Ethical is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. But what constitutes as ethical in fashion? Its widely expected that brands using these terms are transparent, committed to sustainable manufacturing and materials, ensure safe working conditions and are invested in shorter supply chains. But are brands are using the terms ethical and sustainable just to sell their products? The technical term for this is greenwashing. You may have purchased products thinking they were ethical and sustainable but when you look closer (as they know only a handful will) you’ll find questionable practices and materials in use. In other instances, you might find nothing at all as the supply chains are so complex even the company doesn’t know itself. Even bamboo, seen as an ethical alternative to traditional cotton, isn’t always as good as it seems.
So the question is why do brands market themselves as ethical when they’re really not? Its all down to marketing strategies and unfortunately, its been going on for decades. The concept of owning ethical and sustainable clothing is much more appealing to consumers. We would like to think that we are spending our money wisely, not damaging the planet or other people in the process. But due to the greenwashing that is widely spread across all industries it makes it a lot harder to find brands that you want to support, ones that are actually doing the right thing. You would think that the companies shouting the loudest about their sustainability without the integrity behind it would be called out fairly quickly with social media as it is. But more and more often we just accept it as it is presented to us without thinking too much about it. The money spent on advertising to us that the company is ethical could have actually been spent by implementing ethical practices.
So how can you tell if a brand is ethical and sustainable? One of the easiest ways to work out if a brand is worth buying from is to check their website. The more information they provide in the About Me section, generally the better they are. The less information they have the more I think they have something to hide. Another way to judge how sustainable a brand is, is by looking at what materials they work with. Most brands doing ethical lingerie work with peace silk, bamboo, organic cotton, recycled fabrics and dead stock fabrics. Is one better than the others? Not really, they all have problems attached to them in some stage of their life in becoming your underwear. A phrase to look out for is ‘slow fashion’. If a brand is committed to ethical practices they will most likely not follow fashion seasons and churn out the collections just for the sake of having new products all the time. There are also different accreditation and certificates which can be confusing. Some of the most common ones you will come across are Certified organic, OEKO-TEX 100, GOTS, Fair Trade and ISO.
Does ethical mean the same thing to everyone? Not all ethical brands are created equal. There’s always room for improvement and not everyone is on the same path. There is no one brand that is doing everything perfectly but I think its unfair to expect it straight away. I always say doing something is better than nothing.
There are a few brands stand out well above the pack in terms or sustainability but are their products any good? Ive taken it upon myself to try out a few products from different brands, here are the results.
This is only a very new company out of Australia. They specialise in cotton basics. The products are designed in Australia but are made in Indonesia. As it is only a very small new company there isn’t much information available on their website. All their products are made from 92% cotton 8% spandex. They have branded themselves as sustainable and ethically created, yet I don’t see any evidence of that but they do regular visits to the manufacturer and are invested in the slow fashion movement. I purchased the full brief in a size small in olive. While I love the colour of these, I find them uncomfortable. The tensions on the seams is too tight and when I tried them on for the first time I heard a lot of threads snap. The gusset on these undies is also very small, only 6cms long. These would be great for period undies as they are super firm.
This is an independent company based in Australia that was founded in 2016. Their products are made in Indonesia. I purchased two items from them, they are both made from 90% organic cotton and 10% spandex. Their fabrics are Fair trade certified grown in India and GOTS certified organic cotton. I purchased two pairs of knickers in size 8 and I definitely have a new favourite in the white Taylor high cut brief. My favourite part of this design is the extremely wide waist band. It’s so comfortable to wear. The gusset on the Taylor is about 3cms wider than on the Elle briefs which makes it more comfortable for me to wear. I find both these styles great under high waisted jeans.
Nico was established in 2012 in Australia. Their products are made in Australia, India and their socks made in Bangladesh. The material they use for all their underwear is a modal and elastin blend. The modal fibres have come from Lenzing Modal which is based in Austria. I purchased the high waisted briefs in black size medium. The pair I purchased was made in India. I was able to try a bralette on when they had a pop up store. They are made from the same fabric as the underwear so I found them very unsupportive but would be good for loungewear. For the briefs I would size down in this fabric as it has a lot of stretch. The briefs are perfect for under lounge wear or sleepwear.
Hara the label officially launched in November 2016. The products are all made from raw bamboo that has been sourced from certified organic growers. All products are made in Indonesia. The final products are OEKO-TEX 100 certified meaning their is no harmful chemical residue in the fabric. I purchased the Leo high cut bra in a Large and the Eva g-string in a Small. The bra has two layers of bamboo fabric which makes it more supportive. It has no fastenings but because of the fabric it is easy to pull on over your head. The thong is simple and very comfortable and fits true to size. The fabric feels amazing against the skin and its a pleasure to wear. Perfect to wear under anything.
Still looking for more ethical lingerie brands? Why not check out the brands listed below.
Our job as consumers is to research the products we buy, but its hard because of lack of transparency and the imbedded secrecy of the fashion industry. Not only that but some companies lack the knowledge due to complex supply chains. The best way to find the information you want is simply to ask. Also I suggest downloading the Good on You app which has a lot of great information and a consistent rating system for brands.