Where to Find Ethically Made Vegan Winterwear

Original photo by Roberto Trombetta on Flickr // vegan ethical fashion

Original photo by
Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a big ol’ master directory of ethically made winterwear, listing everything from thermal undies to big puffy parkas. And while it was a pretty comprehensive list, it was also not entirely relevant to me as a vegan: If I wanted to see which brands had products free of down or leather or wool, I had to click through and do my own investigation. Plus, it didn’t include a few all-vegan brands that I know produce their products ethically. I sighed and thought to myself, why not compile my own list of brands producing ethically made winter clothes without animal products? And thus, this list.

I’ve categorized this post by product type to help you find the specific items you need, so some brands are included in multiple sections. I’ve also marked fully vegan winterwear brands in case that’s important to you, and I’ve included what rating the company gets from Good On You, an app that evaluates brands’ ethics in terms of labor, the environment, and animal welfare. (Learn more here.) The app is fairly new and has mainly focused on Australian brands, so not all brands mentioned here are rated. That doesn’t mean they are not using ethical practices, however!

Let me know if I’ve missed your favorite brand!

Where to find ethically made vegan winter coats

Brave Gentleman (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: Don’t let the name fool you: Brave Gentleman doesn’t just produce vegan clothing for men. According to its FAQ, the brand is “geared toward individuals who enjoy menswear aesthetics because there is a disproportionate emphasis on femme lifestyle products in the “eco”, “green” and “ethical” realm.” Fair enough! As of November 2018, the brand has just a few vegan jacket styles, but this tweed-y double-breasted overcoat is a great option if you’re looking for a classic overcoat style. (It’s also available in houndstooth, plaid, and solid colors.)

Why it’s ethical: Brave Gentleman ensures that workers receive a living wage and healthcare coverage. All styles are vegan, and the brand works to minimize pollution and use sustainable materials.

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: I haven’t seen Brave Gentleman offer sales, but I don’t follow this brand terribly closely. Checking BG out on social media might be your best bet.


Finisterre

Who they are and what they offer: Founded with the goal of producing sustainable garments for British surfers (yes, really), Finisterre has a few solid vegan options among its wool-heavy line. The packable Nimbus is available for both women and men, and many of the parkas are also free of animal products.

Why it’s ethical: The company uses eco-friendly materials like recycled polyester, and it was founded with sustainability as a key practice. It’s also a B Corp. Finisterre doesn’t use leather, fur, angora, or down.

Good on You rating: Good

How to save: Sign up for the mailing list for a discount, and be sure to check the sale sections.


Hoodlamb (fully vegan)

Hoodlamb's sustainably made vegan Nordic puffer

Image copyright Hoodlamb

Who they are and what they offer: This cheeky Amsterdam-based company relies on hemp — that darling of the sustainable fashion world — to create parkas, bombers, hoodies, sweaters, and more for both women and men. Need something über-warm to get you through a Nordic winter? Try one of the thigh-length puffers. Seeking something more casual to wear indoors to avoid cranking up the heat? Check out one of the long hoodies.

Why it’s ethical: Clean-growing hemp is the backbone of most products, and the company uses certified organic textiles in its shell fabric. All products are vegan, and Hoodlamb carefully chooses the factories that produce its garments (see more here).

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Full-price items are not cheap, but sign up for the mailing list to get access to sales. You’ll find deep, deep discounts in the off-season.


Patagonia

Who they are and what they offer: This well-known activewear brand offers plenty of vegan options for men, women, and kids. The Nano Puff jacket protects you from winter and water; try the Snowbelle jacket for a versatile, 3-in-1 option.

Why it’s ethical: Patagonia is arguably a pioneer in the realm of ethical activewear; it uses eco-friendly materials, has a repair and reuse program, incorporates many sustainable practices, and is quite transparent about its supply chain and workers’ wages. It’s also a certified B Corp.

Good on You rating: Good

How to save: Check out the web specials section or shop for Patagonia projects at various outdoorsy stores. Moosejaw, REI, and Sierra Trading Post all sell Patagonia and have clearance/sale sections.


Save the Duck (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: An Italian brand, Save the Duck makes down-alternative coats, jackets, and vests for women, men, and children. You’ll find both puffer styles and parkas in just about every color.

Why it’s ethical: Save the Duck uses no animal products and says its garments are “environmentally friendly.” (See below for more info.)

Good on You rating: Not good enough
(Save the Duck claims to use sustainable practices but hasn’t provided enough information for Good on You to fully evaluate those claims. I’m not sure I want to keep Save the Duck on this list, given those concerns, so let me know what you think.)

How to save: You’ll pay top dollar for brand-new items; sign up for the mailing list for the occasional sale. (Last Black Friday, discounts peaked at 40%.)


Vaute Couture (fully vegan)

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture; Belden coat

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture

Who they are and what they offer:  Founded by designer Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart, this fashion-forward brand made its name offering hand-sewn, ethically made vegan winterwear for women and men. The Belden is a classic women’s style, and I love the Charles for men. Vaute even makes gender-neutral styles! (I’ve also written more about Vaute Couture here.)

Why it’s ethical: This vegan brand relies on sustainable materials and ensures that all its products are made in the USA by employees making a living wage.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Check out the clearance section for discounts, and sign up for emails to get notified.

Note: Vaute Couture will be on hiatus after this season as Hilgart figures out what to do with the brand and tries to scale up. Read more here.


Where to find ethically made vegan winter boots

While many ethical footwear companies offer vegan boots, I’m only featuring styles that are specifically designed for winter. So you won’t find vegan dock boots, work boots, Chelsea boots, etc. on this list. As such, please consider this a curated, highly subjective list, and know that more options exist if you don’t need heavy-duty winter boots designed to keep out the snow, keep you warm, and keep you from slipping on ice!


Beyond Skin (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: A vegan company offering dozens of styles for women, Beyond Skin‘s has baked ethics into its business philosophy. Serious vegan winter boot offerings are scarce, but check out the Misty vegan sheepskin boots (also available in black) if you want an Uggs-esque look. (Note that as of November 2018, Beyond Skin only offers women’s shoes but says it’ll be launching a men’s collection soon.)

Why it’s ethical: Beyond Skin strives to use recycled materials when possible and produces its shoes ethically in Spain.

Good on You rating: It’s a start

How to save: Check the sale section!


Bhava Studio (fully vegan)

Photo copyright Bhava Studio

Who they are and what they offer: This small, woman-owned vegan company produces a limited line of fashion-forward women’s shoes — including some extremely stylish winter boots. Check out these faux fur-lined combat-style winter boots and these winter platforms (!) in particular.

Why it’s ethical: Bhava uses recycled materials and organic cotton and manufactures its shoes in Europe under fair labor conditions. It’s also committed to promoting a healthier approach to fashion, focusing on the idea that less is more when it comes to your closet. Learn more here.

Good on You rating:  It’s a start

How to save: Use my referral link to sign up for Bhava’s rewards program — you’ll get $30 off your first purchase. Once you’ve joined the program, you can earn points by completing relatively simple tasks (liking Bhava on Facebook; completing your profile) and redeeming the points for gift cards. And be sure to follow Bhava on Instagram for access to special pre-order sales.


Jambu

Who they are and what they offer: Sporty shoes with a bit of style is the name of the game at Jambu. While winter boots don’t make up the majority of their line, you’ll still find a few vegan styles for the colder months. (Note that although Jambu does offer some men’s shoes, their selection is very limited — women will have better luck with this brand. )You’ll find all the vegan options here;  try the Evans boot if you’ve got light winters, and check out Lorna if you need serious warmth and traction.

Why it’s ethical: Jambu has an impressive variety of animal-free shoes for all seasons, and they say their manufacturers in China are “strictly monitored.” (I can’t find much information on their overall sustainability practices, and I’m a little skeptical about their manufacturing. I’m not 100% sure they belong on this list and will reach out to the brand for more details.)

Good on You rating: Not rated yet

How to save: Check the sale section for deals. (Also, fellow vegan blogger Amey is a Jambu ambassador and frequently offers special discount codes — check out her vegan Jambu reviews for details!)


Kamik

Kamik vegan winter bootsWho they are and what they offer: A family-owned Canadian brand, Kamik sells winter boots (along with rain boots and sandals) for men, women, and kids. A vegan filter makes it easy to find animal-friendly options; there are plenty of vegan winter boots for women this season. Options range from these no-nonsense tall snow boots to this fun pair — they look like moon boots to me! (I own an older style and really like them — they’re cute without being too trendy, and they have nice sturdy treads perfect for icy conditions.)

Why it’s ethical: Kamik is working toward a zero-waste production facility, uses recycled materials in their boots, and makes the majority of their products in North America. Plus, they offer a recycling program so your old and well-loved footwear doesn’t end up in a landfill.

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: Subscribe to their email to get deals or check the banner near the top of the page for special sales. You can sometimes also find marked-down boots on Amazon.


Vegetarian Shoes (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: An OG vegan shoe brand based in the UK, Vegetarian Shoes offers plenty of styles for men and women — including a few winter-appropriate options. The unisex Ice Patrol style is a great no-nonsense option, or try the Caribou if you live in gentler climes.

Why it’s ethical: Vegetarian Shoes uses no animal products and ensures that workers are treated fairly. That said, I haven’t been able to find much information about the products and materials they use — I need to look into this a little more!

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: Check the sale section!


Where to find ethically made vegan winter sweaters/jumpers

American Giant

Who they are and what they offer: American-grown cotton and American-made garments for both men and women are at the center of American Giant‘s business model. Check them out if you’re in the market for casual apparel — think sturdy pullovers, heavy-duty (yet stylish) moto sweaters, and cozy hoodies. The company offers free returns on any item at any point in time for any reason, a quality guarantee that demonstrates how strongly they stand behind their products.

Why it’s ethical: Everything is made in the USA, and the vast majority of products are made of cotton. (American Giant just introduced a merino-blend sweater.)

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: Discounts are rare, but sign up for the mailing list so you get first dibs on their yearly sale. New customers can also score 15% off with my referral link.


PACT Apparel

Who they are and what they offer: My favorite source for fair-trade, organic cotton basics (think hoodiessocks, and undies) for men, women, and kids, PACT also recently introduced a line of sweaters. This cable-knit tunic sweater looks lovely and cozy, but I really like the oval cardigan. In fact, I recently took advantage of a sale to buy it at half price. The thistle heather color is just gorgeous!

Why it’s ethical: Organic cotton, fair-trade practices, and no animal products make PACT one of the best options out there.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Use my referral link and get 20% off your first order! Then sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts, like the aforementioned half off a single item.


Vaute Couture (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer:  Founded by designer Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart, this fashion-forward brand made its name offering hand-sewn, ethically made vegan winterwear for women and men. Although Vaute primarily offers coats and jackets, you can find a smattering of beautiful sweaters too. This cabled aran knit style is beautiful, as is this cocoon-like cardigan. (I’ve also written more about Vaute Couture here.)

Why it’s ethical: This vegan brand relies on sustainable materials and ensures that all its products are made in the USA by employees making a living wage. Most sweaters are made of recycled materials.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Check out the clearance section for discounts, and sign up for emails to get notified.

Note: Vaute Couture will be on hiatus after this season as Hilgart figures out what to do with the brand and tries to scale up. Read more here.


Where to find ethically made vegan winter hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, and more

Hoodlamb (fully vegan)

Hoodlamb's sustainably made vegan infinity scarf

Image copyright Hoodlamb

Who they are and what they offer: This cheeky Amsterdam-based company relies on hemp — that darling of the sustainable fashion world — to create parkas, bombers, hoodies, sweaters, and more for both women and men. Happily, they also offer some lovely accessories, including a few for children. I love me an infinity scarf, and this faux fur-lined hat looks so cozy. Shopping for kiddos? They’d look adorable in this cute beanie!

Why it’s ethical: Clean-growing hemp is the backbone of most products, and the company uses certified organic textiles in its shell fabric. All products are vegan, and Hoodlamb carefully chooses the factories that produce its garments (see more here).

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Full-price items are not cheap, but sign up for the mailing list to get access to sales. You’ll find deep, deep discounts in the off-season.


Where to find ethically made vegan socks and vegan base layers for winter

Why lump vegan base layers and vegan winter socks together? For one, they serve a similar purpose in my mind. But also… there just aren’t a lot of ethical companies making vegan versions of these items! Yes, you can find vegan socks pretty easily, but few are what I’d call winter-specific. Honestly, I usually just double up on my socks if I really need to keep warm in the winter! 

PACT Apparel

Who they are and what they offer: PACT offers fair-trade, organic cotton basics (think hoodiessocks, and undies) for men, women, and kids. I think you could also get away with using their leggings as base layers.

Why it’s ethical: Organic cotton, fair-trade practices, and no animal products make PACT one of the best options out there.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Use my referral link and get 20% off your first order! Then sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts, like the aforementioned half off a single item.


Patagonia

Who they are and what they offer: This well-known activewear brand produces some of the best base layers for vegans looking to avoid wool. Patagonia’s Capilene base layers come in myriad weights, styles, and sizes for women, men, and children and use a recycled polyester fabric to keep you cozy. Just be sure to avoid the Capilene Air line — that one is blended with merino (boo!).

Why it’s ethical: Patagonia is arguably a pioneer in the realm of ethical activewear; it uses eco-friendly materials, has a repair and reuse program, incorporates many sustainable practices, and is quite transparent about its supply chain and workers’ wages. It’s also a certified B Corp.

Good on You rating: Good

How to save: Check out the web specials section or shop for Patagonia projects at various outdoorsy stores. Moosejaw, REI, and Sierra Trading Post all sell Patagonia and have clearance/sale sections.


A few notes and thoughts
  • I think there’s a real discussion to be had about the ethics of recycled wool vs. synthetics. Read any list of recommendations for winterwear and wool gets rave reviews: It wicks away moisture, it keeps in heat without getting you sweaty, and it doesn’t trap stinkiness. As an ethical vegan, though, I haven’t worn wool in years because the industry is absolutely horrendous from an animal welfare perspective. But to be honest, the alternatives — synthetics or cotton — don’t quite measure up. Cotton tends to get a bit sweaty, while synthetics are produced at quite a cost to the environment (as is non-organic cotton). Recycled or secondhand wool may be the way to go if you’re comfortable with that option, though I’m still not quite comfortable with it for myself.
  • Many of the points above also apply to recycled down. Patagonia offers a recycled down collection, but I personally don’t feel comfortable using it.
  • This is a very truncated list — I will add more to it as I do more research!

Bear in mind that I am just one person trawling the internet, so I’m sure I’ve left some brands out! Please leave a comment if I’ve missed your favorite ethical vegan brand and I’ll add it to the list.

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Where to find ethically made vegan outerwear // govegga.com

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Vegan on Etsy: Ethical Women’s Clothing!

vegan on etsy cruelty free etsyToday, I’m sharing some great options for purchasing handmade (women’s) clothing on Etsy! In my last Vegan on Etsy installment, I offered up a bevy of bags and a… sackful of satchels? Sure. I’ve also got a post on lip balms, which are plentiful on Etsy.

The pursuit of ethically made clothing is near and dear to my heart. (See: this post about ethical fashion and a few mainstream purveyors of ethical vegan clothes.) I’m on a constant quest to whittle my wardrobe and populate it with clothing that’s made to last and that fills multiple purposes. Yes, this often means spending more than you would if you went bargain-hunting at the mall, but it also means you’re (typically) investing in businesses who value treating their workers right. That’s worth it to me, especially since I put a premium on well-made clothing that will last and not need replacing in just a few years.

And the good news is that Etsy is chock full of independent makers who are doing great things with fabric. Here are a few standouts, with the important caveat that — just like I mentioned in my previous post on ethical fashion — there is a long way to go in terms of accommodating all body shapes and sizes. Sigh.

Blue Ridge Stitches

With its affordable cotton basics handmade in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Stitches is a gem. I love this open jersey-knit cardigan; those giant pockets are extremely appealing.

Image copyright Blue Ridge Stitches

Image copyright Blue Ridge Stitches

Prices are fair for handmade clothing, and there’s even a sale section with quite a few ready-to-ship options.

Ellaina Boutique

Image copyright Ellaina Boutique

Image copyright Ellaina Boutique

SaveThe cotton dresses, shirts, leggings, and other apparel at Ellaina Boutique are all simple, sweet, and versatile. Shop owner and seamstress Sue chooses fabrics in rich tones and vibrant patterns and creates timeless pieces that should fit in just about anyone’s wardrobe. I took advantage of a sale last summer to purchase a sweetheart crossover dress in a gorgeous blue floral pattern (not currently available). It’s incredibly comfortable (yay, cotton jersey!) but looks dressy because of the pattern.

This day dress (above/left) is another cute style that would look great on quite a few body types. Note that while you can choose from straight sizes, you can also provide your own measurements. Sizes only go up to XL in the drop-down menu, but it does seem like she’s able to customize these garments.

Loft 415

Don’t let Loft 415’s “minimalist bohemian” descriptor deter you: This California-based shop offers plenty of basics that should appeal to folks with a variety of styles. For example, this simple black pencil skirt is a wardrobe staple, whereas fans of a more boho aesthetic might like this dolman-sleeved shirt. There’s even a maternity section!

I particularly appreciate Loft 415’s ethics. They source the raw fabrics from a company in LA, use eco-friendly inks on their screen-printed tees, and are committed to paying workers a fair wage.

PlatForma

For slightly pricier — but more design-forward — options, check out PlatForma. These carefully designed and crafted clothing items run the gamut from crisp cotton frocks to summery linen blouses.

Image copyright PlatForma

Image copyright PlatForma

This linen shirt with a tie-neck collar intrigues me! It’s such a wholly unique design, and I love the look of that linen.

Everything at PlatForma is made to order and ships from Bulgaria — a boon for you Europe-based readers!

Yana Dee

Whereas most of the other shops on this list rely solely on cotton for their ethical vegan clothing, Yana Dee also uses hemp, cotton, and soy fabrics. They also offer a wider range of styles than many competitors, with pants, scarves, jackets, and even casual wedding dresses alongside the usual suspects (skirts and dresses, mostly).

Note that Yana Dee has a few leather headbands on sale, but at least they’re using salvaged leather and not the brand-new stuff. There are also a few wool and silk items, unfortunately. But on the bright side, Yana Dee includes sizes up to 3XL as part of the standard offerings, and you can also request a custom size.

Other options

Never fear if none of these styles appeal — Etsy is a treasure trove for vintage clothing! Of course, you’ll pay more than you would if you hit up some Goodwills yourself, but if you’re not into the thrill of the thrift store hunt, you might appreciate someone else doing the hard work for you. Here are a few of my favorites, but there are hundreds of other shops out there. Don’t forget to check out the sale sections, too!

If you happen to be handy with a sewing machine, Etsy has quite a few makers who sell original patterns. I really love Hey June Handmade‘s clean, modern styles, though I have yet to try one myself, while OhMeOhMySewing has some pretty vintage-inspired dresses and shirts. You can also search for knit or crochet patterns if that’s more up your crafty alley.

Have any other favorites? Let me know what I missed!

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Finding vegan clothing on Etsy // govegga.com

Cruelty-free and vegan clothing on Etsy // govegga.com

Editor’s note: This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. And my primary purpose here is to connect vegans with quality, handmade goods that help support small businesses and indie designers. :)

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Ethical Clothing Companies with Cruelty-Free Vegan Options, and Why You Should Care About Your Clothes

Original photo by Roberto Trombetta on Flickr // vegan ethical fashion

Original photo by
Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

Post last updated May 30, 2019.

One of the most infuriating “questions” thrown at vegans sounds something like this: “Why do you care about animals when there are HUMAN BEINGS suffering all over the world?!” This is infuriating for many reasons, of course: It assumes that one cannot care about and work to help both human and non-human animals; it assumes a speciesist distinction between humans and animals; it is often “asked” by speakers who themselves are not doing much to help humans or other animals. Plus, it’s never really a question; it’s a goading comment designed to rile up the vegan target.

But despite all this, there’s actually a kernel of relevance to the question. If your veganism is founded on ethics, on a desire to reduce suffering and not take part in suffering as far as is possible and practicable, then caring about your fellow humans and striving to reduce their suffering should also be important to you. It’s not that you have to do it all, but that you should be conscious of suffering and work against it and the systems that encourage it when possible.

Which all leads me to my point: that we as vegans should probably be a little more ethically conscious in stores other than the grocery store. Specifically, when we’re buying clothing.

It’s no secret that the clothing industry—especially the fast-fashion industry—is notoriously horrendous in terms of human rights and worker safety. The horrific 2012 garment factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 117 people, is a particularly poignant example of what can happen when safety isn’t a priority, but the day-to-day injustices and inhumane working conditions in the garment industry are no less important.

On top of this high human cost, fast fashion hurts the environment. Getting rid of textile waste is a real problem, and even so-called “recycling programs” (where fast-fashion retailers like H&M will take back their unwanted garments, ostensibly to turn them into recycled fibers) might actually encourage consumerism. Plus, the products use to dye that brightly colored T-shirt or make that non-biodegradable polyester sweater are terrifically harmful to the environment, so much so that the textile industry ranks as one of the worst industries in terms of pollutants. (Although the article I’ve linked to pegs the textile industry as the “second dirtiest,” metrics for measuring “dirtiness” vary, and ranking offenders is a tricky business. Suffice it to say that the textile industry is a major contributor to pollution and deserves our scrutiny.)

All these facts, when taken together, form a pretty strong case for caring a little more deeply about—and putting a little more thought into—one’s clothing purchases. Buying fewer pieces of clothing and keeping them for longer is a great place to start.

The good news is that there’s a new crop of ethical designers and retailers, mostly online, dedicated to producing ethically made clothing that’s friendly to the environment, to people, and frequently to animals. Below I’ll share with you my favorite ethical clothing brands doing great work in this space but first, a quick list of points to look for when you’re trying to determine whether a given retailer is “ethical.”

How to tell whether a clothing or apparel manufacturer/retailer is ethical

These are just a few things you can ask and look for as you find brands that you think might produce their wares ethically. In a nutshell, transparency counts! And don’t be afraid to email companies and ask questions—it’s good to keep them accountable and let them know that people want more ethical clothing options.

  • Do they mention sustainability or ethics on their website? (Scroll down to the bottom of their homepage and check for a link to a dedicated page or read through the FAQ to start.) If there’s no mention at all, there’s a good chance that this retailer produces their garments in sweatshops and/or has not even signed on to any labor/working condition agreements. Retailers that are actually committed to ethics, fair trade, and/or sustainability almost always explain why they hold these values and how they put these values into practice. On the other hand, beware of statements so vague as to be essentially meaningless. Greenwashing is real, and if a brand can’t give concrete examples of its commitment to ethics and/or sustainability, it’s probably just paying lip service to those ideals.
  • Do they list sources for any materials? For example, some sustainable producers use recycled polyester, and they’ll always call that out. Other ethical brands use “waste” products or use only environmentally-friendly dyes. if a brand doesn’t give any information, the information they do have is likely not going to meet your ethical standards.
  • Do they include the exact country in which the product was made? Many retailers will just list “imported” next to a product, which can indicate a lack of transparency. On the other hand, most ethical companies will tell you exactly where each product was made. And although you might see something like China and immediately assume the worst, note that some factories do follow higher welfare standards and pay a living wage. A truly transparent and ethical company will explain how they choose their factories and will often perform in-person checks.
Original photo by Joel Kramer on Flickr // ethical and vegan clothing

Original photo by Joel Kramer on Flickr

So, with all this in mind… how do you find ethically made vegan clothing? Let me help.

Editor’s note: I’ve updated this post as of 03/29/18 with a few new options, and I’ve marked one company that is now defunct.

My favorite ethical clothing brands with vegan options

Alternative Apparel

Why I love it: I practically lived in Alternative Apparel’s super-soft athleisure-focused pieces last summer: I’d get home from work and immediately change into a sports bra, tank top, and shorts or yoga pants and head outside, either to work in the garden or sit with a beer and a book in the backyard, soaking up the sun. They have an impressive range of mostly casual pieces for men and women, mixed in with a few slightly dressier pieces that could fit into a business-casual wardrobe.

Why it’s ethical: Alternative Apparel’s statement of social responsibility ticks all the boxes: Eco-friendly fabrics? Check. Recycled materials? Low-impact dyes? Fair labor conditions? Check, check, and check again. Their base in LA is even certified green, meaning they encourage and promote small-scale environmentally friendly practices, like ride-sharing and using green cleaning products. And they use almost exclusively non-animal fabrics; you’ll find the occasional woolly garment, but it’ll be labeled clearly.

What it’ll cost you: At full price, AA’s clothing tends to hit the middle of the spectrum, with a few items skewing pricier. $28 organic cotton T-shirts are pretty comparable to similar brands, but the $112 flannel shirt-dress seems a bit much. Note that many of the more expensive items are the private-label brands AA carries. Look for their own house brand for more affordable options.

Want a discount? AA is great for discounts! I’ve never paid full price for anything. First check out the sale section for discounts that hover around 50%, then head over to the last-chance section for truly bargain-bin prices. Sizes and colors tend to be limited, so hop on a sale whenever it’s offered. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to be the first to know about their (frequent) sales, and note that shipping and returns are always free in the 48 contiguous states. New customers can use my referral link for 20% off a purchase of $30 or more.

American Giant

Why I love it: For whatever reason, many ethical clothing companies seem to shy away from color. (I think it’s because many of these companies want to offer eminently neutral—and therefore versatile—basics.) Not American Giant. This brand embraces color, from vibrant red to jewel-toned emerald to dusty purple. It also offers an impressive range of mostly casual basics: Think waffled henleys, simple T-shirts, and an oft-praised hoodie. I have a simple grey sweatshirt from AG that’s both warm and comfy, but I’d love to try their ponte pant/legging—it looks like the epitome of comfort and perfect for traveling.

Why it’s ethical: The name should be a dead giveaway: everything is made in the USA with American-grown and crafted cotton. Plus, the company offers free returns on any item at any point in time for any reason, a quality guarantee that demonstrates how strongly they stand behind their products. And because all products are cotton (along with some new nylon offerings), you don’t need to worry about wool or silk sneaking in!

What it’ll cost you: Although not the cheapest brand on this list, American Giant offers a relatively low price for fully made-in-the-USA goods. Women’s T-shirts will run you anywhere from $25 to $40, while their much-lauded hoodie is about $90. Sales are rare but not unknown, so keep an eye out.

Want a discount? Like I said, sales are infrequent, but new customers can score 15% off with my referral link.

Photo credit: Brass Clothing

Photo credit: Brass Clothing

Brass Clothing

Why I love it: This woman-owned, Boston-based company focuses on basic, foundational pieces. Although it’s designed with a capsule wardrobe in mind, these basic pieces will fit into anyone’s closet. I particularly appreciate the muted tones and fairly timeless shapes. The company will also reimburse you up to $15 if you need to get a piece tailored to fit, which is a nice gesture. Plus, Brass uses “real models” to demonstrate how their clothing fits on a variety of body shapes. Sizes run from XXS-XXL at present.

Why it’s ethical: The women who run Brass ensure that their fabrics are high-quality and their garments are well-constructed so that they’ll last—these are not items you’ll throw out in a year because they’ve developed holes. They design their clothing here in the USA and manufacture it in Hangzhou, China, at two factories that they visit fairly regularly. Most fabrics are vegan, though they do use silk occasionally.

What it’ll cost you: These are not inexpensive clothing items; expect to pay $20-$30 for a T-shirt and ~$90-$125 for a dress. That’s because they’re truly built to last. Check out the last-chance room for occasional deals: I bought the grey sweater dress on sale last year and it’s absolutely a winter staple for me.

Want a discount? Use my referral link for $30 off your first purchase!

(Editor’s note, 12/14/17Brass has recently started introducing more clothing with animal products, including cashmere and wool. They still have lots of animal-free styles, and I hope this isn’t a trend.)

PACT Apparel

Why I love it: Similar to American Giant, PACT focuses on cotton basics. Unlike AG, whose wares are eminently casual, PACT offers a broader range of goods, from undies to cute dresses. It’s a particularly great choice if you want simple basics (socks, undies, tights) that are fairly made and don’t cost a fortune. I particularly love their tights, which are thicker than regular tights without venturing into legging territory—perfect for winter! This cute pocket dress is also one of my favorites. It’s soft, super comfy, and a great length (I’m 5’5″ and an XS hits just above the knees). Plus, the pockets fit even the largest smartphones! And at $29.99, it’s really a steal.

I also appreciate the breadth of PACT’s line; they provide clothes for women, men, and babies (a rarity), and they offer lots of fun colors (just check out all the legging patterns!). My closet is slowly becoming filled with more long-lasting, ethically made items, and Pact clothing takes up a sizable share of that real estate. (In my bathroom, too — I bought their three-quarter sleeve robe a few months ago and it’s a post-shower summer staple!)

Why it’s ethical: The PACT motto is “Change you can wear,” and a good-for-people, good-for-the-planet ethos drives their work. Everything is sweatshop-free, ethically produced, and features certified organic cotton (which uses less water to manufacture than conventional cotton).

What it’ll cost you: One of the most affordable brands on this list, PACT won’t break the bank. Yes, you’ll pay more for a pair of socks or underwear here than you would buying a six-pack at Target, but that’s the trade-off of purchasing fairly made goods. And honestly, PACT’s prices are pretty much as low as you’ll find for ethical basics. T-shirts run an extremely affordable $15.99, while a four-pack of basic crew socks is $22.99.

Want a discount? Use my referral link and get 20% off your first order! Then sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts (they recently offered 30% off winter favorites). And watch out for their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales—you’ll get some amazing deals! I scored an $8 T-shirt one year.

prAna

Why I love it: Yes, this is a bigger company than most others on my list, but I had to include it for its commitment to fair-trade and sustainability. You can read their full sustainability statement here, but here’s the short version: PrAna is committed to using sustainable materials (think hemp and recycled polyester), reducing waste (no plastic-wrapped clothing when you place an online order!), offering fair-trade certified clothing (since 2010!), ensuring that they know where their materials come from (thanks to traceability projects), and avoiding harmful pollutants (by partnering with bluesign to meet high environmental standards). I own a few prAna pieces (yoga pants, everyday pants, swimsuits, and a winter jacket) and they’re all high-quality, investment pieces that I think will last me years.

On top of all that, prAna has an amazing commitment to customer service—they want you to love your clothing and wear it till it wears out. I purchased a pair of pants and wasn’t 100% happy with them (they were just a little big) and found I wasn’t wearing them that often. Six months after my purchase, they were willing to exchange them for a smaller size at no cost to me!

One thing to note: As of summer 2018, PrAna has started to incorporate more plus sizes (up to a 3X currently). They don’t offer plus sizes on all items, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Why it’s ethical: Well, see above! PrAna walks the walk when it comes to ethics. Note that they do use some animal products in cool-weather clothing, mostly down (ugh, though it’s allegedly responsibly sourced), wool (often recycled), and the occasional suede elbow patch (why?!?). Luckily, everything is clearly labeled online so you won’t get any unwelcome surprises when your order arrives.

What it’ll cost you: PrAna is not cheap, but they do have a robust sale section with seasonal discounts up to 50% off. That’s my preferred way to shop!

Want a discount? Check out the aforementioned sale section and sign up for emails—you’ll be the first to know about shipping offers or new discounts! PrAna is also available on Amazon, so you might be able to take advantage of Prime shipping deals for certain products.

Photo credit: SmartGlamour

Photo credit: SmartGlamour

SmartGlamour

Why I love it: When it comes to body-positive style, SmartGlamour stands alone. This brand is amazing in so many ways. It’s a woman-run, New York-based company; in fact, owner, designer, and general powerhouse Mallorie Dunn makes all clothing items to order. So while the company offers straight sizes in a truly amazing range (XXS-6XL+), you can customize any aspect of your garment (including the fabric!) to fit your body and sense of style. And Dunn is 100% committed to body positivity; the SmartGlamour Instagram account features real women of all shapes and sizes. (Check out the photo above for proof.) This inclusivity doesn’t end at size and shape; Dunn features women of color, women of all ages, and women all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including trans women. Reading her Instagram captions fills me with joy because of how overwhelmingly positive and inclusive they are—this is what America looks like, and I’m so happy to find a brand that’s committed to outfitting every single woman!

Why it’s ethical: Because everything is handmade in NYC, no shady labor conditions are contributing to your cute new dress! Aside from the occasional well-labeled wool, all fabrics are vegan—in fact, I first found SmartGlamour while perusing the #veganfashion hashtag on Instagram!

What it’ll cost you: For handmade (and often customized) clothing, SmartGlamour is surprisingly inexpensive (probably because Dunn keeps overhead low too). A classic (and classy) fitted sheath-style dress will run you $65, while a drape-y cardigan costs $40.

Want a discount? Check the sample sale section and follow SmartGlamour on Instagram to see additional sample materials as soon as they’re available.

Sotela

Why I love it: The driving idea behind Sotela is disarmingly simple: women should have a few pieces of clothing that will always fit, regardless of weight fluctuations or shape changes. Founder Hanna Baror-Padilla  wanted to address this issue after severe digestive issues left her so bloated and uncomfortable that most of her existing clothing didn’t fit. She decided to design a line of simple, basic dresses with a decent amount of give to allow for changes in size and shape. In practice, that means that Sotela’s dresses don’t match up with typical sizing. Instead, you’ll find just three sizes, each of which corresponds with a set of straight sizes. The largest size (3) fits traditional sizes 14-18.

Why it’s ethical: Baror-Padilla is committed to using environmentally friendly fabrics, such as modal, which can be made from the pulp of renewable beech trees. All items are produced in Costa Mesa, California. If you’re looking for ethical clothing that’s also made in the USA, this is a great start.

What it’ll cost you: Dresses start at $100, although a sample sale running right now offers a $65 swing dress.

Want a discount? Enter your email address in the popup window for free shipping.

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture; Belden coat

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture

Vaute Couture

Why I love it: It’s the OG high-fashion, all-vegan, cruelty-free brand! Founder Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart started the company in 2008 as a way to unite her fierce belief in animal welfare with a product that would appeal to a fashion-forward crowd. And it most certainly does. Although Vaute Couture is perhaps best known for its uber-warm winter coats, Hilgart has expanded her line to include dresses, sweaters, shirts, and even swimsuits—all vegan and all super stylish. Back in 2011, I split the cost of the original Belden coat (similar to this one, but with a slightly different fabric) with my mom as an early Christmas present when it went on sale—and I’ve been wearing it ever since. It’s a beautiful, well-fitting coat that got me through a few killer Wisconsin winters!

Editor’s note, 2019: Sadly, Vaute Couture stopped production this year. I’m leaving it on the list because you may be able to find their items secondhand—and if you do, snatch ’em up!

Why it’s ethical: Let me count the ways! For one, Vaute Couture is a 100% vegan brand, so you can always trust that the materials are cruelty-free. Vaute Couture uses sustainable materials (recycled, organic, or even waste-free) and makes its coats ethically in New York City by teams paid a living wage.

What it’ll cost you: This is easily the most expensive brand on this list: at full price, expect to spend about $400 to $600 for a snow- and weather-proof coat that will keep you toasty. Sweaters and skirts will run you upwards of $150, in line with similar high-fashion brands.

Want a discount? The good news: Vaute Couture frequently offers end-of-season (and even pre-season) sales, with discounts of up to 50% off. (That’s how I could afford my jacket; in those days, Vaute Couture funded its winter runs by pre-selling coats.) Yes, you will still pay a pretty penny, but you’re purchasing an investment piece that will last. Six years later and my coat is going strong!

A few more brands for your consideration

  • Encircled: Conceptualized as an answer for female travelers who aspire to carry-on-only adventures, Encircled offers versatile staples that help you travel light. For example, the much-lauded Revolve dress can be styled as a dress, tunic, and regular top, as can the Chrysalis cardi. All designs incorporate closed-loop processes, meaning no wastewater is introduced into the environment—and everything is sewn in Toronto, Canada, by well-paid employees.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Put simply, I don’t have any personal experience with the company! I also remain a bit skeptical of multi-wear clothing; if I don’t wear some fancy twisty dress in my everyday life, odds are slim to none that I’ll want to wear something like that while I’m traveling. I tend to think the concept of multi-wear styles is more novelty than practicality. That said, there are a few reviews out there that speak very highly of Encircled’s products, and I’d love to give their products a try!
    Want to save? Use my link to get $20 off your first order!
  • Everlane: The darling of ethical fashion bloggers everywhere, Everlane was one of the first web brands to focus on transparency. They share the cost breakdown of each item so you can see exactly what their profit margin is, and they forge relationships with their factories to ensure working conditions are fair and safe.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Well, they do use a LOT of animal products, from silk to cashmere to wool to leather. They also don’t have anything that’s certified fair-trade, as far as I can tell. And finally, I find many of their styles to be puzzling: a recent email hawked a pair of bizarre wide-legged cropped pants as “the most flattering pant you’ll ever try,” which is just absurd. Their boxy shapes seem unfriendly to many body types (nor are their models inclusive of all body shapes and sizes), and their persistently drab shades just feel bland (and that’s coming from someone who loves neutrals). That said, I have one plain black v-neck T-shirt I really like, and it was well-priced. Note that the clothes run big—I had to order an XXS!
  • Good Apparel: A newcomer to the world of ethical/sustainable women’s fashion, Good Apparel is the brand-new house line of Good Clothing Company. The latter is a Massachusetts-based production partner that works with designers who want an ethical, made-in-the-USA option for producing their designs. Good Apparel creates small-batch collections, releasing new ones every 2-3 months to buck the traditional fashion calendar. They focus on sustainable, locally sourced fibers, avoid waste by producing small batches, and pay their staff living wages.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? The company is brand-spanking new, and there’s not much press on the quality of their clothing (though it should be top-notch). I also find their designs a bit puzzling and perhaps too fashion-forward for the average consumer ($138 split-leg pants?). I appreciate what they’re doing and imagine they’ll be a great fit for a very specific audience. I am not that audience, however.
  • Seamly: Founder Kristin Glenn wanted to create clothing that’s made to last, that doesn’t support unethical labor practice (it’s all made in the USA), and that supports the environment by using primarily “waste” products.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Here’s the catch: Seamly is currently not offering new products, but is relaunching in spring of this year with a new line of “modern staples.” However, this means that their existing inventory is on sale for 50% off! Pickings are somewhat slim, but take a look. I’ll update this list when Seamly officially relaunches.

    • (Editor’s note, 03/29/18As of now, Seamly is not in business. I’ll update this post if founder Kristin Glenn has a new project.)

Notes and thoughts on buying ethical clothing

  • Cost: I won’t deny that ethically made clothing costs more than fast fashion. But if you’re already paying more for your vegan almond milk than you’d pay for cow milk, you’re familiar with the trade-off: truly ethical products don’t come cheap. As you switch to a more ethical wardrobe, you might need to rethink your shopping strategy: Gone are the days when you can hit up the mall for two-for-$15 T-shirts; instead, you’ll typically spend more on a single shirt! Personally, I’ve enjoyed paring down my wardrobe to figure out what I really need and to find pieces I love, pieces that are versatile and that will last. I fully acknowledge that this practice might not be as attainable for anyone who is truly struggling with money and needs to prioritize other necessities. That’s OK. Just do the best you can.
  • Thrifting: Much of my wardrobe right now is secondhand. I don’t feel bad about purchasing so-called fast fashion when (1) it’s used and (2) it fits a specific gap in my closet. (For example, I have a few cotton sweaters from cheap brands that I bought at thrift stores. They’re lasting quite a while, and they were way more affordable than purchasing a $75+ organic cotton fair-trade sweater.) There’s an argument that buying items like this, even secondhand, feeds into the market for those items existing in the first place, but for many people, thrifting is an affordable way to fill your closet without directly supporting unethical companies.
    • Tip! Set up an eBay search for ethical brands in your size. I’ve gotten a handful of items this way. If you prefer new items, check out what Amazon has to offer. For example, you can find Amazon’s PrAna items here, and can sometimes score a better deal than buying directly from them.
  • Sizing: I tried to note which brands on this list offer a wide range of sizes, but the unfortunate reality is that many ethical brands don’t cater to my larger sisters. I know that I benefit from the privilege of being thin, and I’m 100% on board with the health at any size movement and with fighting the gross fat-shaming culture that exists in the vegan movement. I’ll update this list if I find great ethical brands that also want to clothe bigger women.
  • On chasing perfection: Once you learn about the horrors of the fast-fashion industry, it can be tempting to throw everything out and start anew. Slow down; that’s not sustainable! Don’t worry about perfection or  making sure that every single item in your closet is immediately sustainable and ethical and fair-trade and and and and everything else. Do what you can. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • Woman-centric? It’s entirely possible that my inherent bias as a ciswoman who wears mostly clothing designed for women means I’m just missing out on ethical male fashion, but I do think that there’s a whole lot more going on in this space for women than for men (especially when it comes to vegan fashion). And that’s a shame. I would love to see more unisex clothing, or even options targeted toward a more androgynous style.

Further reading

  • From AlterNet, details on the sustainability and and environmental issues inherent in modern clothing production. Also linked above.
  • From Huffington Post, an extremely comprehensive long read on the history of the ethical fashion movement, why it’s hit a wall, and how we need to pursue policies and regulations that make sweatshops and unsustainable practices untenable. A good reminder that “[w]e are not going to shop ourselves into a better world.”
  • From NPR,  a look at the problems inherent in fast fashion and how corporate-driven “recycling” efforts could be problematic. Also linked above.

P.S. Another great way to support ethical, independent makers is to shop on Etsy! Check out my list of cruelty-free clothing on Etsy here.

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Like this post? Let me know and I’ll work on guides to more specific types of ethical vegan apparel (undies, shoes, etc.). And please share your other favorite brands!

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Ethical clothing brands with vegan, cruelty-free options // govegga.comEthical clothing brands with vegan, cruelty-free options // govegga.comEditor’s note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you but helps me cover hosting costs. :)

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