My Favorite Ethical Fashion Brands

Ethical fashion is really a blanket term that encompasses many different things. For example, ethical fashion could refer to how the clothes are produced and whether the workers involved are receiving fair wages. However, that doesn't always cover the materials or production itself; even clothes produced in safe conditions with fair wages could still be made using fabrics composed of mircoplastics that pollute the environment. So, some will use the term ethical fashion to refer to the production--using recycled (or upcycled/deadstock) fabrics or more natural materials like linen, while others are more focused on fair wages and safe working conditions when they refer to ethical fashion. Most high street clothes are able to produce clothes very cheaply because the workers aren't paid fair wages and the fabrics are synthetic. I talk about linen quite a bit, but the more I learn about it the more I really appreciate this fabric--it's a very hardy crop that usually only requires rain water to grow and the fabric itself is biodegradable. When I see something is made with linen I immediately know that the dress was made using one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics and it takes some of the guesswork out of wondering how ethical the garment is or not. Ethical fashion in general can be intimidating to talk about because like linen, I'm always learning more and am far from an expert. There's so many terms to learn like what is deadstock fabric or upcycling or greenwashing and how do we check if the brands are being as ethical as they say they are (many high street brands will do ethical fashion/sustainable campaigns but their production doesn't reflect their adverts)? But we all have to start somewhere and caring where our clothes from and who made them is a great start. I've found a few brands I love in the past few years that fall under the ethical fashion umbrella and these are my favorites to wear.
earlyapples-23 earlyapples-16 Little Women Atelier: I only have a couple of Little Women dresses but I think they are by far the most worn pieces in my closet. They're very classic and romantic in shape; the Beth style is my favorite--I love the puffed sleeves and full skirts (and every dress model has deep pockets). They can be a bit dramatic at first, but they're actually really easy to wear. Their dresses are made with linen, one of the most eco-friendly fabrics and produced in small batches in their family studio. They typically only have a handful of dress styles available, but you can get pieces customized by color, sleeve length, and dress length. You can also get pieces made-to-measure so it's pretty size inclusive as they'll make custom pieces to your exact size.

Emmy Design: Most of my favorite ethical fashion brands tend to be dress-centric (although many of these brands produce separates as well) because that is what I personally wear the most, but a great brand for vintage inspired separates and knitwear is Emmy Design. Emmy produces two collections a year, all produced in small batches with fair wages. Their knits are made with merino wool--fun fact wool is also biodegradable! Despite being made with wool none of their knits are remotely itchy and they don't pill the way many fast-fashion brands will (speaking from experience as I own several and wear them loads); the yarn is specially treated to be super soft while still being so warm and cozy. Emmy is best known for their classic cardigans which are gorgeous, but they also make timeless separates and dresses and coats. They have a very broad size range, going up to a size 20 in US sizing.

Nour and the Merchant: One of the reasons I used to be less swayed towards ethical fashion was the fear that embracing ethical fashion meant sacrificing my personal style. About a decade ago it felt like most of the ethical fashion brands that existed were very minimal and functional in style and it felt hard to find clothes that suited me. These days more and more romantic and classic brands are emerging and it feels a lot of easier to embrace and shop ethically. One brand that really feels like "me" has to be Nour and the Merchant. Inspired by fairytales this small Italian label is a mix of slow fashion pieces made to your order and ready-wear. They have set sizes, some one size fits most dresses, and also take custom fit orders (notice how almost every small ethical brand will make clothes to your exact measurements? these clothes will be cut to your exact measurements, not just bust and hip, but the length of your torso and skirt preferences; these are clothes that are made to be worn and loved again and again because they're made for you--not some rudimentary size). Their dresses are romantic and finished with beautiful details.

Doen: Definitely the most expensive brand on my list, Doen is a really dreamy label based out of California. I do find their prices a bit unrealistic for the average consumer (I only buy their dresses on sale; follow them on IG or sign up for their newsletter to be informed about sales), but they do care a lot about social responsibility ensuring safe and fair production; they work with factories in India that help pay for the education of the children of employees and in Peru they work with women in remote areas of Lima who hand-make their knits at home or in church halls. Some of the brands on this list are more affordable than Doen, but they will all cost more than the average high street brand. However, it's important to recognize that a dress that is made ethically out of materials that don't harm the environment by a worker who is fairly compensated for their skilled labor isn't overpriced, rather we have been taught to undervalue the labor of others and our environment. Most of Doen styles only go up to a size XL.

Sondeflor: Sondeflor is probably one of the most known linen brands out there. They produce truly classic dresses cut in simple, timeless lines. They're known for their "classic dress" with long skirts, but they introduced a short classic dress this past spring--so don't be intimidated by the skirt lengths! They are Lithuanian based, using fair production linen and producing all clothes locally with fair wages. Sondeflor also doesn't use any plastic in wrapping and delivery of their garments. You can feel the care put into independent brands; the quality is always exceptional and everything from the dress-making to the packaging is personal to the brand and people involved. Their standard dresses go up to size XXL, but you can also get pieces custom made to your measurements.

Cotton Candy Wear: Yes, yet another linen label! Cotton Candy Wear is a Ukranian based family studio that produces clothes in linen, wool, and cotton. One of the reasons I really love this shop is that many of their designs are based off of old books or period films, so their clothes range from very classic swing dresses to Pride and Prejudice inspired pinafores. They also make very classic and minimal linen blouses as well. Many of my favorite labels reflect my personal style which might be a bit more whimsical than wearable depending on your lifestyle, but many of these shops also carry timeless blouses and skirts as well. Even if your style is a bit more stream-lined you can still shop more ethically and find high quality pieces that suit your personal style.

Allthebeautifullinen: One last linen brand I can't resist sharing is All The Beautiful Linen, this Lithuanian based shop comes to mind more for homewares than fashion although they do have some fashion garments as well as children's clothes. Many of their pieces have beautiful detailed embroidery and they also sell linen tablecloths, pillowcases, pocket organizers, and the sweetest aprons. I feel like this shop is perfect for the slow-living homemaker who is looking for classic aprons and table settings. They also have the sweetest cloth backpacks--how cute is this mustard yellow bag with hedgehog embroidery?!
earlyapples-12earlyapples-34Vintage: Another way to shop more ethically is to buy vintage and secondhand clothes. There's a lot of great apps out there for shopping secondhand if you don't live close to thrift stores and Etsy is a still a treasure trove of vintage finds. Vintage is a great way to shop more ethically as it's a form of recycling or upcycling. Re-wearing all our clothes is also key to being a more ethical fashion consumer. It's believed that the average fast-fashion garment produced will only be worn seven times before it's disposed of or replaced--this number is insane! One thing I try to do before buying a new piece is to envision all the ways I will wear it, all the places I can wear it, and what pieces I already own that will match it (like shoes and accessories); this helps me be more certain I'm purchasing something that will get a lot of wear and hopefully be worn for many years.
Ethical fashion will always cost more than what fast fashion stores can charge because the cheap prices we're used to is actually unrealistic; those prices only exist because someone isn't being paid a fair wage and the materials used are likely bad for the environment as well. Still I understand that some of these brands might not be accessible to everyone and I'm not trying to shame anyone for where or how they buy their clothes. I merely want to share some of the brands I love and have a positive experience with; this list is far from complete, but these are some of my favorite places to shop a bit more ethically. I also try to add an "ethical fashion" label to every post I share with ethical clothes on my blog, so you can always browse that tag for other brands and ideas. I am by no means a perfectly ethical shopper or person in general, but I believe in all of us trying our best and making steps towards a more balanced life. I hope this list gave you some inspiration and maybe makes it a bit easier to begin or continue on your own ethical fashion journey.
*pictures edited with Golden Hour from my Summer Preset Pack*


to top