• Belinda

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

Can you combine ethics and sustainable design with fashion, elegance and style? Well, you must be able to because all of these european fashion brands are doing exactly that!

Whether it's feminine and sophisticated dresses or stylish streetwear these brands are paving the way and redefining how we do fashion as they put people, planet and responsible consumerism at the heart.


Lanius are a German ethical fashion brand founded by Claudia Lanius. The philosophy of the brand is "Love fashion, think organic, be responsible." Elegance and femininity defines the aesthetic of the brand. They use sustainable materials such as GOTS certified organic cotton and organic wool, TENCEL, ECONYL and linen throughout their collections and are audited by the Fair Wear Foundation.


Mayamiko are an ethical and sustainable clothing company based in London. Their collections are inspired by African artisanal traditions and prints and materials are ethically sourced and transformed into clothing in Malawi. They work in partnership with the Mayamiko Trust, a charity in Malawi which works with people to nurture creative talent and help lift them out of poverty.

Oh Seven Days

Oh Seven Days are a fashion brand founded in 2015 by Australian Canadian Megan Mummery. They are based in Istanbul and design stylish and sustainable collections. They promote slow fashion concepts and a fashion industry based on the idea of the circular economy. Their collections are formed using reclaimed fabrics from textile factories which would otherwise be consigned to landfill.


Vildnis are a British brand with Danish roots. They are committed to sustainability and ethical practices in their supply chain. They use sustainable materials such as organic cotton, tencel and recycled polyester in their collections and work with their production partners to ensure their workforce earn a living wage.


Kaiko are a Finnish ethical clothing company who cooperate with the Women's Bank to donate 7% of all sales to women and children in developing countries. They use sustainable materials such as GOTS certified organic cotton and recycled polyester in their collections and are Oeko-Tex 100 Certified.


ARMEDANGELS are a German ethical fashion brand who take sustainability seriously. They use sustainable materials such as organic cotton, organic linen, organic wool, recycled polyester, Lenzing Modal and Tencel. They are a GOTS certified company and work alongside organisations such as Fairtrade and the Fair Wear Foundation to implement their high standards.


ECOALF are a Spanish award winning ethical fashion company with an emphasis on innovation and sustainable design. They use a range of sustainable materials throughout their collections including recycled nylon, recycled cotton, recycled wool and recycled tyres. Since 2015 they have also been working on upcycling the oceans, by transforming marine debris into top quality yarn. They are a B Corp business.


THINKING MU are a sustainable fashion brand who started out life in Barcelona and their stylish and vibrant designs can now be found in shops across the world. Their designs are inspired by nature, arts, crafts, fun, music and people. They use sustainable and natural materials such as organic cotton, organic hemp, organic merino wool, recycled polyester and chrome-free leather in their collections.

Jungle Folk

Jungle Folk are a swiss brand who work with artisans in Peru. Their timeless designs are effortlessly sophisticated and they use sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled materials throughout their collections.


DEDICATED are a Swedish fashion company who have combined their passions for graphic design, photography, music and popular culture to create a sustainable streetwear brand. They use sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester in their collections and have created long-term relationships with their factories and suppliers.

The retail industry is big business. In 2017 the global retail industry was estimated to be worth 23, 460 billion dollars and some of the world's richest have made their fortunes in the retail trade. Amancio Ortega (founder of Zara) Bernard Arnault (Chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) have all made their billions in the retail trade. In 2017, Amancio Ortega even temporarily took the top spot as the richest man in the world.

It is an industry which is globally worth billions, so why is it that some of the richest companies in the world are not paying their workers a living wage? A living wage after all, as stated in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a human right.

"Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection."

A living wage should provide a worker with enough to cover all of their basic needs and the needs of their families. This includes the cost of housing, food, clothing, education, transport and healthcare.

In most countries, minimum wages are set by the government but they are not a living wage. Even in the UK, the minimum wage is estimated to fall a pound or two short of living wage estimates calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. However, in countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia the minimum wages set by the government can be less than half that of a living wage.

Governments are reluctant to increase minimum wages in line with rising living costs due to fears that if they do, the big retailers will go elsewhere where labour is cheaper. This is particularly problematic for countries like Bangladesh where the garment sector is one of their largest employers and largely due to the attraction of cheap labour, they are currently the biggest exporter of apparel after China. Wage increases could spell disaster for their economy if the big retailers were to go elsewhere.

Competition is rife between countries and even within countries factories will compete with each other to get contracts, pushing down their prices to squeeze out the competition. But it is ultimately the garment workers themselves who pay the price.

In Bangladesh, garment workers often work 10-12 hour shifts and if deadlines are imminent this can rise to as much as 16-18 hours. They normally work 7 days a week with limited days off and face appalling conditions with abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination in the factories. Living conditions and nutrition are poor as garment workers struggle to provide for their most basic needs. Factory managers often take action to stop the workers from forming unions and they are under threat of losing their jobs and wages being docked if they take part in any union action.

At the beginning of this year, thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh took to the streets to strike over low wages. Following on from these protests, the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council estimates that 11,600 garment workers lost their jobs and employers and the police filed cases against over 3000 garment workers. Many face the threat of physical violence and have been arrested under false charges.

The big retailers make it incredibly difficult for these governments to do anything to change things as they exploit countries with limited economic options for financial gain. Competition between retailers and the retail environment intensifies the struggle, making it incredibly difficult for any one retailer to pay living wages without it damaging their business and deterring shoppers for whom cheap clothing has become the norm.

With retailers continuing to demand something for nothing, a real living wage for garment workers seems like an uphill struggle without a major overhaul of the fashion industry from top-down.

Before this year I hadn't really bought many things vintage or second hand since I was a teenager. Apart from the occasional purchase from the Urban Renewal range at Urban Outfitters or the odd jumper from a vintage store when I was living in Edinburgh, almost everything in my wardrobe had been purchased new directly from the high street. It seems strange now to think I hadn't delved into the world of vintage and second hand clothes shopping sooner when so much of what I bought new was inspired by the fashions of previous eras.

One of the main reasons I hadn't shopped vintage in years was that I don't think a lot of vintage styles really suit me. Most vintage shops are full of 1950's dresses and oversized cardigans which aren't really my style. I got lucky once when I bought a vintage jumper in Edinburgh, but apart from that I've struggled to find vintage clothes I like. The prices of vintage clothing can also be fairly similar to the high street which is another reason I probably didn't go out of my way to find vintage clothes. But whilst this is true to an extent, there are definitely loads of vintage bargains to be found if you know where to look. It also depends on your style. 1950's dresses might not be my style but they look amazing on people who really suit them!

If vintage clothing is not your thing, there are loads of second hand bargains to be found online and it's now one of my favourite ways to shop. I have been surprised by the amount of second hand clothes available on ebay and apps such as Depop, Vinted and Vestiaire Collective in a variety of sizes. Second hand shopping can be a lot easier than vintage shopping because you don't have to worry about the sizes all being different in the different eras. It can be confusing when you're a size 10 in todays sizes but a size 16 when it comes to buying something from the 1950's. There are also some incredible bargains shopping second hand and some brands you would never dream of being able to afford, you can suddenly afford. At the beginning of this year I bought a dress on ebay that would have cost around £200 new for only £14 second hand. It's still in great condition with no damage or markings and is a really lovely dress.

These kinds of bargains are really not difficult to come by if you know where to look and what to search for. Below, I've written some of my top tips for buying clothing second hand.

Top Tips for buying clothing second hand

  • Know where to shop- Ebay and Oxfam Vintage are great online shops and you can find many more vintage stores online. You can also use second hand clothing apps such as Depop, Vinted and Vestiaire Collective. If you'd rather try before you buy, google vintage and charity shops in your local area and see what you find!

  • Know what you want to find — I always think it's easier if before you go shopping you have a general idea of what it is you want to buy. This is especially true for second hand and vintage clothes shopping online as your search terms will guide you to what it is you want to find.

  • Search for brands who are known for their high quality clothes — I think when buying second hand clothes it's better to search for brands who are known to use high quality materials because then you know that the item will last. Items from these companies are often cheaper second hand and you can find some incredible bargains online on platforms such as ebay.

  • Check the descriptions and photographs carefully— Checking the descriptions is important. You need to make sure that the seller is willing to post the item out to you or if they live nearby you are able to collect it directly from them. You also need to check the photographs to make sure the items look in good condition or as described. The last thing you want is to buy a dress with a hole in it because you didn't read the description carefully.

  • Check the measurements listed — If you are worried about the sizings, measure yourself and compare with the measurements listed by the seller. This is particularly helpful if you are buying from an unknown brand and you're not sure if the size on the label will be the same as other brands.

  • Buy from trusted sellers- most apps and online stores have ratings for their sellers. You can read reviews and check to make sure they are trustworthy.

  • Don't be afraid of the bid - Don't be afraid of bidding on platforms such as ebay. You can watch items you are interested in to check if there have been any other bids. Most people don't start to bid until a few hours or even minutes before bidding ends. Bidding late in the proceedings can mean that you're more likely to win the bid.

  • Ask Sellers to reduce the price- If you're interested in an item you can write to the seller and ask them to reduce the price or add in the price of postage. Most sellers want to sell their items and would rather have something for it than nothing.

It might seem like a lot of effort but second hand clothes shopping is really a lot of fun and so worth it! It's not only much better for the environment, but can be a much cheaper way to shop too!