What is sustainable fashion and ethical fashion?

Compare Ethics has three core values and these each feed into an explanation of what sustainable fashion, ethical fashion and slow fashion can be taken to mean. We assess products based on a ten-category system but more broadly, we verify products based on the following three pillars –

  • Social Good
  • Planet Friendly
  • Animal-Free

So, on a more granular level, what is sustainable fashion and ethical fashion? And who are the forward-thinking brands pushing the boundaries and staging the fashion revolution?

Social Good

Ethical fashion takes into account the numerous workers that work behind the scenes to make the clothing industry possible. From the farmers that grow the fabrics to the garment workers stitching pieces together. Some brands say they do social good but do not put their money where their mouth is.

For us, this goes much deeper than any brands’ public image. Social good means fair wages, fair trade certifications and access to good working conditions. This shows a larger purpose to a brand outside of growth in profit and sales but towards the growth of the people that make the brand possible.

Socially Good Sustainable and Ethical Brands

a women wearing an organic cotton top

Iguazu Top – 100% Organic cotton – Vildnis


One brand which is fully committed to doing Social Good for the community that Compare Ethics loves is Vildnis. They work exclusively with small factories based in Portugal and India. Keeping manufacturing in few places allows them to visit the factories more frequently and check that the workers are treated well. Portugal also has strict EU labour laws. Meaning minimum wages exceed living wages.

women wearing organic cotton jumpsuit made by ethical fashion brand

Ethical Jumpsuit made by Vanesa Vinhas

Vanesa Vinhas

Another brand that truly embodies socially good values is Vanesa Vinhas. Part of her profits are used to help charities that empower women facing injustice, violence and poverty.

Vanesa Vinhas makes elegant and easy to wear clothes from natural and organic fabrics. Timeless sustainable fashion

Check out her collection inspired by London. She also produces her collections in small batches to reduce the amount of wasted material being produced and keeping fashion slow.

You can learn more about other brands that are challenging inequality in this blog we wrote. Other ethical fashion brands focus on using fairtrade suppliers.

Planet Friendly

Did you know that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world? (Number 1 being Oil & Gas). That’s a silver medal nobody wants.

When people think of sustainable fashion, many think about the environment. I for one did. That’s why our second value, Planet Friendly, means just that. By planet, we mean all things earthly, like water, the ground, and the climate.

picturesque scene of natural landscape preserved by sustainable production

It’s scenes like this planet-friendly brands are trying to preserve. What a view

Some of you may have heard of ethical fashion brands using modal or tencel, or Organic materials like organic cotton or bamboo. These materials use much less water to grow and don’t use harmful chemicals that are sprayed on farm land.

Another one you may have heard of is Slow Fashion. If Slow Fashion is the opposite of Fast Fashion, and Fast fashion is buying and throwing away clothes as quick as the British weather changes. Then Slow Fashion is keeping and taking care of our clothes so they last longer (and producing less!).

There are many innovative ethical clothing brands reusing old fabrics to make new trendy pieces. Some doing great things like these upcycled and recycled clothing brands. Others are making sustainable swimwear made from ocean plastic waste.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Vintage too, that’s also a part of the Slow Fashion movement as it uses items of clothing that are already made, so doesn’t need to use up any more raw materials. We’re also seeing take back schemes used to move the industry to a circular economy.

Planet Friendly Brands

sustainable one piece body suit swimwear made from recycled ocean waste

Balearic WANsuit made from recycled ocean waste

We Are Nativ

We Are Nativ – WAN – Are a UK based sustainable fashion brand that makes fabulous swimwear out of recycled ocean waste. Fishing nets are the largest contributor of plastic waste in the oceans. So they’ve partnered with a firm that takes these old fishy nets, shreds them down and turns them into a fabric. This fabric is then used to create their swimwear. Fishing nets that are then used for humans to swim freely in the sea. Somewhat ironic…

black organic cotton hoody

Organic Cotton Hoody – Act Natural

Act Natural

Based out of Birmingham, Act Natural only use natural fabrics and organic cotton. This saves the soil from being pumped full of pesticides like with standard cotton. Another benefit of using organic fabrics, is that they reduce the amount of synthetic fibres making their way into our water supplies (and bodies!) via our washing machines. Making Act Natural a great sustainable fashion brand.

Animal cruelty free

On to the last value; Animal Cruelty-Free. This one might come as a shock to some thinking ‘How on earth can clothes harm animals?’. Digging a little deeper might remind you of that old Snakeskin leather belt your gran bought you 3 years ago that’s now tucked away in your junk draw – there’s no shame, we all have a junk draw.

Animals can get hurt in multiple ways in the fashion industry. One was mentioned above, Leather. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we produce over 300,000 tonnes of goatskins a year. Imagine that as the fatberg found in London last year, but it ran the entire length from the most southern point of the UK to the most northern point… 6 times over! Check out these new generations of vegan clothing brands emerging.

Animal Cruelty-Free Brands

organic cotton t-shirt with vegan sysmbol

Vegan T-Shirt – ETHCS


Thankfully, many ethical fashion brands have made positive choices to stay away from such practices. One Animal Cruelty-free fashion brand is ETHCS. ETHCs are a sustainable fashion brand based in the UK and are a Peta Approved Vegan Brand. This means they ensure no animals are hurt during any part of their production or used in their fabrics. Not only are they Vegan, they make great clothes and designs that you can wear for all occasions, whether you’re at the beach or in Hackney.

peta approved vegan fashion brand

Organic Rugby Sweatshirt – WAWWA


Another Peta Approved Vegan brand to look out for is WAWWA – a vegan streetwear brand. In 2017, the team became aware of the importance of a plant-based diet for the environment and the cruelty of which animals suffered. So they decided to kick out all animal products and find new and exciting alternatives to work with. As their journey continued, in 2018 they decided to switch from plastic packaging to plant based packaging. This means their packaging is now 100% compostable. Oh yeah, they also tick a whole load of ethical boxes; fairtrade, pay a living wage, use recycled materials, organic…. I could go on. A sustainable fashion brand through and through.

Why Is Sustainable Fashion Important?

Humans have an unfortunate tendency of acting like the Earth is an unlimited resource. It is not. Scientists have repeatedly warned about the effects of Climate Change yet fast fashion is fast than ever before. And with fashion being one of the biggest polluters, sustainable fashion has the potential of making a positive impact in the fight against the Earths destruction. Sustainable Fashion is important in reducing the amount of water, chemicals, energy consumption and the excessive overflowing of landfills. It can help us to reduce our impact on the environment, people and animals.

Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Fashion

Learning: We have come to the end of what is sustainable fashion and ethical fashion means, great. So what now? I think it is important that we don’t get too bogged down into which words we should be using where. Focus on the actual impact brands are having in the 3 values of being Animal Cruelty-free, Socially Good, and Planet Friendly. Now that you have an understanding of ethical fashion, learn more by signing up to join our community of conscious consumers and get top ethical fashion insights, exclusive deals, and early access to sold-out events. Emails once a week on the latest ethical fashion, news, and style


Morris, A. (2019). What Is Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Fashion? – Compare Ethics. [online] Compare Ethics. Available at: https://compareethics.com/what-is-ethical-fashion/.

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