Alternative Clothes Shops

Ethical shopping guide to Alternative Clothes Shops, from Ethical Consumer.

Ethical shopping guide to Alternative Clothes Shops, from Ethical Consumer.

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

Is ethical fashion still a niche market? 

In this guide:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 16 alternative clothing brands
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • Why is ethical fashion still a niche market

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Score Ratings

Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


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The score table shows simple numerical ratings out of 20 for each product. The higher the score, the more ethical the company.

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The Full Scorecard shows the 'black marks' for each product, by each of the 17 negative categories. The bigger the mark, the worse the score. So for example a big black circle under 'Worker Rights' shows that the company making this product has been severely criticised for worker abuses.

Scores start at 14.  A small circle means that half a mark is deducted, a large circle means that a full mark is deducted.

Marks are added in the positive categories of Company Ethos and the five Product Sustainability columns (O,F,E,S,A).  A small circle  means that half a mark is added, a large circle means that a full mark is added.

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Best Buys

as of May/June 2014

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that the company ratings on the scoretable may have changed since this report was written.

People Tree is a stand-out Best Buy for Alternative Clothing as it’s the only brand that offers garments which are both Fairtrade and organic certified. It sells mens and womens clothing.

The menswear supplier Brothers We Stand is also a Best Buy for its entire range due to the extent of information it provides about the supply chains of its products at the point of sale.

Fairtrade or organic certified garments from any of the other companies on this score table are Best Buys too. All of the brands on this table are good options for the ethical shopper.

They are all available online and they all sell menswear apart from FAIR+True, Outsider, Annie Greenabelle, Nancy Dee, Nomads, Bibico and Lowie.

On the table:

  • [O] stands for Organic
  • [F] stands for Fairtrade
  • [S] stands for Sustainable materials

to buy



Ethical Consumer makes a small amount of money from your purchase. This goes to fund our research and campaigning. We ethically screen all the sites we link to.

Ethical Business
Directory Links

  • Vegan Vintage     view ethical directory profile >

    Ethical vintage clothing, accessories and homewares to buy online. Free UK delivery and 10% of all sales are donate...

  • Outsider    view ethical directory profile >

    Outsider is a sustainable, luxurious, organic, ethically made womenswear collection. Day-to-night effortless versa...

  • wyatt & jack    view ethical directory profile >

    we are a british brand making bags from repurposed deckchair canvas and beach materials. all sourced and sewn here...

  • So Just Shop    view ethical directory profile >

    So Just Shop is an online marketplace that allows you to buy directly from women-led artisans throughout the world...

  • Follow The River    view ethical directory profile >

    Independent, organic, outdoor lifestyle clothing. Hand printed in the UK using water based inks....

  • Where Does It Come From?    view ethical directory profile >

    Ethically made clothing that's traceable right back to the cotton field. ...

  •    view ethical directory profile > is an online store which sells handmade harem pants from Thailand. All our pants are designed loca...

  • Glasswing Jewellery    view ethical directory profile >

    Ethical fine jewellery and accessories, engagement and wedding rings, handmade by Kate Pearse using fairtrade gemst...

  • Origine Éthique    view ethical directory profile >

    Graphic t-shirts and tote bags made from 100% recycled material and supporting important causes. 6% of each sale g...

  • Sublow    view ethical directory profile >

    WHAT IS SUBLOW? At Sublow we produce quality, hand printed, environmentally friendly, creatively designed garments...





Related Content

Ethical Issues in the Fashion Industry



Alternative clothes shops


The score table above does not include companies that only produce one kind of garment, for example just T-shirts, or just yogawear or sportswear. Those you see in the table offer a range of different garments for either men or women or both.

Most of the companies on the scoretable are small, family-run businesses who have close, long-standing relationships with their suppliers. Their entire business models are often created around the desire to do business better.


Image: Ethical clothing in alternative clothing shopping guide




Why is ethical fashion still a niche activity?


Fashion kills. The first anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in which over one thousand sweatshop workers died in Bangladesh is a grim reminder of how people are still losing their lives to feed our addiction to cheap, disposable clothing. The good news is that the ethical clothing industry here in the UK is made up of small, dedicated and hard-working companies who are on the front line of giving shoppers a more ethical option for their skirts and shirts.

The bad news though – yes I’m afraid there’s more bad news – is that, largely thanks to the recession, ethical clothing companies, like many other small operations, have been having a hard time in recent years. The result is that a number of key pioneering ethical clothing companies have been unable to survive the downturn and have gone bust.



How to survive

So how have the surviving companies managed to hang on in what is one of the most cut-throat industries in the UK economy? And is ethical fashion condemned to always being a niche activity? “We’ve kept going through sheer hard work and by slashing costs to the bone which sometimes has involved working for free,” admits Gav Lawson from THTC which has been making organic and hemp t-shirts for over 15 years.

Mark Bloom who launched Komodo over 25 years ago agrees with Lawson in that keeping going has been hard work but believes that ethical fashion is here to stay: “The sector has established itself and isn’t just a fad that’s gone away, we’re still here.”



Ethical fashion always niche?

But whilst organic carrots and Fairtrade coffee are now mainstream items and can be found in every High Street, why is ethical and Fairtrade fashion still such a niche sector? “There’s a fundamental difference between buying a jar of Fairtrade coffee and a pair of ethical and organic jeans. Buying clothing is much more complicated,” says Bloom. “Comparing buying food with buying clothes is an unfair comparison.”

Fair enough, but how do we roll out ethical clothing to the masses and consign sweatshop labour to history? Frustratingly, for all the well-intentioned talking, the reality is that nobody’s got an easy answer. If there was an easy answer, then ethical clothing wouldn’t be still stuck in the same position as it was ten years ago.
“It is disappointing that ethical and sustainable clothing is still having a hard time,” admits William Lana from the pioneering ethical clothing company, Greenfibres.

Sure, price is an issue with many ethical clothing items being beyond the budget of many cash-strapped shoppers, but not everyone agrees that sweatshop-free clothing is necessarily more expensive.

“If you’re paid above the living-wage then ethical clothing is affordable and isn’t that expensive,” says Ethical Consumer’s Bryony Moore. “The problem is that the vast majority of ethical fashion isn’t on the high street so shoppers just aren’t aware of it and so it isn’t normalised. All that shoppers see are the worst excesses of fast-fashion which is driving the continued need for sweatshops.”



Slow fashion

What’s needed is a complete re-think in our attitudes towards fashion says Moore:

“We should be prepared to pay a little more for something that lasts longer and to support the idea of slow-fashion which like the slow-food movement, focuses on quality and knowing the provenance of the product.”

“We should be supporting companies who have shorter and more transparent production lines and who cut out retailers who take the bulk of the profit by connecting directly with producers in countries such as Bangladesh.”

Phil Scott who recently launched Cock & Bull Organic Menswear agrees with Moore: “It’s definitely time for us all to take a deep breath and look closely at our culture of disposable fashion, to ask some difficult questions of ourselves and of others around us,” says Scott.

“We should then vote with our pound and say no to companies making disposable fashion, say no to the fickle, flighty culture of trends and embrace a more meaningful and sustainable style.”


See our ethical fashion section for a beginners guide to sustainable fashion



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