Updated: Sep 12
These ethical fashion brands are rebelling against tired fashion industry standards.
From working exclusively with sustainable fabrics to prioritizing safe working conditions and fair wages, the indie clothing companies listed are doing their part in educating the consumer to vote with their dollars, in hope of building a more hospitable and conscious society.
Can Fashion Ever Be Truly Sustainable?
Sustainable fashion is a complicated beast.
The ultimate solution to overconsumption will never be more consumption. Creating more things to add to a world already cluttered with things in this capitalist rat race is inherently bad. No shock there.
As a "sustainable designer" myself, I wrestle with the guilt of creating from virgin materials, as top of the line eco and traceable as they might be, but I hold true to my vision of creating wearable art that is part of this movement to heal the environment and to elevate the lives of craftspeople and industry workers around the world. There is also obviously a fair bit of ego involved, but the desire to leave the world better than I found it is at the heart of what I do.
I think this is true for the majority, if not all of the designers that I've selected to feature. We are human, imperfect, but we are giving it our all creatively and compassionately. Progress over perfection.
Ultimately, it is up to your discretion which of these feature brands meet your ethics and sustainability criteria. Many aspects of "sustainable fashion" are still debated. The use of recycled polyester for instance. It is "recycled", a win for sure, but the reality of toxins and micro plastics can't be ignored. The humaneness of silk is another, it is a natural fiber, but the wellness of the silkworms themselves more often than not isn't taken into consideration. Of course there is also the great deadstock textiles debate... is deadstock sustainable? Or do big brands overproduce their textiles intentionally, knowing that they can just sell off their excess.
The point is that no brand is perfect (though, I'll admit, many on this list are close), but to even fall under the category of a "slow fashion" clothing company is a MASSIVE step in the right direction.
1. Ashe Cain Nashville Tennessee, USA
Ashe Cain is an emerging fashion designer obsessed with breaking style expectations.
Known for her Avant-Garde road kill fur coats, Ashe Cain has recently launched a small collection of made-to-order dresses and tops, created to be layered for a maximalist look. Her use of vibrant colors on natural fibers have an electrifying effect, made even more pronounced by intricate hand pleating.
2. Keegan Gippsland (Gunaikurnai), AU
Founded on a love of fashion and a hate of over consumption, Keegan takes their sustainable practices incredibly seriously.
The brand has been accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia & receives annual audits which ensure ethical standards are being met within the business's manufacturing supply chains. Even the Keegan studio building itself contributes to the mission, and is powered by Diamond Energy, which has been rated 10/10 in Greenpeace's Green Electricity Guide.
Aesthetically, Kegan's sustainable and ethical dresses come in both sophisticated solid colors, as well as original art print designs.
3. Après Studios Australia
Australian independent fashion brand Après Studios creates key standout essentials, inspiring their customers quest for personal style through sustainable means.
The materials they employ in their garments are recycled, organic, and deadstock, all sewn together ethically and with care for detailing to ensure both quality and longevity.
4. DOWK Melbourne, AU
Dopamine dressing at its finest, this fun loving Australian indie brand is making social media waves!
Born to bring "joy in dress form", DOWK checks all of the ethical sustainable boxes. Their dresses are made to order and size inclusive, using EKO-Tex certified eco friendly dyes to paint hand drawn bold patterns in rainbow colors across organic cotton.
5. Jamie + the Jones Nashville Tennessee, USA
Inspired by traditional, hand-worked textile techniques, Jamie + the Jones creates timeless sustainable pieces that you'll want to live in.
Each of Jamie + the Jones's garments are designed, patterned, hand-cut, and sewn in their Nashville studio to ensure an ethical production process from start to finish. While they aren't quite zero waste (yet), they do managed to save the vast majority of scraps from the land fill! These are collected and transformed into the aptly named "Scrap Collection" (and one of the more sophisticated scrap collects I've seen, might I add!)
These eco friendly dresses are size inclusive, and many even come in naturally dyed color options.
6. Asme Studios Poland
Elegant in silhouette and minimal in color pallet, ethical brand Asme Studios is a mission driven fashion company committed to both the empowerment of women, and to long term environmentally sustainability.
Asme Studio's sustainable materials are produced exclusively in Europe in order to insure the highest social and environmental standards possible. These low impact fabrics use the lowest amount of water possible in their production, and are synthetic free.
Socially, the brand commits 1 EUR from each transaction to the Girls Future Ready Foundation to support the empowering of young women in Central Eastern Europe.
7. Luci's Lemons The Netherlands
This indie brand works exclusively with deadstock fabric to produce her attention grabbing ethical and sustainable dresses.
Luci's Lemons dresses have been handmade to order with each client's custom sizing specifications, by Luci herself. Her mission is to create high quality and beautifully tailored garments which are unique and limited, through the most low impact means possible.
8. Colorant New York City, USA
A modern line of apparel and accessories that celebrates the use of natural dye plants, Colorant is your new go to for gorgeous dresses produced from traditional techniques.
Their selection of sustainable dresses are crafted from natural materials, and while beautiful, are also an education in the natural color production process (see the garments lovely product descriptions typed on their online store, and their generous detailing the origins and capabilities of each plant used to dye your garment). Their handmade collection can be shopped in their chic NYC storefront, or online.
9. Abbie James Melbourne, AU
Produced locally in Melbourne, Australia, Abbie James creates size inclusive high-style clothing from eco friendly materials.
Abbie James creations are crafted to last, defying trends to instead focus on shape, drape, and construction.
If you're passing through the Melbourne area, you can shop this boutique in person at Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, one of the city's bustling creativity hubs!
10. Haus Dahlia London, UK
Add a touch of romanticism to your eco friendly wardrobe with Haus Dahlia, a size inclusive slow fashion brand based out of the UK.
To Haus Dahlia, the mindful selection of sustainable materials is of top priority. When browsing their catalogue, expect to be delighted with gorgeous bamboo silks and ornate deadstock laces! In an effort to keep fabric wastage to a minimum, this indie brand even offers a small selection of zero waste accessories.
If Haus Dahlia has caught your eye, don't hesitate. These garments are handcrafted in limited quantities!
11. Mara the Label Los Angeles, USA
Featured in numerous fashion publications, Mara the Label brings confidence and ease to your wardrobe, without costing your conscience.
Created in small batch and limited collections, this indie brand creates their clothing through deadstock and eco friendly materials, and is produced entirely in LA.
The aesthetic is sexy and vintage inspired, offering a beautiful selection of elegant midi length slip dresses with eye catching thigh high slits.
12. Kalaurie Melbourne, AU
Founded in 2017, Australian independent fashion brand Kalaurie creates Modern heirlooms crafted to last.
Kalaurie's modern victorian aesthetic is elegant and eye catching, and their commitment to waste reduction is admirable. This design studio works primarily with deadstock textiles, and when virgin materials are a must, opts for fully renewable and biodegradable fibers.
13. Lucie Azari London, UK
Handmade in London, this independent fashion brand offers made to measure clothing in elegant classic styles, many with unexpected twists.
Each piece is biodegradable and produced sans chemicals and toxic dyes. Aiming to minimize waste and maximize resources, they even offer lifetime repairs, to stretch their garments lifespan as far as possible.
14. A.BCH Melbourne, AU
Sleek, modern, and comfortable, A.BCH offers affordable options for fashion revolutionists on a budget.
Their clothing is produced entirely in Melbourne from renewable, organic and recycled materials, and through a circular design approach. This circular approach essentially means that A.BCH prioritizes repairing, reusing, and recycling materials already in existence for as long as is possible.
They put it best, saying, "Our sole purpose is to champion a better way to design, make, wear and circulate clothing to help create a more equitable and sustainable world."
Known for sustainable everyday luxury, Mila Vert curates sophisticated style with peta approved vegan fabrics.
The brand's founder, Tina Logar Bauchmüller, has designed each garment to be simple and classic, complete with subtle modern detailing. With this design aesthetic in mind, she brings us a sort of effortless elegance, a style fit for the modern business woman, and pieces perfect for a well polished capsule wardrobe.
16. Elizabeth Suzann North Carolina, USA.
Your go to for natural fiber staple garments in solid colors.
The pinnacle of ethical production, Elizabeth Suzann is well known in the slow fashion industry for their sky high inclusivity and sustainability standards. The studio assures fair wages by sourcing labor locally, works solely with natural fibers, and provides an exceptional size range to accommodate for diverse body types. They even go as far as to sell their own sewing patterns, in an effort to allow access of their garments to a wider income demographic.
Another Peta approved vegan brand, Dedicated is on a mission to create fair trade dresses and clothes with flavor.
What began as an eco retail chain in 2006, the founders at Dedicated became fixated on a massive hole in sustainable streetwear. Fast forward to today, and the brand has grown into a mecca of both men's and women's ethical fashion, including of course eco friendly dresses in fun prints.
They are also fairtrade certified and work with GOTS certified organic cotton. For a full list of Dedicated's impressive collection of certifications, check out the "certificates" page on their website.
18. T Label
Another social media sensation, T Label is one of the indie brands on this list that I'm eager to get my hands on (unintentional pun).
This Romantic Wear brand is described by the label's founder and designer, Taylor-Bae Gordon, as being a three-dimensional connection between clothing, nostalgia, and one's self. It is a dreamy haze of unexpected details and silhouettes in sheer deadstock fabrics, sewn together in studio through methods both resourceful and sustainable.
19. Lena Klar Paris France
If you're looking to add a touch of romance to your conscious wardrobe, Lena Klar Paris's wide collection of sustainable dresses might just be perfect for you.
Ethical, sustainable, and cruelty free, this french brand creates timeless dresses, "meant to be worn like a second skin and passed down from generation to generation."
20. Gimmick Clothing
Los Angeles, USA
If you're a retro mod babe, indie brand Gimmick clothing's 1960s silhouette and boxy color blocking are about to hit your sweet spot!
Based in Los Angeles, California, Gimmick's Rachel Antone ethically sources all materials small batch from deadstock fabric retailers, and has her dresses produced locally.
21. Sydney Duncan Brisbane, AU
Last but not least, I'd be remiss not to mention my own indie brand.
Is that tacky? You better believe it, and I don't care.
Sydney Duncan creates sustainable dresses and accessories produced from vegan and eco friendly fabrics. The brand's aesthetic is eclectic in its nature, an exciting and unexpected collision of vintage elegance and contemporary street style inspirations.
All garments are currently produced small batch and made to order in studio by yours truly, with a traceable supply chain from fiber to finished garment.