By Katy Caric
Ethical kaftans might just be the best piece of clothing, ever – they’re roomy, they’re comfy, and they look great dressed up with a pair of heels or thrown over a bathing suit. Each summer, they trend so hard, it’s difficult to believe they’ve actually been around for thousands of years! Yep, it’s true: this easy-to-wear garment has ancient Mesopotamian origins, and has been worn by many Middle-Eastern peoples for several centuries.
But they became popular in the West during the 1950s, when fashion designers such as Christian Dior and Balenciaga adapted the kaftan as a loose evening gown or robe in their collections. Later, American hippie fashions of the late 1960s and the 1970s often borrowed ethnic styles, and this was then appropriated by fashion designers, who marketed lavish, Moroccan-style kaftans as hostess gowns for casual at-home entertaining. Once the jet set, including Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, and Talitha Getty rocked them, well, the general public wanted a kaftan, too.
Now for us, ethical kaftans are considered something of a summer essential. Here, I’ve rounded up 10 of my favourite ethical kaftans to take you from the beach to the evening and on to the city.
10+ Gorgeously Floaty Ethical Kaftans for Summer
1. A Peace Treaty
Made from 100% handwoven silk, this kaftan comes in a rainbow of gorgeous colours! It’s a luxurious piece for the beach that can easily be dressed up with a pair of strappy, heeled sandals. If you’re not familiar with A Peace Treaty, the brand works with artisans in developing countries to preserve local traditions and provide a sustainable income.
This caftan from Figue is a classic fit with some tassel twist. I love the marine blue colour combination with the tassel embellishments that really give this caftan some pizazz. To create its artisanal collections, Figue partners with communities of fairly paid artisans around the world. For example, this kaftan was crafted in India with local partner Orange International.
This simple piece is the type of vacation piece that will look fresh for years to come. It’s handcrafted to an ankle-skimming silhouette, and features gorgeous, handmade embroidery from the neckline all the way down to the sleeves and bottom hem – a nod to the label’s artisanal ethos.
This may well be the most perfect boho kaftan selection of all time! I love how Holland Street’s breezy, silk pieces are light enough for even the hottest of days. All are made ethically in London with printed gorgeous crepe de chine, and you never need to worry about sizing – their ethical kaftans are the ultimate body inclusive piece, with one size fitting all.
5. Pippa Holt
Ethical fashion designer Pippa Holt calls kaftans her ‘holiday heroes’, and no wonder: they are the perfect packing item, and work day or night. This mini kaftan is just the ticket for standout ethical holiday fashion, and it was handmade in Mexico by artisan weavers.
Vacations are a great time to slow down, and ‘slow’ is infused into every inch of this kaftan, since each new stitching technique takes 2-3 years to perfect. No wonder Anna only introduces one new collection a year. Everything is made from natural cotton or silk, and is hand crocheted and dyed by artisanal family practitioners. Pair yours with a sustainable swimsuit and straw hat for some great ethical beach style.
Inspired by the 70s, this fun, flirty ethical kaftan is made of weighty cotton and is a great casual piece to have in your wardrobe. The details are all hand crocheted by fairly paid artisans in Bali, and frankly, this piece in particular is pretty enough to wear as a dress in the city, not just as a bathing suit coverup on the beach!
8. Rujuta Sheth
Whether you’re covering your skin for the sun at a seaside resort, or hitting the city streets, this breezy Rujuta Sheth caftan will help keep you cool! It’s handmade sustainably with eco-friendly dyes making the pretty intricate patterns. It’s light, it’s airy and it’s perfect for when you just want to feel naked because it’s so darn hot outside!
Proving that ethical kaftans aren’t just for the beach, or even just for casual wear, Sachin & Babi’s kaftans are actually fit for fancy evening soirées – or even the red carpet! Their fine silks are covered in sequins and produced in Sachin & Babi’s family owned factory in Mumbai. Pair yours with turquoise accessories and vegan sandals for a chic and comfortable evening look.
Easy breezy city style. I love this look for a casual day at the office or a stylish summer brunch. Pair it with some cute vegan slides and a straw bag for maximum summer vibes. This Pondichérie kaftan is made from hand-dyed Indian sourced organic cotton, and Pondichere places specific emphasis on supporting the craftswomen who make them.
11. Mara Hoffman
This super-eco-friendly and vegan friendly designer has a myriad of gorgeous beachy kaftans, but one of my favourite styles is her off-the-shoulder line – this style, plus the leg slits, ensure that your kaftan doesn’t make you look at all old and dowdy, am I right?
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