Do you often think about the products we purchase and where they’ve come from? So many of us are incredibly busy, and thinking about the items we consume on a daily basis and their origins may be thoughts that we lack in our day-to-day lives. Before we go judging others, or ourselves however, it is completely natural to consume products that may not be considered “ethical” by standards. It is nearly impossible to live a totally, 100% ethical lifestyle, unless it is very methodically planned and you begin to develop a system that works for you. We may all want to strive to live an ethical lifestyle, purchase products that are from reusable materials, recycle goods that we use, save water, compost food scraps, purchase clothing that is sweatshop-free, reduce the amount of trash we put into landfill, reduce our carbon footprint, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, etc. The list is never-ending, yet in order to keep ourselves, and quite importantly the planet healthy and lively, we need to begin to think about how we can make an impact. Environmental acts of kindness, no matter how small they seem, work towards solving larger problems and creating change. For example, it takes approximately 2,500 gallons (9500 liters) of water to produce 1 pound (.45 kilograms) of beef. If you reduced your meat intake, even just by skipping one day a week, millions of gallons of water would be saved to continue to feed our Earth and its inhabitants. We as humans have the control to deplete or nourish our planet. By making small changes in our personal lives and mindfully educating others, eventually we can begin to reverse massive issues such as climate change. The responsibility is in our hands.
One of the major ways we can contribute to reducing our footprint and improving the planet is by purchasing ethically made clothing. Firstly though, what does “ethically made” truly mean? The best way to describe it is that companies are not hesitant to hide any aspect of their business to the public. Companies that refer to themselves as ethical practice fair trade and fair labor (i.e. wages, healthy sweatshop-free working conditions), believe in sustainability (i.e. recycled/organic materials and reduce carbon footprint), do not participate in animal cruelty (i.e. testing on animals or using animal products for fabrics), and aim to give back to the community (i.e. donating profits to charities). By supporting these companies, you are supporting yourself in a healthy lifestyle, and ensuring that the planet is consistently in good shape, and so are all of its inhabitants, human, plant, and animal. It is common thought that these companies tend to be expensive, thus shopping ethically can be difficult for those on a budget. However, most ethical companies recognize that the majority of the population does not live an overly rich and lavish lifestyle, thus they work towards making their products affordable and long lasting for the average working human. I am always of the mindset that I am willing to pay a bit more if I know my money is going somewhere meaningful and into a quality product. Rather than spending $100 on the trendiest brand name leggings that were likely made in a factory, spend the $100 on the smaller brand name that is making a difference in this world.
There is an enormous amount of ethical brands creating beautiful and quality yoga, fitness, lounge, and daily wear from all over the world. These are 14 of the top brands I personally believe to be at the forefront of ethical clothing creation:
1. Outdoor Voices (United States)
Outdoor Voices is an Austin, Texas and New York, New York based company that creates all of their clothing within the United States in sweatshop-free environments. The materials and fabrics used are created with the Earth in mind, and are also sized for every single body type. Outdoor Voices is an extremely community oriented brand, and also works to support students by activating a decent discount. They are very vocal about helping their customers maintain an active lifestyle, spend time outdoors, and live ethically and sustainably.
2. Dharma Bums (Australia)
Dharma Bums is one of the largest yoga and fitness brands to come out of Australia. Every single garment produced is produced in Sydney, Australia, and meets Ethical Australia’s standards. Every last detail down to their packaging is used from recyclable materials, and all of their clothing is free from chemical dyes. Dharma Bums is a small, family-run business seeking to dress yogis in comfortable, sustainable and trendy active wear without breaking the bank. They ship all over the world for a small fee (or free if you spend $200 AUD or more). Additionally, all models on the Dharma Bums website are not airbrushed, and represent a variety of shapes and sizes.
3. Manduka (United States)
Los Angeles based Manduka aims to create yoga props, mats, towels and apparel using materials that leave the most minimal environmental footprint possible. They are constantly searching for materials and partnering with sustainable companies to produce the most ethically made and quality products possible. Taken directly from their website, their mats are made from “the highest quality PVC on the planet, or biodegradable natural tree rubber, manufactured emissions free, zero waste, and with no harmful plasticizers. All mats are free of toxic chemicals, dyes and phthalates, which disrupt your hormone balance.” Every material, no matter which product, is made from recycled items or plant-based textile.
4. Teeki (United States)
Also based in Los Angeles, Teeki describes themselves as eco-conscious fitness wear that creates all materials from recycled plastic bottles. Teeki utilizes all natural dyes, and produces everything in the US in a sweatshop-free and carbon reducing environment. On their website, Teeki states that “it takes over 400 years for plastic bottles to fully biodegrade, so by recycling bottles into clothes we are offsetting the need to produce new raw materials.” Teeki features moderately priced, boldly patterned and colored clothing on all types of bodies.
5. Patagonia (United States)
As one of the largest global fitness and outdoor wear brands, Patagonia is paving the way for large companies to act sustainability and produce ethically. Patagonia is highly committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, practicing fair trade and labor policies, utilizing recyclable materials, and giving back. For example, Patagonia donates a large percentage of their profit to grassroots level environmental groups that are working towards protecting wildlife and biodiversity. While Patagonia products are created in factories all around the world, they work tirelessly to ensure healthy and safe working conditions of all of their employees, medical assistance and generous pay for their valued work.
6. Hara the Label (Bali, Indonesia)
While Hara the Label is not a yoga or fitness brand, but rather female intimates, I felt it was important to include this small business. Hara produces ethically made bamboo bralettes and underwear out of their warehouse in Bali. They pride themselves on fair working conditions and wages for their staff, and write every single detail about their business on their website to provide transparency and hide nothing to the public. They state that bamboo uses little water and land space, and is one of the most renewable resources on the planet. All of their intimates are dyed naturally using fruit trees, and all waste is returned to the earth to feed Indonesia’s lush rainforests. Their packaging is recycled bamboo as well, and their website features women of all shapes and sizes to encourage that their brand is for anyone and everyone.
7. ShareHope (Haiti)
Right on the front page of ShareHope’s website, they state “when you shop and support ShareHope, you create fair, safe jobs, and fund life-changing health and education programs for Haitian garment workers.” 100% of ShareHope profit is donated back to these programs that are improving daily life from Haitians. Their products are affordable, sustainable, and are suitable for any body type.
8. Shift to Nature (Australia)
Shift to Nature resources yoga and daily clothing wear for men, women, and children, along with home wares that are produced from ethically sourced bamboo, hemp, and cotton materials. They describe their products as affordable luxury, and are committed to ensuring fair trade and labor practices globally. All products are chemical and toxin free, and are produced in an environmentally friendly setting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to support biodiversity and save natural resources.
9. Divine Goddess (Australia/Indonesia)
Divine Goddess is a small family business based in Byron Bay, Australia and ethically produced in Bali, Indonesia. Divine Goddess only utilize natural fibers and materials for their products ranging from active wear, to mats and props, to mala beads. Divine Goddess also maintains a yoga studio and raw vegan restaurant in Bali, and works towards fair labor for all of their employees, whether working in the restaurant, producing the clothing, or selling products in their shops in Byron Bay and Bali. While the products may be on the slightly expensive side, each product is rigorously tested for quality, durability and strength, thus sure to last for ages.
10. Just Be. (Australia)
A yoga instructor himself, who was frustrated with the lack of breathable yoga wear, started Just be. Apparel. The creator, Jason, ensures all of his products are made from fair trade and organic materials such as bamboo, cotton, tencel and linen. The active wear is breathable, free of toxic chemicals and easy to take care of. Just be. follows all guidelines of Ethical Australia, including fair and equal wage, safe and healthy working conditions, and non-discrimination. Just be. products are basic, affordable, and portray the simple yet beautiful message to just be.
11. Gossypium (United Kingdom)
Gossypium is the botanical name for cotton, and the company uses this as inspiration for their ethically made yoga wear. All of the products are handmade in a small workshop in Sussex, UK and every fabric is sustainability created. Gossypium has won multiple ethical and environmental awards, and aim to give you quality products for a reasonable price. They offer many different styles of clothing across a rainbow of colors and patterns, thus surely there is a product to satisfy every yogi.
12. Vyayama (United States/Portugal)
Taken from the Vyayama website: “Vyayama was founded with the intention of providing a natural alternative to synthetic yoga wear, with the belief that the products we use should be held to the same standards that we hold for ourselves. We believe that mindfulness should inspire quality, beauty, and joy.” They create their own tencel fabric from sustainably sourced eucalyptus in Europe. All fabrics are dyed without toxic chemicals and their workspace is clean and safe for all. While Vyayama is on the more expensive side (i.e. $115 USD for a sports bra), the products are beautifully and ethically created meant to last a lifetime.
13. Satva (United States)
Satva Sustainable Activewear creates all of their products ethically by partnering with an organic cotton farm in India, maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the company to ensure safety and health standards for their staff and products. The cotton is farmed organically without pesticides, harsh chemicals, sulfur, and heavy metals, thus leaving you with a clean, simple, and pure piece of clothing on your body. In addition to their sustainable (and very affordable!) active wear, Satva aims to give back by donating a portion of their profit to nonprofits in India that support education for young girls as well as those that support farming communities.
14. WE-AR (Bali, Indonesia)
WE-AR is ethically created and eco-conscious yoga and daily wear for adults and children. Based in Canggu, a small beachside town in Bali, Indonesia, all of WE-AR’s products are beautifully designed and made from organic plant-based materials grown naturally in Bali, and spun into textiles (i.e. bamboo, wood pulp, and cotton). Their practices are given the Ethics and Environmental Policy stamp of approval, and produce goods mindfully to ensure a minimal carbon footprint. WE-AR also is a sponsor of Yoga Education in Prisons Trust, donating some of their profit to this program to bring yoga into prisons as a way to help inmates deal with stress and improve their lives. The clothing is absolutely beautiful, comfortable, and while on the more expensive side of the spectrum, the products are extremely good quality and every penny is worth supporting this mindful company.
With social media influencing quickly on the rise as one of the most coveted careers of the decade, many yoga teachers strive to work with brands that they identify with and support as a way to spread the message of the company and educate others about ethical brands. Most, if not all of the brands listed above have created some type of ambassador program where you get a certain percentage of commission of sales when other customers use your unique discount code. Some companies may even send you free or heavily discounted products to review or post on social media, depending on your following. The best way to connect to companies is follow them on social media and really get to know their brand. Once you feel as though the brand supports your values and you support the values of the brand, then reaching out via e-mail or direct message on social media is the best way to get in touch directly. You might also give them a phone call if you’re in the same country as where the company is based. If you want to express interest in their ambassador program or want to work with them, in your message be clear that you feel you uphold similar values and that forming a relationship would be beneficial for both parties.
Most companies will be quite willing to work with you in some way as yoga companies strive to be inclusive to all. However, it is important to remember that they are still a business, and no matter how ethical or inclusive, they may not respond or they may have a high standard for who they allow into their ambassador programs. When thinking about working with yoga and active wear companies, it is absolutely essential to keep an open mind, and be ready for any opportunity or rejection that may come your way. Do not give up! That mindset, of openness and fearlessness, should ideally remain for anything that we may face in life. Search for companies that resonate with your principles, and do your best to live sustainably, ethically, and resourcefully in all aspects. Once we begin to start small as individuals, our message and efforts slowly expand into the world.