization. Such associations work to employ, train and above all empower women whilst providing them with working standards and wages that are not only fair, but undoubtedly deserved.
Voted the Number 1 best buy for alternative clothing in 2014, People Tree is a well established and sought after brand that continue to dominate the top ranks of the UK’s most ethical companies. Hand crafted from organic cotton and other sustainable materials, People Tree’s collections are casual and stylish, continually attracting all demographics.
Founder and all-round superwoman Safia Minney has been awarded an MBE for her services in Fair Trade and contributions to a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry. For over 20 years, she’s worked with Fair Trade farmers and artisans with the mission of creating ‘a new type of fashion business’, and has stayed committed to all principles set out by the WTFO.
She’s also brought on some major players in the worlds of fashion and celebrity to help boost the cause: for example, Emma Watson designed a collection for the brand, and this young new-gen feminist even visited the women who sewed the garments, to see what their lives were like and to ensure their working conditions were sound and fairly waged (which, of course, People Tree ensures is always the case!)
To date, People Tree provide jobs and livelihoods for over 2,500 women in economically disadvantaged areas including Bangladesh and Nepal and are proud partners with Bombolulu Workshops, an inspiring association that empowers physically disabled people enabling them to become fully integrated and accepted within their communities.
Azmara Asefa’s clean, minimalist clothing is made with unique eco friendly techniques including 3D printing and zero waste cutting, which is great. But what’s even better is that her collections are made in Fair Trade factories in the USA. Human rights is an issue that’s important to the woman behind this chic and sporty fashion label, for very personal reasons.
As the daughter of an Ethiopian refugee, Azmara Asefa knows a bit about the trauma surrounding humanitarian crises, which seem today to be worse than ever given the chaos in the Middle East. So when she launched her eponymous fashion label, she decided to ensure her work was a force for good for refugees, especially women, who suffer more in such situations due to the fact that they are sometimes pregnant, caring for small children, or may experience rape and violence. Asefa is proud to donate 10% of all proceeds directly to the Women’s Refugee Commission, and often speaks up for refugee’s rights.
Specialising in exquisite embroidered shawls and scarfs, Afghan Hands is a non-profit organization that aims to educate and provide liveable wages for disadvantaged Afghan widows resulting in them being able to lead a more independent lifestyle.
Founded in 2009 by one the world’s most renowned celebrity makeup artists, Matin Maulawizada, helping Afghan women to connect with the wider world through education and empowerment was always at the forefront of the brand’s mission. Every penny raised through sales or donations to the organization is spent on developing and expanding the education centres based in Kabul. Claire Danes, American actress and a former client of Matin, has been a committed and loyal supporter of the cause and has recently inspired her artistic mother to collaborate with Afghan Hands creating a line of contemporary, luxurious shawls to further support the movement.
Founded in 2008, Raven & Lily are a sustainable clothing, jewellery and home wear brand committed to producing collections that reflect the raw beauty and culture of its artisans. ‘Eye-catching, elegant and of the highest quality’ are just a few of the descriptive terms used in customer reviews.
Kirsten Dickerson, founder and CEO of Raven & Lily came from a background of TV styling and working with global non-profit organizations. Extensive travels to no less than 30 countries word wide led her to be motivated entirely by a belief that ‘each person is valuable and uniquely created’. Her passion to alleviate poverty and help at risk-women has seen Raven & Lily employ over 1,500 women whilst adhering to fair trade standards in an eco-friendly environment.
SeeMe is an inspiring and ethical jewellery brand founded by Caterina Occhio, a former advocate and aid manager that specialised in social inclusion. After working tirelessly for the European Commision and on various aid projects, Occhio launched SeeMe in 2012 with the end goal of securing working roles for women leaving women’s shelters in Tunisia.
Heart shaped and hand crafted by trained artisans and victims of violence, the designs are timelessly minimalist and thoughtful; as Occhio says, ‘they are links of the love chain we build to replace the chain of violence’. Join the #HeartMovement today!
Light, airy and casually stylish, Faircloth and Supply clothing is handcrafted in comfortable linen and work to compliment your existing wardrobe.
Created and developed by Phoebe Dahl in partnership with General Welfare Pratisthan (GWP), Faircloth & Supply provide a young girl in Nepal with a school uniform following every item sold in store or online. With 67 million children out of school in Nepal with the majority being girls, such donations directly give them the opportunity to go to school and gain the education they deserve.