Sustainable and ethical fashion has come into sharp focus over the last couple of years, with organisations such as Clean Clothes Campaign and Remake pushing for better working conditions and living wages for garments workers and the social movement Fashion Revolution demanding more transparency from fashion brands and encouraging shoppers to do the same.
In Asia, the continent where much of the production for the global fashion industry is done (and where fashion’s worst industrial disaster, the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh took place), there are growing numbers of fashion labels with a focus on slow, sustainable and ethical qualities.
While not an exhaustive list (since the Asian continent boasts 48 countries!), here are some sustainable and ethical fashion brands in Asia making great strides to empower local communities while minimising environmental impacts:
Matter is a Singapore-based clothing brand that isn’t just about manufacturing stylish threads using slow fashion methods such as block printing, IKAT and handlooming; this is a brand that champions production models and economic opportunities for textile artisans while educating customers on the value of traditional textile craft and cultural heritage. “Our hope for this in the long run is to connect artisans with designers and customers to make their work accessible to the larger market,” explains MATTER co-founder Renyung Ho.
Less an ethical fashion label than it is an ethical manufacturer, TELAstory founded by American Hannah Neumann, provides ethical garment manufacturing services to conscious fashion brands looking for a factory that they can trust to uphold fair labor standards and good working conditions. The manufacturer uses traditional natural fibers in its garment production. The business ensures that all Filipina seamstresses and other workers in the supply chain, including the farmers that grow the raw fibres, are paid fair and living wages.
Designed and responsibly made in Cambodia, Dorsu produces wardrobe essentials that are produced in a single-use plastic-free studio, where materials are chemical free and applies sustainable practices from production to packaging. Some of the brand’s future goals are to switch to renewable energy, make their business 100% paperless and they are working on collaborating with an international shipping company that offsets their carbon for every shipment.
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Rags2Riches was founded as a social enterprise with a focus on economic opportunity for artisans on a mission to alleviate poverty. This ethical fashion and design house with its community of artisans across the Philippines produce stylish accessories and wardrobe pieces made from upcycled and indigenous woven fabrics.
5. GOOD KRAMA
GOOD KRAMA produces versatile and trans-seasonal garments for women and men by upcycling materials into modern designs and whatever isn’t upcycled in handwoven.
What’s awesome about this sustainable and ethical fashion brand designed and made in Cambodia is just how much they value supply chain transparency. GOOD KRAMA publish a report about their ecological impact showcasing how much energy, water, carbon emissions and waste produced and used in their garment production. The aim of this is to bring customers into the loop so they too understand their impact when choosing to support this brand.
“We work to amplify this craftsmanship by collaborating with rural weaving communities through home based employment and fair trade practices.” – GOOD KRAMA
6. Runaway Bicycle
Founded by Preeti Verma an advertising professional turned designer, this Mumbai-based conscious fashion brand brings comfort and beauty into everyday life, with a minimalist edge. Runaway Bicycle‘s goal is to preserve tradition through crafts that are manufactured responsibly by artisans throughout India. “[Our] work today, essentially rests in linking the skills of traditional weavers and dyers spread all across India with those of the craftsmen working out of the studio.”
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7. Maison Metisse
Maison Métisse celebrates Filipino cultural heritage and traditions through a contemporary line of clothing, accessories and home decor. Handwoven by artisans in the Philippines including the Itneg Tribe, all products are handcrafted in small batches and as a result, each piece is truly unique given their slow, steady approach to fashion.
This New Delhi based fashion brand recycles and upcycles post-consumer waste and fabric scraps and transforms the materials into stunning limited-edition collections of season-less garments for men and women. Ethically manufactured in India, the brand also produces a range of stationery and home accessories, and uses plastic-free packaging.
9. RISQUE DESIGNS
Tal de Guzman founded Filipino lifestyle brand Risque Designs that manufactures exquisite, handcrafted and ethically-made footwear and accessories made by skilled artisans from the provinces of Laguna and Negros Occidental in the Philippines, as well as the Filipino shoe capital Marikina City. Aiming to tell the story of Filipino culture through its designs, use of traditional materials and artisanal craftsmanship, the brand also manufactures for various local shoe brands and offers custom-made shoe services as well.
10. Candid Clothing
Founded by Sam Dizon in 2017, this Filipino social enterprise was born out of the need to answer these two fundamental questions: Who makes the clothes we wear and under what working conditions? Producing effortless designs, basics and wardrobe staples without compromising ethics and creating little waste and environmental impact as possible, this brand is the real deal. The brand also focuses on building relationships with each of their garment workers to secure living wages and a better, more sustainable future for all in their supply chain.
There are more and more choices for conscious fashion brands across Asia and they are increasingly becoming accessible to consumers. If you’re based in Asia and looking to support a local fashion brand committing to doing good business for people and planet, the least you could do is support them with your purchasing power.
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Disclosure: This list was curated based on the writer’s research. It 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. This list also includes affiliate links. Click here to read more about our policies.
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Cover image by Runaway Bicycle.