When it comes to finding more sustainable and ethical clothing, slow fashion brands are a big help. No need to sacrifice style either!
But what is slow fashion really? How should we go about choosing slow fashion brands? And what brands are best to reach for?
That’s exactly what we’ll be looking into here so without further ado, let’s dive right in.
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What is slow fashion?
Slow fashion is actually a response to the seriously messed up practices that have characterized the fashion industry for some time now. From terribly wasteful practices to unbelievable amounts of pollution and human rights abuses, slow fashion brands offer a mindful and ethical alternative.
Choosing slow fashion brands can be tricky — Here's what to look for:
Choosing more sustainable clothing brands always comes down to 3 main criteria for me: materials and fabrics, ethical sourcing, and corporate responsibility. So when scoping out a brand you can always refer back to these 3 elements to assess their performance. Here’s how:
1. Find out what materials and fabrics the brands are using
For materials and fabrics, starting with the most and least environmentally friendly fabrics is always a good bet. I favor natural fabrics that are biodegradable and less taxing on the planet. Things like organic cotton, ethical wool, linen, hemp, and jute are mainstays.
Where they are sustainably produced, synthetic fabrics like Modal, Lyocell, Bamboo Lyocell, and TENCEL™ work too. Synthetic fabrics made of recycled materials like recycled polyester or recycled nylon are also fine. However elastane (or spandex) is not ideal; but when blended with sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, it is a marked improvement.
To help verify the origins of these fabrics I look out for third-party certifications like the Better Cotton Standard, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, or the Global Recycle Standard (GRS).
Other things to look out for here include natural buttons made from things like tag nuts or coconuts; or buttons and zippers made from recycled materials. You can also look out for clothing with no small metallic or non-recyclable components like rivets, zippers, embellishments, or buttons altogether.
2. Ask the brand how they are sourcing their fabrics and materials
Ethical sourcing is especially pertinent when it comes to slow fashion brands. It refers to everything regarding how raw materials are sourced and transformed into the products we get to enjoy.
So here we want to shop with brands who do their best to ensure ethical environmental and labor practices across their supply chain. That is sustainable production and manufacturing practices, as well as ethical working conditions for all those involved. Look for third-party certifications like Cradle to Cradle, Fair Trade, or SA8000.
3. What is the brand's corporate responsibility?
A great way of sussing out greenwashing and getting a real sense of a company’s commitment to sustainability, corporate responsibility speaks volumes. That usually means environmental initiatives, renewable energy efforts, sustainable shipping practices, employee benefit programs, and certifications that speak for the brand’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact and contribute positively to people and the planet.
With that said, I always consider shopping with online thrift stores for secondhand clothing (or in-person COVID permitting). That is the best way of reducing our environmental impact when it comes to clothing. If you need a little help or want to sharpen your thrifting skills, check out my 10 best thrift shopping tips.
Our top picks for Slow Fashion Brands
1. Wear Franc
Featured as one of our favorites for minimalist clothing, Wear Franc is also one of the best ethical fashion brands all around. They specialize in basics all knit, dyed, cut, and sewn in Canada. Also an excellent option in slow fashion brands for women, their selection includes sweaters, joggers, dresses, jumpsuits, bottoms, and more. Sizes range from XS-3X.
Franc's fabrics and materials
Fabrics used include TENCEL™ and a GOTS certified organic cotton fabric blend. They also use Bluesign® certificated, non-toxic, low-impact, environmentally-friendly dyes.
Franc's ethical sourcing
To make its fabric, Wear Franc partners with a Canadian knitter, using yarn from a certified TENCEL™ supplier in Turkey. You can rest assured these materials are sourced responsibly and made under ethical working conditions.
All of their clothing is also cut and sewn in Toronto, Canada by 2 partner factories just 30 km from their head offices. Employees are ensured flexible working hours and fair wages.
Franc's corporate responsibility
Wear Franc is also entirely plastic-free so no pesky plastics to worry about when you receive your order. Instead, they use 100% compostable and reusable shipping bags, along with 100% recycled or FSC-certified paper. They also do lots more to reduce their impact on the planet and to help their community.
A great option for affordable ethical clothing, it is no wonder tentree is on our list of slow fashion brands too. They offer everything from fair-trade sweaters, eco socks, t-shirts, and fair trade pyjamas, to fair trade hats and sustainable backpacks. Sizes range from XS-XXL.
tentree's fabrics and materials
Materials and fabrics include FSC-certified TENCEL™, recycled polyester (from plastic water bottles), hemp, and organic cotton.
tentree's ethical sourcing
To ensure living wages, safe working conditions, and compliance with international labour standards, tentree regularly audits its factory partners. They also have their own code of Conduct which all of their factory partners must adhere to.
tentree's corporate responsibility
Per their namesake, tentree plants ten trees for every single item purchased; with over 50 million trees planted so far. They are a B Corporation which reflects their dedication to more sustainable and ethical business practices. They are also working on phasing out all single-use plastics by 2023. Check out tentree for some Work-From-Home Athleisure Wear or some of their Earth-First sustainable men’s clothing too.
Rawganique offers a ton of sustainable living essentials ranging from eco-friendly shower curtains, non-toxic rugs, and sustainable bedding, to sustainable men’s clothing, ethical slippers, socks, and even pet products. Perfect for allergy sufferers, Rawganique makes sure all of its handcrafted products are free of dioxin, BPA, PVC, formaldehyde, GMOs, or PFAS. Their sizes range from S-XXL, with some items available in X-Long.
Rawganique's fabrics and materials
Materials used include organic cotton, hemp, and flax linen; all grown, woven, knit, and sewn in-house.
Rawganique's ethical sourcing
Rawganique is a small-scale manufacturer. All of their products are made in their small ateliers located in the USA, Canada & Europe; where they ensure safe working conditions and fair wages.
Rawganique's corporate responsibility
Rawganique is plastic-free and makes its products entirely free of any harmful chemicals. Their products are also cruelty-free and animal-friendly making them a great option for our vegan friends as well. Be sure to check them out if you’re on the market for some fair trade pajamas, zero waste gifts, or eco-friendly sandals too. A great option for slow fashion shoe brands as well.
Another great affordable ethical fashion brand, KOTN also makes it on our list of top slow fashion brands. Made using sustainably sourced materials and an all-around ethical supply chain, their selection of high-quality cotton essentials for men and women features fair-trade sweaters, tees, underwear, socks, pyjamas, and more. Sizes range from XS-XXXL in men’s and XXS-XXL in women’s.
Kotn's fabrics and materials
For its clothing, KOTN uses sustainably sourced BCI Cotton from Egypt.
Kotn's ethical sourcing
KOTN works directly with cotton farmers to ensure quality materials, sustainable production methods, and ethical working conditions. Their garments are ethically manufactured in Egypt and Portugal where workers are ensured safe working conditions, fair wages, and career-focused opportunities.
Kotn's corporate responsibility
A B Corporation, KOTN is currently working with its farms to produce 100% organic cotton fibers in the next five years. The brand also undertakes social welfare initiatives; and makes for one of the best slow fashion brands for men, so be sure to check out their sustainable men’s clothing too.
Made in NYC, Arielle is also one of our favorites for recycled and upcycled clothing. As you would imagine they use a ton of recycled materials. Their designs are timeless and elegant though sizes are a little limited. Definitely worth checking out if your size ranges between XS-L.
Arielle's fabrics and materials
Fabrics used include recycled wool, recycled cotton, cactus leather, and even Milk Fabric (made from dairy waste from German dairy farms). Other materials include corozo nut buttons and vintage horns.
Arielle's ethical sourcing
Making it a point to carefully choose its materials and fabrics, Arielle also favors local manufacturing (made in NYC) and a fair trade supply chain.
Arielle's corporate responsibility
Along with using tons of recycled materials, Arielle is entirely plastic-free so your order will be shipped in plastic-free packaging and you can be sure that no plastics were involved in the making of your garments altogether.
On a mission to offer ethical essentials with people and the planet in mind, MATE the Label is definitely one of the best slow fashion brands to reach for. Their mindfully crafted essentials are non-toxic, natural, and organic, and make a great choice if you’re shopping for some minimalist clothing brands to build your minimalist wardrobe with.
MATE's fabrics and materials
Fabrics used include TENCEL™, organic cotton jersey, organic Terry, fleece, linen, and organic thermal. They’ve switched to buttons made from pearwood rather than plastic. And their dyes are also azo-free and formaldehyde-free.
MATE's ethical sourcing
MATE the Label’s products are non-toxic and free of any pesticides, microplastics, formaldehyde, carcinogens, or endocrine disruptors. All of their garments are knitted, cut, sewn, and dyed in Los Angeles, California so you can be sure they are ethically produced under safe and fair working conditions.
MATE's corporate responsibility
In an effort to reduce their environmental impact, MATE offers a recycling program called reMATE; designed to give a second life to worn MATE the Label products. Their labels and packaging are also plastic-free. And the brand actively works to promote diversity and inclusion.
Pact offers everything from sweaters, tees, underwear, and socks, to pajamas, organic baby clothes, and even bedding. Well-known for its basics, Pact makes for a great minimalist clothing brand. And with ethical practices and extended sizes to boot, they are also one of the best for slow fashion with plus sizing.
Pact's fabrics and materials
Pact uses GOTS certified organic cotton; with some items containing a little bit of elastane. Explore the product description for more details on specific garments.
Pact's ethical sourcing
Pact makes sure to source sustainably produced organic cotton for its garments. They also work with Fair Trade certified factories to ensure ethical working conditions to make entirely fair trade clothing.
Pact's corporate responsibility
A great option for maternity as well, Pact offers the option to offset the carbon associated with shipping your order at check out. They package your shipment using more sustainable packing materials like 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard and cardboard boxes, and biodegradable polybags. They also work with Give Back Box to recycle your gently used clothing (of any brand).
Thread 4 Thoughts wants to help us vote for more ethical and moral standards by offering products with a lighter footprint on the environment. Made using ethical manufacturing and sustainable materials, their selection offers something for everyone in the family. Sizes range from S-XXXL in men’s and XS-3X in women’s.
Thread 4 Thoughts fabrics and materials
Fabrics used include Lenzing™ Modal, recycled polyester (from plastic bottles), GOTS certified organic cotton, and Triblend (a mixture of recycled polyester, organic cotton, and rayon).
Thread 4 Thoughts ethical sourcing
To make its garments Threads 4 Thought only works with factories that hold the highest industry certifications. Their factories also recycle & reuse 80% of wastewater, all while using less water per garment than is typically used.
Thread 4 Thoughts corporate responsibility
In addition to offering a transparency report, Thread 4 Thoughts works with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to support refugee communities.
Encircled is a great slow fashion brand for women and an especially perfect option in slow fashion brands for workwear. Crafted with comfort, style, quality, and ethics in mind, you’ll find their selection features a versatile collection of tees, and pajamas, as well as lovely dresses, tops, and bottoms perfect for work too. Their sizes range from XS-XXL.
Encircled's fabrics and materials
Materials used include Modal, TENCEL™ Lyocell, organic cotton, rayon made from bamboo, and linen.
Encircled's ethical sourcing
Encircled is OEKO-TEX® 100 Certified so you can be sure no toxic chemicals are used. All of their garments are manufactured in Canada too so no need to worry about unethical labor practices either.
Encircled's corporate responsibility
A B Corp, Encircled is clearly committed to more ethical and sustainable practices. Their packaging is 100% recyclable and they make sure to use FSC-certified paper and cleaning products. A great option for affordable ethical clothing and eco stocking stuffers as well.
Final thoughts on slow fashion brands
Reaching for ethical slow fashion brands has never been easier, and I hope this article has shown you just that. Best of all, there is something for everyone in the family, and for every budget too so you don’t have to be priced out of choosing more ethical clothing.
If you’re worried about splurging on something, it might just be worth it in this case. Because spending a little more on ethical clothing is definitely better than shopping with the worst fast fashion brands, wherever possible.