When I was a teen, shopping for clothes was extremely hard being that I was underweight and short. I wasn’t the only one getting frustrated; my mom was having a hard time choosing outfits for me too. What was more embarrassing was seeing the retail assistants snicker. It was harmless, really. I wasn’t offended but it wasn’t the sort of behavior you would expect from people who made a commission from selling you fashion. It’s little wonder I didn’t like going shopping. Consequently, I vetoed wearing what was ‘in season’ and chose to wear retro clothing from my mom’s or grandma’s vintage collection. Only then did I begin to love dressing up and experiment. I liked my style. I felt confident and comfortable but vintage styling wasn’t always available. I had to improvise all the time.
Since I had issues finding clothes back then being extremely short in stature and undersized given my Filipino roots, I can only imagine females on the other end of the size and weight spectrum, fuller-figured, curvier or “plus-size” girls who have to resort to wearing XXX-sized men’s trousers, shorts or shirts because there weren’t any fashionable styles in their size. The feeling of being excluded, of being made to feel that something stylish isn’t for your height, weight, size, shape, race or culture is one hell of a downer.
I’m certain it’s why some girls and women end up dissatisfied with how they look. We as females are told that true beauty comes from within, but let’s face it, if our personality and intelligence was enough there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar beauty and fashion industry preying on our insecurities. We wouldn’t constantly be trying to buy or do something to help us achieve that perfect weight, perfect skin tone, perfect hair, perfect bombshell look that helps us be ‘marketable’ like the perfectly fit, perfectly thin, perfect-looking models, celebrities and beautiful people next door we see on films, follow on Instagram, watch on TV or YouTube.
Fortunately, there are more and more ethical brands out there that are celebrating body positivity, diversity and inclusivity. They empower people to feel included and produce garments and clothing lines that expose styles for varying bodies, evolving society’s notion of what is beautiful against what has been imposed by the media for so long.
So here’s a list of ethical brands that celebrate diversity and champion individuality:
The X in Tomboy marks the spot. It erases negativity and stereotyping and just tells us straight out that this clothing line is for everybody – whatever your gender, whatever your size.
TomboyX first began in 2013 when the brand’s CEO and co-founder Fran Dunaway couldn’t get a hold of a Robert Graham style button down shirt for women. Fran decided to create cool dress shirts and realizing how customers responded to this line, decided that there was a gap in the market. Dress shirts, however, wouldn’t be their signature garment; in September 2014, she and her wife Naomi Gonzalez shifted their focus to underwear instead. That’s when all their materials, such as their boxer briefs for women, were flying off the shelves. According to Dunaway, TomboyX was the only underwear company selling items from XS all the way up to 4XL and exactly the reason why the label was such a hit. Body type diversity and gender fluidity isn’t an issue with TomboyX because with this brand, everybody’s included.
This super-stylish ethically sports and activewear apparel brand is made from something you would never guess in a million years – recycled plastic! Seattle-based husband and wife Ellie and Quang Dinh founded this label and teamed up with talented designers who had worked at Lululemon, Acne Studios and Elizabeth and James.
Its garments are made from recycled ‘ocean plastic’, plastic collected along shorelines and beaches such as water bottles and fishnets. For example, a pair of Girlfriend Collective leggings is crafted out of 25 recycled water bottles from Taiwan. Since the brand’s inception, they have been able to divert six million plastic water bottles from landfill. Aside from saving the ocean, all items look and fit amazing, comfortable and stylish enough to wear to in and out of the gym.
Girlfriend Collective also produces its collections in a SA8000 certified factory in Hanoi, Vietnam which follows labor laws and provides a safe working environment for its workers. This is an ethical brand you should tell all your girlfriends about!
Made in Los Angeles from eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, hemp, linen and Lyocell, Sotela’s goal is to create a body positivity women’s clothing brand that offers a variety of styles to women of various shapes and sizes. This made-to-order ethical fashion label was founded by eco-conscious designer and mum Hanna Baror-Padilla whose aim is to produce outfits which feature timeless, minimalist and contemporary designs that are dynamic enough to accommodate the ever-evolving you.
Reformation, one of the world’s most recognisable sustainable fashion brands for its trendy designs and jaw-dropping photo shoots, is doing even more to show why it’s a boundary-pushing eco pioneer in the space – it’s also celebrating the female body by creating stylish threads for curvy and plus-size women. The brand is now producing its ranges in ‘extended sizing’ so that some styles are offered beyond XS to XL; going all the way up to 3X (size 24).
Aside from its use of sustainable materials (such as recycled fabrics and deadstock materials) the brand has been carbon neutral since 2015. Reformation also built its own factory in Los Angeles, California where they can engage and build a great working relationship with the people behind the clothes. Total respect.
HARA the Label founder, Allie Cameron, was travelling India when she first learned and saw with her own eyes, the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry. She instinctively knew what needed to be changed so when she launched her female-focussed ethical underwear brand, she ensured that the workers were paid fairly for their labor, used natural dyes which are gentle to humans and the planet and eco-friendlier fabric bamboo viscose.
The ethical brand also donates a portion of profits from every sale to the Environmental Justice Foundation to ensure important environmental projects are carried out, such as the global phase-out of pesticides, the promotion of organic production and trade and advocacy of better agricultural practices.
We’re loving that HARA uses diverse women in its photo shoots and has done so from day dot. No tokenism here, thank goodness.
Mara Hoffman created her luxury fashion label in 2000 and over time has committed to continuously evolving its processes and practices, incorporating a sustainable and ethical approach to its fashion business in the last five years, such as the usage of sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton and hemp, natural low-tox dyes and transparency in its supply chain.
Mara Hoffman also treats their garment manufacturers fairly and with respect. The brand’s bold and inspiring aesthetics results in designs that are always so chic and timeless – and we’re loving that it offers extended sizes from XXS all the way through to 2X (size 20) so that curvy women can access some of its brilliant designs too!
LE BUNS is an Australian ethical intimates and swimwear label which features garments made from natural and regenerated luxurious fibres such as organic cotton and regenerative nylon made from discarded fishing nets.
The brand’s latest collaboration with Melbourne-based artist Frances Cannon, is a celebration of the honest beauty of the female body, embracing the uniqueness and diversity of womankind. The collaboration features an exclusive print design by Frances Cannon that embodies femininity and inspires self-love amongst our community. A portion of profits from each sale will be donated to Stars Foundation, a non-profit that empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and young women to reach their full potential.
This Canadian clothing brand is a certified B-Corp which means that it meets the highest levels of business transparency, ethics and sustainability practices. Encircled is designed and sewn in Toronto and offers functional, sustainable and ethical collections that empower women with a size range from XS (sizes 0-2) through to XXL (size 20).
Encircled’s mission is to create clothes that allow women to travel and work comfortably and stylishly. In other words, they create essentials such as classic styles trousers, dresses, tops, sweatshirts and tees, pieces that make up the building blocks of a woman’s wardrobe and are versatile enough to wear on weekends or at the office.
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Title image credit: Girlfriend Collective.
Disclosure: Details are correct at time of publishing. Opinions expressed are writer’s own. This curated list does not fully take into account all the ethical considerations that are unique to each individual. Before making a purchase, we encourage you to do your own research paying particular attention to the supply chain and your own particular set of ethics. You can also check out online tools and apps that provide product reviews and brand ratings here. Click here to read more about our policies.