These ethical kaftans are perfect for cover ups on the beach, or dresses in the city
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 started rocking them, well, the general public wanted a kaftan, too!
Now for us today, ethical kaftans are considered something of a summer essential. And that’s true for both men and women – after all, these garments were initially for men in the Middle East. They can still wear them, too!
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.
Image credit below: Lovestitch.com Main image: Kasia Kulenty
10+ Gorgeously Floaty Ethical Kaftans for Summer
1. Mala Chetty
The fabrics used in Mala Chetty’s exquisite resort collections are of an absolutely exquisite quality. These gorgeous, certified Fair Trade silk kaftans are not only dyed with organic materials, but they have also been made by female artisans in Vietnam. Each kaftan purchase helps to support traditional Vietnamese craftsmanship, as well as the community of women who create them.
These lighter-than-air pieces work wonderfully when worn over a sustainable swimsuit, or can be worn atop summer tees and tights on chillier days.
All of Chetty’s designs flatter any figure, and promise to turn heads whether you’re on the French Riviera or at an ashram in Goa.
Oh my stars, was I happy to find this brand! Inspired by the women of the Yucatan region of Mexico, Kasia Kulenty makes artfully handmade clothing to die for. Designs here are airy, fluid and elegant.
Each piece is hand cut, sewn and individually dyed with natural colours by fairly paid Mexican artisans. As the brand says: ‘By focusing on the artistry of handcraft and its long-standing traditions in all corners of the world, we are enriched with the knowledge of the present and the past, as well as the understanding of the importance of creating a sustainable future.’
Prices: Around $550
Muzungu Sisters is an ethical fashion label started by two friends who love to travel. They hire artisans around the world to create their ethnic-inspired pieces, which include bags, kaftans, dresses, tops and more.
This simple, ethical kaftan below 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.
Prices: From around $500
This may well be the most perfect boho kaftan selection of all time! I love how British brand 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.
The stunning, elaborate print and the dazzling colours of this kaftan make it sophisticated enough to wear out to the most elegant dinners in the city.
Prices: From around $320
5. Ocean & Main
Sustainable cupro is used to create a flowing silhouette for this long placket caftan. The size and shape of this works on everybody, and the fabric is super soft on the skin. Cupro is a by-product of the cotton industry, and not only drapes really well, but is eco friendly, too.
This ethical coverup is perfect for the beach – it’s a tiny bit transparent, so might not double well as a day dress. But we love that cheery sunshine hue, and the elegant cut!
Price: Around $390
6. Secteur 6
Inspired by the 70s, this fun, flirty ethical kaftan is a great casual piece to have in your wardrobe. 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!
Secteur 6 is dedicated to bringing fresh design to radically conscious clothing, helping to transform a massive industry in a moment of global reckoning. It’s so-named due to the ‘Six Secteurs’ the owners are focused on. These are:
- Real Transparency
- Regenerative Farming
- Workers’ Rights
- 100% Biodegradable Materials
- Gender Equality
- Preserving Local Culture
Who says fashion can’t be a force for change?
Prices: From around $200
Whether you’re covering your skin for the sun at a seaside resort, or hitting the city streets, this breezy sustainable kaftan by Mexican based brand Jaline Resort will help keep you cool! Figuratively AND literally!
Called the ‘Penelope’ kaftan, it comes in an exclusive Mineral Zen print on 100% silk that feels luxurious against the skin. Easy and relaxed, this dress is cut on the bias and lends a beautiful drape to your silhouette. No matter what your size or body type, this will fit – and look flattering!
Price: Around $700
8. Studio 189
Proving that ethical kaftans aren’t just for the beach, or even just for casual wear, Studio 189’s kaftans are actually fit for the city. In fact, they have a bit of a streetwear vibe! Their fine fabrics include organic cottons, naturally dyed, and their collections focus on organic, slow fashion that makes positive socio-economic change in Africa. Don’t expect to find this on the rack somewhere, though – to save waste, the label only makes its clothes by pre-order.
Pair it with some cute vegan slides and a straw bag for maximum summer vibes. This mini kaftan is made from hand-dyed African – sourced organic cotton. It’s an easy, no-fuss piece that you’ll reach for often during warmer months for years to come. Handmade in Ethiopia from a lightweight cotton-blend gauze, it features a relaxed silhouette and inverted pleats along the bodice. Pair yours with some vegan sandals and a straw bag for the summeriest of vibes!
10. Mara Hoffman
This super-eco-friendly and vegan friendly designer offers a myriad of gorgeous beachy kaftans in cheery colours and prints. But some of my favourite styles of hers are the most minimalistic. Take this classic ethical kaftan below, for example. The coral hue pairs beautifully well with gold jewellery, and you can dress it up or down, depending on the accessories you choose to style it with.
Price: Around $375
11. Marrakshi Life
Want a taste of Morocco in your wardrobe? Marrakshi Life will provide!
This maker of sustainable kaftans us ancient Moroccan craftsmanship techniques when crafting each collection. The unisex, made-to-order label works exclusively with fabrics that are hand-woven in their atelier to create clothing that is authentic with a fashion-forward urban twist.
Additionally, with each release, Marrakshi Life remains deeply committed to sustainable, slow fashion practices, adhering to a zero-waste policy with a low environmental impact.
12. Pattern Village
Think luxury fashion comes at a cost to the planet? Not when it’s made from recycled water bottles! Eco-conscious brand, Pattern Village, has recently launched its collection of bold kaftans to the sustainable clothing market. And the female-owned ethical fashion brand is making stunning designs which will freshen up any summer wardrobe. For every silky kaftan, Pattern Village saves 20 plastic bottles from landfill. This is fashion you can truly feel good about wearing.
A Pattern Village kaftan is designed to be stylish, versatile and functional. Each one comes with hidden zip pockets and a snap closure at the chest instead of a belt. Every gown also has a UPF 50 – making it the perfect vacation accessory.