Fast fashion has a terrible track record and it's why it's more important than ever to know who is behind your clothes. Consumers are demanding more from brands and today, I am happy to say there are so many stylish fair trade clothing brands to choose from. If slow fashion is your vibe, you will love the fair trade clothing options featured here just as much as I do.
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What is fair trade?
The concept of fair trade started out as a movement to help local artisans and farmers in different countries. It all started sometime during the early 1950s, when Europeans and Americans began purchasing local goods from their travels, returning to Europe and the US to sell them at higher prices, and then bringing back the profits and giving them directly to the artisans and farmers.
To avoid the clear opportunities for exploitation this model presented, Paul Rice created Fair Trade USA in 1997; which established a universal standard for monitoring Fair Trade around the world.
The main objective is to help craftspeople and farmers in developing countries get more favourable trading conditions for their labour and products. But it also promotes sustainability by setting environmental standards.
Why shop fair trade brands?
Though fast fashion offers on-trend convenience, it is absolutely devastating to the environment, and unethical on several fronts. From child labour and the use of harmful chemicals to unthinkable amounts of waste at every step of the supply chain, it’s a wonder there is anything left.
Though fashion and clothing are awesome, this does not justify trashing the planet and putting the future of our species at risk.
Reaching for more ethical and sustainable alternatives is truly the best thing to do, wherever possible. That includes shopping with fair trade brands, secondhand online stores, thrift stores, and sustainable clothing brands.
By shopping for fair trade brands, we vote for more ethical labour standards. That means safe and fair working conditions, fair wages, as well as programs that invest in the people and communities where these products are made.
Choosing fair trade also means more responsible production practices where the environment is concerned, so it’s a win-win all around. And these days you can find lots of wonderful fair trade products including fair trade hats and fair trade slippers.
You will also find everything from fair trade kids clothes, dresses, jewelry, scarves, and fair trade sweaters; to fair trade gifts and even fair trade blankets; so there is sure to be something for everyone.
And if you ever have a fashion emergency, I won’t fault you for running into the nearest fast-fashion retailer, but do try a good thrift store or a sustainable clothing brand near you, before reaching for fast fashion brands.
Otherwise, there is nothing a little research and planning cannot help when it comes to finding more sustainable and more ethical fair trade clothing companies. And that’s just what you’ll find here.
How to shop for fair trade clothing?
Whenever I’m looking for more sustainable fashion I consider 3 main factors: the materials and fabrics used, sourcing practices, and corporate responsibility.
For fair trade clothing and more sustainable clothing in general, this means natural materials and fabrics that are manufactured ethically and sustainably. That includes responsible sourcing methods throughout the supply chain; which a fair trade certification speaks to specifically.
Some of the best certifications to look for include: Fair Trade (of course), the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the Organic Content Standard (OCS), USDA-Certified Organic, the Recycled Claim Standard, the SCS Recycled Content Certification, Bluesign, the Better Cotton Standard and OEKO-TEX® 100.
Products made with natural buttons using coconuts or tag nuts are also preferable. There are even options made from recycled buttons or recycled zippers; or some that omit metallic/non-recyclable features altogether (like rivets in denim or plastic buttons).
I also look to support brands that show their commitment to better business practices through corporate responsibility. This demonstrates what more they are doing to reduce their impact on the communities they work in -- a big part of Fair Trade -- and, what more they are doing for the planet in general.
Top picks for fair trade clothing brands
A sustainable clothing brand, The Good Tee offers fair trade organic cotton t-shirts and basics for men, women, kids & babies, like hoodies, t-shirt dresses and baseball t's. On a mission to be a positive example in ethical fashion, you can rest assured their products are responsibly manufactured with respect for everyone involved in their making and for the planet too.
The Good Tee Materials and fabrics;
The Good Tee uses only certified Fairtrade cotton and certified eco-friendly dyes.
The Good Tee Ethical sourcing;
Fairtrade Certified, The Good Tee ensures that its products are responsibly manufactured every step of the way. In fact, their t-shirts are 100% traceable; from the cotton used to make them, all the way to your door.
The Good Tee Corporate responsibility;
The Good Tee is a certified B Corporation that demonstrates its commitment to the highest standards of social and environmental accountability and transparency. A great option for organic fair trade clothing.
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Formerly known as Alice + Whittles, Thesus is an outdoor footwear and accessories brand, offering sustainable fair trade vegan footwear and accessories. On a mission to outfit your outdoor adventures, Thesus is committed to doing so with the people and planet in mind. Their simple and versatile designs are sure to please on or off the trail all year-round.
Thesus Materials and fabrics;
To make their products, Thesus uses a lot of recycled materials like 100% recycled plastic collected from oceans, 100% recycled PU claimed from car dashboards, and 100% recycled nylon. Other materials include certified ink and nickel-free hooks.
Thesus Ethical sourcing;
Thesus is committed to supporting a decent standard of living where it works. Their production is done at two family-run operations; one in Sri Lanka and one in Portugal; where they ensure that all of their staff and all of the staff working with their direct manufacturers are paid a living wage.
Thesus Corporate responsibility;
Using good design to reduce waste, there are lots to love at Thesus. The brand is also BIPOC-owned and women-led which we love to see and support at The Eco Hub. Currently, they are working on transitioning to 100% natural and recycled materials and becoming a Climate Neutral Certified company by December 31st, 2022. Find the countdown for that on their website and be sure to check them out for fair trade footwear and accessories.
Outerknown is a great brand for fair trade men’s clothing. It was founded by pro-surfer Kelly Slater on a mission to offer more sustainable clothing options. With sustainability at its core, Outerknown also works with Fair Trade USA to ensure better labour standards, and their selection includes lots of great options for women as well. Their selection of clothing includes dresses, jackets, jumpsuits, jeans, sweaters, swimsuits and much more for both men and women.
Outerknown Materials and fabrics;
Outerknown uses many sustainable fabrics and materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, hemp, recycled ocean plastic buttons and buttons made from nuts.
Outerknown Ethical sourcing;
With a commitment to fair labour practices, Outerknown is certified by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and was the very first brand to pursue an accreditation before putting their clothes on the market. With that, all of their trunks, denim, and most of their t-shirts come from three Fair Trade Certified suppliers. You will also find a list of their suppliers and where they are located on their website.
Outerknown Corporate responsibility;
With some ambitious circularity goals, a clear commitment to sustainability and fair trade certifications to boot, there is lots to love over at Outerknown on the hunt for sustainable fair trade clothing.
Conscious Step is a sustainable apparel company helping to give back with every purchase. You can pick from lots of fun ethically produced and uniquely designed sustainable socks based on a cause you want to support. By choosing Conscious Step you can contribute to causes like mental health, protecting the arctic, and more; all while voting for fairtrade apparel.
Conscious Step Materials and fabrics;
For their socks, Conscious Step uses materials like Fairtade, GOTS certified organic cotton, recycled polyester and elastane. Their sweatshirts are made of organic cotton and an Aloe Vera lining.
Conscious Step Ethical sourcing;
With a commitment to lasting social and environmental change, Conscious Step ensures that their production supports farms and manufacturers with no child labour, fair wages and safe working conditions. They are also fairtrade certified.
Conscious Step Corporate responsibility;
Members of 1% For The Planet, Conscious Step makes a great option for fairtrade apparel. Not only do they offer better choices, but they also offer the option to give back to a cause of your choice.
An OG in ethical clothing, Patagonia also offers lots of fairtrade products. Their fair trade options includes all sorts of gear like jackets, beanies, crew neck long sleeves, bottoms and even Hose-Down Slicker Bib Overalls if that happens to be on your shopping list!
To find all of their fairtrade offerings simply hover over the ‘Shop’ drop-down menu, choose the category or product you are looking for, then scroll down the page until you find the filers, click on ‘Materials & Fabrics’, and there you’ll be able to sort through all of the fairtrade products they offer and more.
Patagonia Materials and fabrics;
Patagonia uses fabrics made of recycled fishing nets, organic cotton, hemp, recycled content, wool and more. Just be sure to check out the product description or to use the filters to find exactly what you want.
Patagonia Ethical sourcing;
Patagonia has been offering Fair Trade clothing since 2014. Thus far their Fair Trade Program has impacted more than 64,000 workers in 10 countries around the world. In fact, 87% of the products they offer are now Fair Trade Certified sewn. That means safe working conditions and fair wages, as well worker-led investments.
Patagonia Corporate responsibility;
Patagonia does a ton to advocate for and protect the planet and its inhabitants. They are now taking on investing in Regenerative Organic practices which are good for us and for the planet.
Pact is an apparel and home goods brand offering sustainable products made in Fair Trade Certified Factories. On a mission to build Earth's Favorite™ Clothing Company, Pact offers options for women, men, and kids, and makes a great option for affordable fair trade clothing.
Pact Materials and fabrics;
Pact offers a wide selection of items made of Earth’s Favorite™ Fiber, organic cotton. Just be sure to check out the product description for items made with different blends.
Pact Ethical sourcing;
In terms of ethical sourcing, Pact ensures that its products are Certified Organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and that all of the products with the Fair Trade Certified seal are made by people who work in safe conditions. This seal also reflects better environmental practices, investments in creating sustainable livelihoods, and additional money to empower and uplift the communities they work in.
Pact Corporate responsibility;
To reduce their footprint and help reduce ours as well, pact ships its products using more sustainable shipping materials like paper envelopes made from 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard and cardboard boxes made with 98% post-consumer recycled materials, which are 100% recyclable. They also use biodegradable plastic bags to keep your clothing safe through shipping. You can also offset the carbon associated with your shipment at check out, so be sure to look out for that.
A design-driven ethical fashion company, Mata Traders offers vibrant style made using fair trade practices, for clothing we can really love. They make a perfect option for fair trade women’s clothing with lots of lovely garments including dresses, jumpsuits, tops, bottoms, jewelry and accessories.
Mata Traders Materials and fabrics;
Materials used include cotton, linen, and an organic jersey made of 95% organic cotton and 5% spandex.
Mata Traders Ethical sourcing;
To make their garments, Mata Traders works with several fair trade organizations in India and Nepal. With a focus on gender equality and empowering women, these organizations train and employ hundreds of artisans — bringing them fair wages and helping to alleviate global poverty. Their work also helps to keep century-old craft traditions alive.
Mata Traders Corporate responsibility;
On a mission to ‘fashion a better world’, Mata Traders bridges great design and ethical practices which we can totally get behind. In doing so they help to promote more ethical practices while alleviating poverty and gender inequality. Best of all, they also help us make better choices while supporting marginalized communities.
ABLE is an ethical lifestyle brand working to end generational poverty by creating sustainable opportunities for women. They manufacture directly in the communities they want to impact by creating jobs, which also helps to end the cycle of charity dependency. At ABLE you’ll find hand-woven scarves, denim, leather goods, hand-made jewelry, and footwear.
Able Materials and fabrics;
ABLE mostly uses all-natural fibers for its garments but lookout for more details in the product description.
Able Ethical sourcing;
ABLE works to offer unparalleled transparency through their accountABLE reporting system, where their manufacturers are audited for wages, equality, and safety. Starting in Ethiopia, they now produce in Peru, Mexico, and the United States, where they ensure fair wages, and a safe and healthy work environment.
Able Corporate responsibility;
When you shop with ABLE you help to alleviate poverty, empower women, and give them work they can be proud of which goes such a long way in improving their lives. ABLE also ships its products in recycled mailers, repurposes shipping boxes for storage at their headquarters, and is currently moving toward 100% recyclable packaging by 2022.
Tamga strives to be a positive example in fashion by offering ethically made, colourful and sustainable fashion we can really stand behind. They even make their own signature hand-drawn prints inspired by their travels; for a creative take on fashion without the ethical compromises. You’ll find everything from basics and loungewear to dresses, kimonos, and jewelry.
Tamga Materials and fabrics;
Tamga uses soft eco-friendly fabrics like TENCEL ™ and LENZING™, as well as water-saving dyes.
Tamga Ethical sourcing;
Inspired by the tragic collapse of a garment factory, Tamga ensures dignified conditions for every worker across their supply chain. With that, all of their fabric partners have social and environmental certifications, and you can have a look at all the manufacturers involved in their operations on their website.
Tamga Corporate responsibility;
1% For the Planet members, Tamga also invests in reforestation efforts for the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which has lost over half of its forests due to logging. Tamga also makes sure to use unbleached and GOTS certified organic cotton tote bags to package garments, along with other more eco-friendly shipping materials.
Final thoughts on fair trade clothing brands
You can find everything you need without compromising your values thanks to these fair trade fashion brands. And no need to compromise on style either! So if you’re looking for more ethical clothing options be sure to check out these fair trade options.
While you’re at it, you may want to check out some minimalist wardrobe tips to help curate your own minimalist wardrobe. It’s one of the best ways to help reduce your impact on the planet in the fashion department. And there are lots of great minimalist clothing brands to help with that too.
For any other sustainable living essentials, check out our brand directory. There you’ll find everything from intimates and green beauty products to bags and home goods.
And don't forget you can also scour your local thrift shop for more options. It's a great way to reduce your fashion footprint.
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