My Journey Finding Ethical Clothing Companies

One of my previous articles talked about the importance of shopping ethically for the benefits it yields in terms of human rights and the quality of your wardrobe. It all has to do with our mindset. I could take $200 and buy 20 cheaply made, of-the-moment fashion items, or I could use it towards two or three ethically-made, fabulous-quality items that will last for years and elevate the rest of my clothing. Items like a perfectly fitted jacket, neutral leather boots, or jeans made in the USA.

My personal relationship with clothing and fashion has been a little higgledy-piggledy over the years. Like most girls, I like to buy clothes because they make me feel beautiful, and can also make me forget about my painfully awkward high school years. There's also that exciting rush when I find a good deal on something that is so me. When I started earning a little money here and there babysitting as a young teenager, I would always spend it immediately on clothes. When my birthday or Christmas would roll around, you can bet that I'd already picked out a cute coat or dress to hint to my parents about. For someone who didn't have a great source of income, it is actually kind of amazing when I think about all of the nice pieces I managed to get my hands on (always on sale, of course). It was a great moment when I could brag to friends: “Oh, thank you! I love this skirt too, I got it on sale for $10!”

Then, not so very long ago, knowledge about the horrible conditions of overseas factories came to my attention.

Umm, what do you mean, this cheap $5 shirt I just bought was probably made by human slaves? Possibly children human slaves?!

The horror of this idea led me to do some crazy internet research. At the time I was working as a receptionist and had plenty of time to browse around online. There was a discouraging lack of information about who was really ethical and who was not, thanks to the lack of transparency in the clothing industry. Sure, there were some websites where you could look up a company to see how they rated ethically, but their lists of companies were limited and I was never sure how up-to-date they were. To be more certain that I was buying well-made clothes from good stores, I decided to look for clothing companies who were truly committed to being ethical. I found a few, but many sold “mom” clothes or outfits I'd probably only wear at a yoga studio. Discouraged and unable to afford the clothes from the handful of companies I actually liked ($80 for a t-shirt??), I gave up.

At the start of this year I decided to give it a try again. A week of research later, and I'm happy to say things are looking much better in terms of finding ethical clothing that is both affordable and stylish. There are tons of companies out there, and I even was able to make a Pinterest board of all of them so I could refer back to them the next time I needed to go shopping (I highly recommend doing this!). Yes, the clothes are often a little more expensive, but it's a small price to pay for being socially responsible. Not to mention, the quality is often always better, so the clothes will last longer, which will save you money in the long run! Here are a few of my favorite companies that I found; some are committed to being ethical overseas, and others are committed to making their clothes only in the USA:

Everlane:

There's a reason I listed this company first, many ethical style blogs rave about this place! The prices are affordable (their beautiful t-shirts start at $15), their clothing is well made (I've heard great things about their silk shirts), and their style is wonderfully simple and classy, suitable for everyone. I myself am extremely impressed with this company—instead of having a huge sale on Black Friday, they donated a huge percentage of their proceeds towards building a basketball court for one of their overseas factories. When spring rolls around I'm planning on ordering one of their lovely silk sleeveless blouses to layer with my favorite cardigans.

Alternative Apparel:

This company is also great, especially if you need some casual, everyday wear. Not only are their clothes ethically made, they only use soft, organic cotton or eco-friendly fabrics in their products. I've bought a few tees and a sweatshirt from this company and I love them.

Good&Fair:

This company specializes in organic, fair trade t-shirts, undies, and adorable scarves. This classic black t-shirt is versatile and only $18! I also love their scarves—I want a plaid, white and grey striped scarf too!

 

Adriano Goldschmied

Ah, designer brands. The great thing about designer brands like Adriano Goldschmied (also known as AG), is that they only have their clothes stitched together in the United States. Sure, often the fabric is imported, but the higher quality fabric means it's more likely to have been made in both an eco and human friendly way, which are two huge steps in the right direction. My husband and I both own AG pants, and I have great things to say about a moto-style jacket I just bought from this company (seriously tempted to wear it every day). Pricey? Well, yea, but you can find their discounted merchandise at places like 6pm.com for more than half off, and the style and quality in addition to being made in the USA makes the cost more than worth it. My husband has been wearing his three pairs of AG jeans in constant rotation because they are so comfy and flattering.

Red Bubble

If you take some time to browse redbubble.com you are in for a good time. Red Bubble specializes in graphic tees (and other merchandise) with designs created by thousands of independent artists. Need a special Doctor Who or Sherlock tee for your best friend? A sweatshirt with an obscure quote from your favorite anime show? An artsy-looking tank top that no one else has? This is the place to go. Red Bubble only uses tee shirts made by American Apparel, so nothing overseas here. They also have the option of ordering organic cotton merchandise!

I hope these companies inspired and encouraged you to start your own list of ethical places to buy clothes (like I said earlier, Pinterest is a great resource for this)! The important thing to remember during the process of becoming more socially responsible is that we can always improve a little at a time. Making an effort to add one or two ethical companies to your shopping list is a powerful step in the right direction!