13 things to look for in ethical brands

Sometimes you just really want to shop and it can be hard to trail through brand after brand and check which ones are really sustainable and ethical – it just takes the fun out of it. At fineyellow, we wanna help you find conscious fashion in the simplest way. So this week I’ve created a little guide for you full of things to look out for when you’re shopping for clothes to ensure they really stand for the values you’re looking for.

1. Profits for philanthropy

It turns out that a lot of fast fashion is either created by low-wage workers in the developing world or the production is contributing towards the degradation of our natural environment. Therefore, it’s great to look out for brands who donate towards charities and good causes to help combat this.

Brand Spotlight: Rhumaa

A percentage of Rhumaa’s turnover is donated towards the Rhumaa Foundation, a project that supports skill development programs in vulnerable communities in Cape Town, South Africa.

2. Fair working conditions

As said above, fashion has often been the culprit of low-wages, child labour, and dangerous working conditions. So when you’re looking at a brand, have a look to see whether they’re working alongside the advice and guidance from organisations such as the Fair Wear Foundation or the International Labour Organisation. This ensures the brands are paying a fair wage and ensure safe working conditions for their workers.

Brand Spotlight: Malimo

The founders of Malimo are keen travellers, so they make regular checks on their production locations. For example, they have a close partnership with their production in Mumbai, which is a tailoring family business which consists of 5 tailors, who are paid above-average wages and have a maximum of 8 hour working days with breaks.

3. Supporting women

Many fast fashion brands take advantage of the low labour costs in the developing world and these production jobs often end up being taken up by women. There is often issues of gender equality in these countries, so brands that support women are at the top of our list.

Brand Spotlight: She is From the Jungle

She is From the Jungle exclusively source from mothers working at home in Brazil, so they can provide them with a sustainable income source while they continue to take care of their children.

4. Fair trade & other certificates

Something you can really easily look for is whether a brand is certified. Check out this page to read a bit more about what kinds of certificates are out there, including Fair Trade, GOTS and OEKO-TEX. They often have logos and names that are super easy to recognise – so as soon as you see them you’ll know the brand is doing something right!

Brand Spotlight: L’amour est bleu

L’amour est bleu are GOTS, OEKO-TEX and PETA certified. This means that their materials are certified organic, vegan & free of dangerous-chemicals.

    5. Environmentally conscious

    Being environmentally conscious doesn’t just mean the clothes. It also means having sustainable workplace practices, sustainable packaging, being water efficient and reducing waste. This can be hard to find with brands, so sometimes you may have to delve a little deeper, but if the brand is doing these things, they’re likely to share it with you, so keep an eye out!

    Brand Spotlight: QNOOP

    Qnoop use no toxic chemicals, and as they use organically grown cotton, they save 50% less water than the average cotton-made product. They also use a special dyeing process, that re-uses 20% of its water. The water that can’t be recycled due to the dye, flows directly to a wastewater plant, where it is not released into nature.

    6. Sustainable materials

    Sustainable materials are not only good for the planet but less damaging on your skin and health – so they’re a major part of ethical fashion. Sustainable materials include organic fibres and dyes such as organic cotton, wool, and linen.

    Brand Spotlight: KEMP GADEGÅRD

    Only natural fibres are used in the production of KEMP GADEGÅRD garments, such as organic cotton, bamboo, wool and silk.

      7. Local production

      Local production and a small supply chain is so important, it creates local jobs and reduces the amount of travelling the finished garments need to make – so lower carbon emissions. Since fineyellow is based in Berlin and our customers are European, we always like to look for brands producing close to us and to you.

      Brand Spotlight: Anekdot

      Anekdot handcraft each and every one of their intricate designed pieces right here in Berlin.

        8. Slow fashion

        Look out for labels that aren’t releasing a new collection every month, slow fashion means a brand doesn’t produce its products dependent on styles and trends but instead on quality, durability and wearability, so new items will only be added from time to time.

        Brand Spotlight: La Petite Mort

        La Petite Mort believes ‘time is non-existent’, you can wear their pieces this year, next year and in ten years. They’re all about versatility, good, functional basics that you can play around with.

        9. Animal welfare

        Brands that use wool or leather should do so in a sustainable and friendly matter, animals are our friends, not commodities. So ethical brands will always treat animals with respect and will be cruelty free (no animal testing) and will be proud to say so.

        Brand Spotlight: Zue Anna

        Knitwear brand, Zue Anna, guarantees a great life for their sheep. Their shearers only do ‘slow-shearing’ and are paid bonuses for preventing injuries to the flock. They follow a no mulesing, tail-docking, or dehorning policy and each sheep gets space to roam, medical care, and can enjoy retirement (no slaughterhouses!).

        10. Vegan

        While some of our brands do use natural animal materials such as wool, leather, and silk, we still definitely support fully vegan brands. So look out for this when shopping, as they bring absolutely no harm to animals and are producing some really cool and innovative clothing, such as leather alternatives.

        Brand Spotlight: Hey Honey

        They may have ‘honey’ in their name, but Hey Honey is PETA approved vegan. They use no animal products in neither the production process nor their collections.

        11. Innovation

        Innovation can mean anything from upcycling materials to using new, innovative and sustainable materials. Look out for brands that use a lot of deadstock or unwanted fabric, or that use other materials that are environmentally friendly, such as Lyocell, Cupro, Piñatex, etc.

        Brand Spotlight: Luxaa

        Luxaa have patented a unique invention called Tyvek®. It is a soft material that acts like any other natural fibre. It’s easy to clean, pH neutral, anti-allergenic, durable, and can be 100% recycled!

        12. Artisan-made & handcrafting

        Look for brands that encourage and participate in making garments that are produced by local artisans, encourage traditional skills and support regional craftsmanship.

        Brand Spotlight: Store of Hope

        Originally a humanitarian project, Store of Hope works with women in safehouses in Nepal to produce jewellery from traditional Nepalese methods

          13. Transparency

          Being ethical is great, but it’s no use if you’re not transparent, because how can we know that these brands are really doing everything they say? Look for brands that illustrate their supply chain, that know where and by who their clothes are manufactured and which materials are used to do so. It’s all about being honest!

          Brand Spotlight: Marin & Marine

          Marin & Marine produce all their products in Germany. Their mission is to contribute to a conscious and sustainable environment, and they outline exactly how they do this on their website. They share exactly where they source their materials from and where their items are produced.

            Once you know what to look out for, it can be pretty easy to see which brands are truly ethical and sustainable! You can read more here about why fairness and sustainability are important to us here at fineyellow.