What is ethical fashion? There’s so much to unpack when it comes to buying ethical, sustainable and eco fashion brands. In the first place, how can you tell the difference between all the different meanings?
What is ethical fashion
Ethical fashion is a general umbrella term, used to describe everything from the quality of working conditions, the effect on local communities and the positive sustainable impact that the product has on the environment. Generally, when sourcing ethical fashion one must look at everything from fabric, working conditions, animal welfare and whether or not the product is polluting the environment, before being able to make a decision on whether something is ethically produced.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion focuses more on the impact on the environment than the working conditions, although some brands lump them together. Sustainable items must have a proven low impact on the environment, whether that be through the sourcing of their fabric, their production methods or their shipping and packaging protocols.
What is fair trade and eco fashion?
Similar to the above terms, fair trade fashion must ensure the people who make the product are at the centre of the brand’s mission. That means paying them a living wage, providing decent working conditions and adhering to local labour laws. In other words, making sure that the people making the product aren’t being exploited. Eco fashion is more of a general term which encompasses sustainable and ethical fashion, often with a set focus on the environment.
Where can I buy ethical fashion brands in Australia?
Australia is packed with covetable ethical fashion brands, all of which offer something a little bit different. Although no fashion brand is 100 per cent ethical or sustainable — the industry on principal is not a sustainable one — there are some brands doing their bit in getting there. We've rounded 10 of our favourites below, so you can shop (mostly) guilt free.
10. Who: Bassike
What: Clothing and shoes
Australia’s favourite basics label, Bassike, has had a commitment to sustainability for years. With their lines of organic cotton, the brand has paved the way for producing products with a lower chemical footprint. Now, with a recently introduced denim range which is all ethically made in Japan, Bassike is on its way to becoming one of the country’s most sustainable brands.
9. Who: Kowtow
What: Clothing and shoes
Technically from New Zealand, this sustainable brand is one we’d like to claim as our own — it’s that good! With their focus on eliminating slave trade and unethical working practices, the brand ensures every worker and every fibre is sourced with serious respect and adheres to ethical practices.
8. Who: Sans Beast
Once a head designer at Mimco, Cathryn Wills has taken her design hand and aesthetic eye to Sans Beast, her own line of vegan bags and accessories. Using vegan leathers and other non-animal materials, Wills has managed to craft a line of must-have bags, without compromising on design.
7. Who: Nagnata
Focused primarily on technical wool and knits, this local brand is all about ensuring their products are organic, recycled and sustainable. With a eye on only producing what they need, Nagnata is all about slowing down fashion and in the meantime adhering to a certain social responsibility that comes with working within the textiles industry.
6. Who: Elk
What: Accessories and clothing
Elk has a serious commitment to ethical practice and sustainability, choosing suppliers at every part of their chain that complete their vision. With a commitment to animal welfare and treating their employees correctly, Elk’s track record with sustainability is proven.
5. Who: Salt Gypsy
What: Surf and swimwear
Byron Bay based label Salt Gypsy is all about producing high quality swim and surfwear made with sustainability in mind. All produced in Australia and complete with biodegradable packaging, each piece is made with a sustainable version of nylon, a 100 per cent regenerated nylon yarn.
4. Who: Outland Denim
A favourite of Meghan Markle, Outland Denim has gained a name for being the most ethical jean brand in the business. As a notoriously bad product for the environment, Outland's not-so-bad denim is made from sustainably sourced cotton and ensures it helps empower the women who make their jeans. Made by Cambodian women who have been victims of sex trafficking, Outland’s vision starts with the very first hire — and ends with a damn good pair of jeans.
3. Who: Spell Byron Bay
What: Clothing and swimwear
Apart from having a commitment to the environment by way of natural dyes and ethically sourced fabrics, this Bryon Bay label also partners with Canopy, an organisation set up to ensure brand's cellulose based fibres (viscose, rayon, tencel, modal) are not contributing to the deforestation of ancient or endangered forests.
2. Who: Ginger & Smart
What: Clothing and shoes
Ginger & Smart sources fabrics that are recyclable and biodegradable and minimises the use of harmful chemicals and excessive water usage in both the production of their clothes and milling of their fabrics.
1. Who: KitX
Kit Willow’s KitX has been sustainable before it was cool to be sustainable. Focusing in on man made fibres, natural dyes and ethical factories, KitX has gained a reputation as being Australia’s premiere sustainable brand, with good reason.