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Ethical Clothing Brands

Which are the real sustainable ethical clothing brands? Ratings for 29 UK ethical clothes brands, with Best Buy recommendations.

See how brands rate on key areas including use of sustainable fabrics, climate impact, fair wages and working conditions, animal rights, and supply chain transparency. We look at their range of clothing and at the innovators that are going beyond fairtrade and organic. We also cover vintage and secondhand clothing companies, and have a head to head between Depop and Vinted.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a shopping 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.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying clothing:

  • Is it made of sustainable materials? Over half of all fabrics produced globally are made from synthetic fibres, mainly polyester. These are made of fossil fuels and contribute to the issue of microplastics. Choose companies that score highly in the cotton and sustainable material ratings, as these are usually organic and made of materials that are kinder to the environment. 

  • Are garment workers treated fairly? Many high-street retailers rely on overworked and underpaid garment workers to continue to churn out fast fashion. Opt for our Best Buys in this guide and those that score highest under our workers rating to ensure that you are supporting the livelihood of the person who made your clothes.

  • Is it secondhand? Clothing production accounts for 79 trillion litres of water use annually and 35% of oceanic microplastic pollution. The carbon emissions from the industry are predicted to increase by 2030 to over 400 Mt CO2e. Help the environment by reducing the amount of new clothing you buy and shop secondhand.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying clothing:

  • Does it use toxic chemicals? Clothes manufacturing often uses numerous chemicals that are then released, seriously damaging the environment. Avoid companies that use toxic chemicals, including non-organic textiles.

  • Is it dirty viscose? Campaigners are targeting viscose clothing, which may also be labelled as rayon or bamboo because it has a very polluting manufacturing process. Cleaner viscose will be labelled as lyocell, Tencel or Monocel.

  • Is it fur or leather? Around 100 million animals are killed every year for their fur, and leather has a high cost in terms of the environment as well as animal rights. Avoid clothes containing these fabrics.

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Score table

Updated live from our research database

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Brand Score(out of 100) Ratings Categories

Our Analysis

In this guide, we explore 29 specialist sustainable clothing companies which show the mainstream brands how sustainable clothing could be done. We look into aspects such as the materials they use, their practices concerning workers' rights within the supply chain, and their stance on animal rights.

Notably, for the first time, we have rated eight companies exclusively dedicated to selling secondhand and upcycled clothing.

Although a few have shops on the high street, all the companies in this guide sell via online shops or platforms which means that people anywhere can choose to buy them.

To find out how ethical brands like Lucy and Yak, Oxfam, Vinted and Bam are, read on!

Is sustainable and ethical clothing affordable?

With ethical fashion, you are essentially paying for the real cost of your garment. In contrast, high street fashion pushes these costs onto others – resulting in environmental pollution at the place of production and disposal, hazardous work conditions, and deep poverty. The very aspects that make a fashion brand ‘ethical’ – fair wages, transparency, sustainable fabrics, durability – mean that brand new ethical clothing is usually more expensive than the clothes you find on the high street.

But ethical fashion is not just about buying new clothes. Buying secondhand, running and participating in clothes swaps, making your own clothes from scratch, upcycling, repairing, and renting – all these options are not only financially affordable, but they offer other benefits as well, e.g. they can lead to upskilling, building community connections and greater appreciation around what it takes to make a piece of clothing.

It is likely that much of the growth of interest in secondhand clothing that we are seeing is a result of the cost-of-living crisis. However, it remains an excellent example of where the most ethical choices can be the cheapest.

The underwear and soon to be updated jeans guides contain some more detailed information on cost options and cover a lot of the specialist ethical companies in this guide too.

Which brands make what ethical clothing?

With so many ethical clothing brands available including secondhand retailers, we've summarised what they offer and the materials used. Use the table below to find who offers ethical clothing for men, women and children. 

Ethical clothing brands and their clothing ranges and materials used
Brand Men's clothing? Women's Clothing Kids' Clothing Range
BAM Yes Yes No Full range of clothing. Materials used include organic and recycled cotton, linen, hemp, wool, bamboo viscose, lyocell, recycled polyester, recycled nylon, and elastane.
Beyond Retro (secondhand) Yes Yes No Full range of vintage/second hand clothing (except underwear).
Bibico No Yes No Dresses, skirts, tops, jumpers, jumpsuits, trousers, shorts. Materials used include organic cotton, linen and hemp, wool, Tencel and, leather.
Brothers We Stand  Yes No No Full range of clothing. Materials used include organic and recycled cotton, and recycled polyester.
Community Clothing Yes Yes No Materials used include organic cotton, other sustainably sourced cotton, wool, linen, and nylon.
Depop (secondhand) Yes Yes Yes Full range of second-hand clothing (incl underwear).
Earthmonk Yes Yes Yes T-shirts and hoodies and jumpers. Children's t-shirts. Materials used include organic cotton and some recycled polyester and wool.
Finisterre Yes Yes No Full range including swimwear & wetsuits. Materials used include linen, wool, hemp, organic cotton, ECONYL® (nylon waste collected from landfill and oceans and then turned into a usable fabric) and Yulex® Natural Rubber.
Greenfibres Yes Yes Yes Full range of clothing, as well as bed linen and towels. Materials used include organic cotton, and to a lesser extent linen. wool, silk, and cashmere.
Howies Yes Yes No Full range of clothing. Materials used include organic cotton, wool, Tencel and sorona (a durable performance fibre made from plant extracts).
Komodo Yes Yes No Full range of clothing (but not underwear). Materials used include organic cotton, hemp, linen, lenzing and cupro. In a lesser but still significant amount it also used wool, cashmere and mohair, and recycled polyester.
Kuyichi Yes Yes No Trousers, shorts, jackets, sweaters. Materials used include recycled cotton, organic cotton, Tencel Lyocell, Tencel Modal, recycled polyester, linen.
Living Crafts Yes Yes Yes Full range of clothing. Materials used include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, organic linen, organic wool, elastane.
Lucy & Yak Yes Yes No Dungarees, shorts, dresses, t-shirts, underwear. Organic, recycled or deadstock cotton, recycled polyester, linen, bamboo, hemp. 
MUD  Yes Yes No Jeans, shorts, skirts, shirts, t-shirts, jackets. Materials used include organic cotton, recycled cotton, and Tencel.
Ninety Percent No Yes No Full range of clothing. Materials used include organic cotton, EcoVero, Micro Modal, Tencel, Enka viscose, linen, cupro, Elastane, Polyester, Polyamide.
Nomads Yes Yes No Full range of clothing. Materials used include organic cotton, viscose, Tencel, ecovero, recycled cotton & bamboo, leather.
Nudie Yes Yes No Adult jeans, jackets, t-shirts, trousers, knitwear, socks, and underwear and a few kids’ jeans and t-shirts. Materials include organic and recycled cotton, recycled denim, elastane, polyester, lyocell, polyamide, wool, alpaca, mohair, silk, leather, jacron. 
Outsider No Yes No Dresses, tops, skirts, jackets, and trousers. Materials used include organic cotton, hemp, organic bamboo, Tencel, but also merino wool, and silk.
Oxfam (secondhand) Yes Yes Yes Full range of secondhand clothing (including underwear).
Pact Yes Yes No Full range of clothing. Materials include organic cotton and elastane.
Preworn (secondhand) Yes Yes Yes Full range of secondhand clothing. 
Rapanui Yes Yes No T-shirts, hoodies, jumpers, shorts, socks, and underwear. Materials used include organic and recycled cotton and bamboo.
Rokit (secondhand) Yes Yes No Full range of vintage/second hand clothing (except underwear), including upcycled garments.
Thrifted (secondhand) Yes Yes Yes Full range of vintage/second hand clothing (except underwear).
THTC Yes Yes Yes Organic hemp and organic cotton t-shirts, hoodies, shorts, and socks.
Vinted (secondhand) Yes Yes Yes Full range of vintage/second hand clothing (incl underwear).
We Are Cow (secondhand) Yes Yes No Full range of vintage/second hand clothing (except underwear), including upcycled garments.
Where Does it Come From? Yes Yes Yes Adults' shirts and scarves, and children's range. Materials used include organic cotton and second-hand clothes.

Is buying ethical clothing online better than buying in-store? 

A 2013 MIT study concluded that delivery should have a lower carbon footprint than individuals going to the store to buy something. But the study assumed that shoppers make special car trips for single purchases but many don’t and take the bus, walk or cycle which reduces emissions.

In practice, a lot of deliveries fail the first time so delivery vans have to do second or third runs or customers have to drive to out-of-town warehouses to pick up the delivery. Plus our demand for next day deliveries almost triples the footprint of online deliveries, according to the MIT study. Delivery companies can’t bundle multiple orders into a single delivery so send out vans less full. To minimise the ‘last mile’ issues its good to avoid the speedy delivery options.

In addition, about 30% of clothes bought online in the UK are returned, largely fuelled by companies’ generous free returns policies.

Buying secondhand clothes from shops on the high street (like Oxfam and other charity shops) as part of a general shopping trip is one way to avoid the ‘last mile’ of delivery. But online shopping can give you access to all the small, ethical producers that don’t have physical shops, like most of the ones on this table.

Which sustainable clothing brands are vegan?

Some of the ethical fashion brands in this guide are explicitly vegan, some don't appear to sell any animal-derived fabrics, some have comprehensive policies on animal welfare, and some only sell secondhand animal products clothing.

The following companies have comprehensive animal welfare policies: BAM, Earthmonk, Finisterre, Kuyichi, and Living Crafts.

Explicitly vegan ethical clothing brands

Pact doesn't appear to sell animal-derived fabrics. 

Ethical clothing brands which only sell secondhand animal products: 

Secondhand clothing companies, by definition, only use secondhand animal-derived fabric and therefore received 60 points (out of 100) by default in our rating for animals. 

The rest of the companies score very low, depending on whether they have a partial policy or nothing at all.

We have more information about animal fibres in clothing in a separate article which covers materials like cashmere and welfare standards and certifications schemes to look for.

Man wearing hat browsing jackets with other clothes hanging up behind

Pre-loved clothing

Secondhand fashion is noticeably on the rise. 

2023’s London Fashion Week kicked off with a unique event exclusively showcasing pre-loved clothing. Organised by Oxfam, all the garments worn were sourced from its warehouse.

Ethical Consumer’s latest Ethical Market Report also found that secondhand clothing sales rose by an impressive 49% in the last 12 months, following the upward trend of the past several years.

This trend has of course been noticed in the industry. Companies selling exclusively secondhand clothing have mushroomed. In 2021, Etsy reportedly spent a whopping £1.6 billion acquiring Depop, the biggest competition to then sole market leader Vinted. Both companies are platforms where individuals can sell unwanted clothing.

In this guide, we rated eight secondhand clothing companies: Beyond Retro, Depop, Oxfam, Preworn, Rokit, Thrifted, Vinted and We Are Cow.

Each of them offers a wide range of used clothing on their websites. You can search by various criteria including colour, pattern, size, and condition, as well as some more specific ones, such as cleavage or sleeve length. 

Four of these secondhand retailers (Beyond Retro, Depop, Oxfam, and Vinted) are large companies with a turnover exceeding £50 million, and were therefore expected to have more detailed reporting, especially with regards to transparency around their efforts on cutting emissions, and workers' rights.

Both Depop and Vinted failed on both counts (although Vinted did receive 50 points (out of 100) for not having a manufacturing supply chain). 

Two secondhand clothing companies also sell upcycled clothing (repurposing clothes or fabrics into new garments). These are Rokit and We Are Cow; they score the highest of the eight companies. Secondhand garments, arriving in huge bales, often don’t meet their standard of quality. Rather than sending them to landfills, their in-house teams repurpose these items into wearable clothing. 

Our separate feature on the secondhand clothing industry, its issues, as well as charity shops has more information about secondhand clothing in general.

Full online access to our unique shopping guides, ethical rankings and company profiles. The essential ethical print magazine.

What should we do about plastic materials in secondhand clothing?

When you buy secondhand, the fossil fuels for making the clothing have already been extracted, so not buying them may not make a difference in that regard. 

However, 'plastic clothing' (like polyester and other synthetic fibres) poses other environmental concerns. They are one of the leading causes of microplastic pollution. The more you wash your clothes, the more plastic gets into the environment in the form of microfibres.

Furthermore, a recent study by the University of Birmingham reveals that as we perspire under our clothes, oily components in our sweat can make toxic chemicals present in the clothes available for absorption through our skin. Avoiding plastic clothing is a good idea all around. Even when buying secondhand it can be good to opt for more natural materials.

Read our separate feature on how to choose more sustainable clothing fabrics.

Head to head: Depop vs Vinted 

Lots of people are choosing secondhand clothing, with many using online apps to find or sell items. 

Curious about how they compare? Read on for a brief head to head between Depop and Vinted. 

  Depop Vinted
Ethiscore 34/100 64/100
Ownership 100% owned by Etsy which is registered in Ireland and scores low for tax conduct. Owned by dozens of investment companies, some registered in tax havens.  
Turnover £54m (£2bn for Etsy)  £321m
CEO pay CEO of Etsy earned £12 million in 2022  Highest paid director earned £275,000 in 2022
Carbon emissions Offsets shipping emissions  Offers delivery pickup points to reduce emissions

Timeless clothing that lasts

Many companies choose to refrain from introducing new seasonal ranges annually. Instead, they focus on creating durable clothing and may provide repair services or offer the option to lease clothes as part of their sustainable practices.

For example, Community Clothing is a Lancaster-based company which offers only season-less basics. It says “Staples, classics, basics, whatever you want to call them we make the everyday clothes that form the foundation of most people’s everyday wardrobes. The jumpers and t shirts and sweatshirts and jeans you keep and wear for decades, often lifetimes.”

Brighton-based Lucy & Yak, known for its robust commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, advocates for comfort above all with the motto "If it's not comfy, why you wearing it?!". The company specialises in offering unisex, durable dungarees designed for individuals of all demographics, shapes, and sizes.

Video: five things you should know about fast fashion

Moving toward circularity in the clothing industry

According to the Ellen MacArthur foundation, $460 (£362) billion worth of clothing is thrown away annually and some garments are estimated to be discarded after just seven to ten wears. Ethical clothing companies actively work against this trend.

Over half of the companies in this guide talk about trying to establish closed-loop, circular business models. Their efforts involve reclaiming fibres and garments, implementing designs that minimize waste, investing in innovative materials conducive to a circular textiles economy, and advocating against excessive consumption.

Companies moving towards circularity include BAM, Finisterre, Lucy & Yak, Mud, Ninety Percent, Nudie, Rapanui, and THTC Clothing, as well as all the secondhand clothing companies: Beyond Retro, Depop, Oxfam, Preworn, Rokit, Thrifted, Vinted and We Are Cow.

BAM and Finisterre both encourage shoppers to give their garments a second chance and sell them on used. Their partnership with Continue and Reskinned allows people on a budget – and increasingly with a certain mindset – to buy their favourite clothing brand secondhand for a reduced price.

Lucy & Yak’s Re:Yak Buyback programme urges people to return their worn dungarees: sellable clothing gets sold through Beyond Retro or otherwise the garments get recycled. Rapanui’s Remill project accepts any clothing that is made of 100% cotton to be remade into new clothing and create “Thread Not Dead”.

MUD, on the other hand, has a unique “Lease your circular jeans” programme. For a monthly fee, you can “rent” jeans for a year, after this you can send them back for recycling, or keep them for free.

There is some critique around circular economies however, namely:

The more complex a product, the more complex it is to recycle. Each step of this process also results in resources and energy being lost.

Energy spent on creating things cannot be recycled. Even if we move towards renewable energy, the infrastructure needed to generate and maintain renewable energy still currently requires new resources and energy.

Growth makes a circular economy impossible. The amount of recycled materials will always be smaller than the material needed to support growth, resulting in further extraction and use of new materials. Even if we achieved a steady state economy, it is unlikely that we can meet all needs with recycled or reclaimed materials.

Older woman in patterned dress and white bicycle outdoors

What are ethical clothing companies doing about workers' rights?

Of the companies covered in this guide, nine received the maximum points in our workers category. These companies have comprehensive policies protecting workers’ rights in their supply chains. For example: Rapanui is a member of several organisations that measure the company’s performance in various areas of social accountability: Social Accountability International, FLOCERT, and WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production). But it goes beyond certifications, it voluntarily contributes to a living wage top-up for supply chain workers, and it audits each supplier in person to validate third-party audit results and ensure that strict standards are met.

Companies can also get extra marks for transparency and traceability, when information about suppliers and purchasing practices is readily available on a company’s website or via email when asked.

BAM, Bibico, Finisterre, Kuyichi, Lucy & Yak, MUD, Nudie, Oxfam, and THTC publish all of their tier one suppliers and some even further down the supply chain. Kuyichi and Where Does It Come From go to the extent of publishing the entirety of their supply chain, demonstrating a high level of openness and accountability in their operations.

Sustainable clothing brands and what clothes are made of

Ethical clothing companies seek to use sustainable fabrics across their whole range. We have a separate feature article on choosing sustainable fabrics.

How did they score in our rating for sustainable materials?

In this guide, 17 companies received the maximum number of available points in our materials category. Seven of these companies only sell secondhand clothing and automatically received 100 points for using materials already in circulation. 

The other ten companies used exclusively (95% or more) organic cotton or other organic materials, such as organic hemp in the case of THTC. Some of them also use recycled cotton, such as BAM, MUD, Nudie, Rapanui, and THTC

The table above provides an overview of the materials used by each company.

Ethical cotton? 

For companies using cotton, how did they score for their cotton rating? 

Certifications are important when it comes to cotton sourcing. It's a thirsty crop and the cause of intense human suffering for centuries but the most ethical clothing companies make sure that their cotton supply chain is free from forced and child labour, and other human rights abuses.

In this guide, only one company, Kuyichi, has double certification (GOTS and Fairtrade International) for all of its cotton. 

Another twelve companies have 95%+ of their cotton certified by GOTS. These are Earthmonk, Greenfibres, Howies, Komodo, Living Crafts, Lucy & Yak, MUD, Ninety Percent, Rapanui, Pact (Revelry), Outsider, and THTC. As organic cotton is not grown in Turkmenistan, these companies received extra marks for avoiding sourcing from this country which is well known for forced labour in the industry.

Find out more about ethical cotton production in our separate article.

How do sustainable clothing companies score for overall ethos?

We rated companies for their company ethos. In this category we captured information on whether companies focus on environmental or social alternatives, their company structures, and excessive payment to directors.

All but three companies in this guide received 40 points (out of 100) for providing exclusively environmental alternatives. Those that didn't are Bibico, Depop, and Nomads, due to its owner. 

BAM, Finisterre, MUD, Oxfam, and Where Does It Come From stand out in this category, as they provide environmental alternatives, as well as having less profit-seeking company structures. The first three are B-corps, Finisterre is also Living wage certified, Oxfam is a registered charity and Where Does It Come From is a registered social enterprise.

In this guide, only one company, Etsy (Depop's owner) paid more than £1 million to any director. Josh Silverman received $16,460,000 (£12,040,000) in 2022.

6 consumer actions

If you're concerned about fast fashion and want to take your own actions on clothing, here are six suggestions.

1. Buy less clothing

We wear just a fraction of our wardrobes. Resist the urge of impulse buying. Ask yourself if you will be happy to wear the garment you have your eyes on again and again. If not (unless it's for a special occasion), don't buy it.

2. Buy secondhand clothing

Take advantage of the sad trend of clothes being thrown out after being worn just a few times. You can find good-as-new clothing in charity shops and online secondhand shops. If you don't like their smell, wash them with diluted vinegar, this should get rid of the smell after a couple of washes.

3. Can you repair or upcycle your old clothes?

Some of us are blessed with sewing skills, others can barely stitch on a button. But have a go, try to repair a tear instead of getting rid of the whole dress. Or find a friend (or perhaps a sewing circle or repair cafe and find new friends!) who knows which is the pokey end of a needle.

Find out more about repairing or upcycling your clothes in our feature article.

You may also find sewing machines to borrow at a local Library of Things if you want to do bigger upcycling and re-making.

4. Pay attention to the label

Is it made of fossil fuels? Does it contain more than just a small percentage of elastane, polyester, or nylon? If so maybe don't buy it. An enormous amount of fossil fuel is used to fuel (excuse the pun!) our clothing consumption habits. Go for plant-based materials, such as organic cotton, hemp, or linen. If bamboo is your favoured material, try to make sure it is from a mechanical, closed-loop system.

We write more about bamboo and sustainable materials in our feature article on choosing sustainable clothing materials.

5. Buy clothing that is free of exploitation

The horror of sweatshops is not in the past yet. Choose clothes from companies that have a high workers'
rating in our guides as workers’ rights are better protected in these supply chains.

Read our feature article on workers in the clothing industry to find out more about the problems involved.

6. Try to avoid clothes that are made of animal products

Wool, cashmere, silk, and leather products are easily available but can cause suffering to the animals these garments are made of. Several companies in our guides are vegan or sell only secondhand clothing.

Read our feature article on animal products in clothing to find out about the welfare issues, and what certifications to look for if you do want to buy things like cashmere and silk.

This guide appears in Ethical Consumer magazine 207

Companies behind the brands

Rapanui/Teemill produces garments made of 100% organic cotton (and some socks made of bamboo). Its plain clothes are made in India and are printed on-demand on the Isle of Wight, using renewable energy. 

Teemill has expanded its business, offering a platform for e-commerce companies wishing to have a sustainable supply chain. These companies are able to upload their own design on Teemill's platform and have their garments printed sustainably. 

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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