I focus quite a bit on asana, or the physical practice of yoga. However, asana is only one of eight limbs of yogic practice and recently, I’ve been thinking more about yama, which refers to our personal ethics. One of the five yamas is ahimsa, or being compassionate and doing no harm.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about how ahimsa translates into my clothing purchases; I want to wear clothes with the knowledge that the people who made the clothing did so under good working conditions. However, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to buy clothes that are made under conditions that I would be proud to support.
I’d like to stop and say that ethical clothing purchasing is a complicated issue. Though working conditions are deplorable in the developing countries where most of our clothes are made — there are environmental hazards, extremely low pay, and intimidation for those who speak against their conditions — many who work in these garment factories depend on their factory jobs to put food on the table. Additionally, it seems nearly impossible to know the specific conditions under which each individual item of clothing in a store were made. Two identical t-shirts could have been made under very different circumstances.
Still, I feel that unless we consumers demand higher standards from our clothing brands, the sub-par conditions are unlikely to change. And because of this, I’ve been challenging myself to think a bit more critically about my personal clothing purchases — to pay a little bit more for clothing that is made sustainably or under viable working conditions.
It can be challenging to adhere to these standards all the time, so I try to take it purchase by purchase, and to plan ahead so I’m not reaching for the bargain rack at TJ Maxx because my clothes have holes and I’m desperate for something to wear. I certainly don’t purchase ethically all the time, but I am trying to move in that direction.
In that spirit, I want to share a few brands with which I’ve had good experiences. Most are US-made, simply because in the US, labor practices are standardized, workers have recourse if they feel they are mistreated, and owners can be held accountable. I’m open to EU-based brands for the same reasons, but I just don’t know of that many.
Many brands listed below can be pricey when purchased new. To save money, look out for sales, and also be sure to scour EBay, Poshmark, and secondhand shops for finds.
I’d love for you to share your favorite well-made brands, as I want to have a long list of brands I can tap when I need something cute to wear, but I that I can also be proud to have purchased.
I’ve mentioned this brand before in my post about favorite workout gear. I only have the Steeplechase bra from OV, but it is, hands down, the best sports bra I’ve ever owned, period. I’m definitely looking forward to trying more from OV.
Designed in New Hampshire and manufactured in New York, EF features effortless-chic clothes with minimalist lines. I have several EF items and adore them all for their simplicity and long-lasting wear. Sign up for their mailing list to keep up-to-date with when their newest collections release. You can also find pieces from the brand on EBay and Poshmark.
Imogene + Willie
I love this Nashville-based denim house and am particularly enamored of the high-waisted Elizabeth cuts. I + W jeans fit great and are US-made. I can’t yet bring myself to paying 200 smackers for jeans, but I’ve found some excellent deals on EBay and have snagged a few pairs that way.
This one shirt from Jcrew
I was pleasantly surprised to find this US-made shirt from J. Crew. Until I got a stain on it, the shirt was constantly in my wardrobe rotation. There are other variations of the shirt — there is a men’s version, as well as a tank and a dress — that are also made in the US.
This brand is great for basic tees and such. I’ve bought a couple of sweatshirts and t-shirts for myself, and several undershirts for my husband from this site. You can also find gear for kids and babies. Another bonus is that the brand sells wholesale, too, in case you’re in the market for a bevy of t-shirts. Be sure to search the website for US-made clothing or for organic or bamboo items, since not all their wares are US-made.
These comfy sandals are made in Spain, are super cute, and are perfect for summer weather or beachy strolls. I got a pair last summer and wore them for a couple of hours during a rainstorm in London. They still look and feel great despite getting totally soaked. I ordered my avarcas through Avarcas USA, but you can also occasionally find a pair on EBay. Also check out the wedge, espadrille, and ankle strap varieties.
This brand isn’t US-based, but it does purport to be sweatshop-free. As I wrote in a previous post, these leggings perform extremely well and stay cool even after a sweaty hot yoga class. Liquido and Outdoor Voices may just end up being my staple brands for workout gear.
Looking for an ethical yoga mat? Jade offers US-made mats composed of sustainable, biodegradable rubber. The mats are also super grippy and come in fun colors. One of favorite mats of all time was my teal Jade Harmony mat.