It’s World Fairtrade Day! So in honour, we’ve collected together a round-up of some of our favourite ethical lingerie brands. For now, we’re focussing in on our British brands; staying as local as possible. We’re based in the North of England, pretty close by to Manchester, which actually used to be something of a lingerie production epicentre! You might have seen our post for Fashion Revolution Week last month, talking about sustainability in the fashion industry, and the small changes we can take that will really make a difference. We’ve found that the most difficult part of shopping responsibly is actually trawling through the rhetoric of big business—it’s really hard to know who’s making what where, and how. Keep calling on the big brands you love for transparency in how they’re making your garments—but for now, we’ve done some legwork, and here are some places you can definitely feel good for shopping at! Here’s the round-up few of our locals whose ethics and style we’re totally loving 🙂
Based in Manchester, Kinky Knickers went through a reboot a few years ago when they appeared on Mary Portas’ Mary’s Bottom Line. This saw the brand returning all of their production to Manchester, and recruiting some disadvantaged unemployed as apprentices to work in the newly rebooted workshops. Kinky Knickers hasn’t only ensured a fair supply chain by coming back home, but they also talk about the positive social aspect that’s happened: “seeing people having a reason to go to work, and growing in confidence—that was amazing. And eventually, although it felt like a risk, it was the business that benefitted in the longer term. They would be coming to us with ideas of how to improve, and they were good ideas!” LONG LIVE KINKY KNICKERS!
You can also read about their sleepwear—Ella & Me—over at the lovely Becky’s Boudoir.
There’s more than one reason to support the London-based Neon Moon, and several of them don’t even involve how lovely their lingerie is! Founded to promote body positivity among women, you don’t have to spend too long on the website before you notice the beautifully diverse range of models. They’re directly tackling the narrow perceptions of beauty enforced by the fashion industry, and THEN they’re ALSO: sweatshop free, objectification free, photoshop free, and sexualisation free.
Another shout-out has to go to the new turquoise blue colourway, which I think is just the most gorgeous colour Neon Moon have made in so far. And you should check back regularly, as they’re currently adding a new colour to their collection every week!
Buttress & Snatch
We’ve introduced Buttress & Snatch on the blog before; with the both of us being Disney addicts, it was a bit of an inevitability once they brought out their Minnie Mouse inspired lingerie set (still on both of our Christmas wishlists—wouldn’t THAT be the best joint-review of all time?!) London based—in an old Turkish Delight factory, no less!—they’re tacking the over production of the fashion industry by making every garment to order. We were invited to visit Oxfam’s recycling plant last year and saw all the ways in which donated clothing is resold, reused and repurposed. But a huge amount of our waste ends up overseas, and the enormous surplus of our waste clothing has destroyed local industry in certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, 500,000 people were employed in the textile industry in the 1980s; today, that has fallen by around 96%, mostly because of the 100,00o tonnes of second-hand clothing imported into Kenya every year.
Buttress & Snatch are countering this directly with a different model: hand-making every garment as when and order is placed. It might take a little longer, and cost a little more, but it makes sure that absolutely nothing goes to waste.
Nui Ami is a sleepwear brand that manufactures solely in the UK, using responsibly sourced Italian silks, French leavers lace, and Austrian jerseys. We have to give a shout out as well (we are still BCLC here!) to the Big Cup emphasis of this sleepwear brand. Nui Ami features a beautiful collection that combines comfort and support with a gorgeous aesthetic; some of their chemises go up to a GG.
Rossell England has only been on the scene since January of this year, but they’re already coming out with some of the most timeless and beautiful pieces we’ve seen. From their (recent) beginnings, they’ve committed to producing within the UK, at one of the few remaining specialist lingerie factories here. Their emphasis is one using only natural fibres, in a lingerie industry that has become saturated with synthetic materials. Better for the environment, and better for the wearer! Each product is made in Italian cotton with a unique weave, giving it a natural stretch whilst remaining 100% pure cotton. Their fastenings are also thoughtfully designed; bespoke, and nickel-free.
Martha Rose is another beautiful British brand which has committed to keeping 100% of their production in the UK. We love the simple, homespun look of their garments, and the really good value! We also think it’s fantastic that they’re using fabric in an innovative way to reduce wastage: the Patchwork Knicker (below) was created to utilise the inevitable scraps from underwear cutting. Amazing!
Colie Co is a handmade lingerie hub based right here in our beloved Yorkshire! They use reclaimed fabrics and make everything by hand in their Leeds studio. If you visit their Etsy shop now you’ll see it’s closed—but don’t let that put you off! They’re just on holiday, for now, and they will be back! All their fabrics have been reclaimed from all garments; their buttons are vintage, and even their labels and tags have been made in the UK. They even use biodegradable and recyclable packaging. They’ve covered every base, and we love it. <3 All these things also mean that most of their products are limited or one-offs, meaning you’ll probably end up bagging yourself a one-of-a-kind when you shop with Colie Co.
Produced entirely in the UK, All Undone focusses on an area close to the heart of BCLC—the small back, large bust combo. Sian has already featured their gorgeous Mai Set in a wishlist this year. For a secure supply chain, ladies needing a small band and big cup should look to All Undone—they have some great pieces!
The Ethical Silk Company
We first came across the Ethical Silk Company in quite a bizarre chain of events! One of our Mums went to a Christmas fair where they had a stall, she got into a long conversation there and ended up purchasing a pillowcase (which she still religiously uses!) and then came home to tell us ALL about them. And she insisted we ‘do that twittering thing’, to ask if they’d ever make lingerie. Mums are adorable. They don’t have any lingerie yet, but they have recently launched their loungewear line, which we think definitely deserves its place in this round-up. Aside from being absolutely sumptuous-looking, the company has a great ethic. The clue is in the name, but we’ll tell you anyway. They produce products in 100% eco-friendly and ethically made mulberry silk which ensures that no silkworms are harmed or killed in the production process. They are based out of a Fairtrade tailoring unit, Mehera Shaw, located in Jaipur, India. And if that wasn’t enough—they also split 10% of their profits between between Focus Ireland (5%) and Jeevan Jyothi AIDS Centre in Theni (5%).
As I said to my Mum when I saw the new loungewear—I’m not rich enough now, but one day I want to be that amazing friend at Christmas who gives the most beautiful gifts; that gift being their pure silk camisoles. Oh, and I also want one for myself. But let’s focus on the altruistic side of that statement shall we…
Luva Huva produces handmade clothing in the UK, using ethically sourced sustainable fabrics. They work with 100% organic cotton, bamboo, and soy fabrics, along with end of line remnants, and vintage lace. We adore Luva Huva’s bamboo underwear in particular. It’s an amazing fabric which is naturally antibacterial, sensitive, moisture wicking, thermo-regulatory and even protects against UV rays! Pretty amazing stuff. And their designs are so pretty and so wearable.
We LOVE: the Pink Butterfly Lace Bra (pictured top) and the Emerald Bustier Bra (pictured bottom).
Ayten Gasson has been known for committing to supporting the UK manufacturing industry since they launched in 2005. Their passion for design comes along with a rigorous commitment to supporting as many UK based companies as possible, from lace mills to printers. All items are made in either small production units in Nottingham and Wales, or in their dedicated studio in Brighton. Ayten Gasson has also become known for its use of up-cycled vintage Nottingham lace, which highlights a once-famed traditional skill in Britain. Peace Silk and Organic Silk, sustainable and ethically produced fabrics, also regularly feature in the collections.
All this results in luxury pieces which you can be certain have been ethically produced.
Birdsong is another incredible feminist company doing amazing things for the women they work with. They don’t just produce lingerie—in fact, they’re primarily a clothing company, but we do love their underwear! They source ethically made products, and ensure that 50-85% of the purchase price goes back to the women who made it, whether that’s a group in Malawi or a seamstresses on Brick Lane.
And one last thing…
We’ve got one last shoutout to give on this World Fairtrade Day. Most of the companies we’ve featured here focus on a safe, secure supply chain with organic fabrics. That’s because there is STILL, today, slavery in the fashion industry. 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally; 11.4 million of those are women and girls. It isn’t all far from home either—in Britain, 13,000 people are victims of slavery. Right now, Safia Minney, the amazing activist and founder of People Tree, is crowdfunding to fight slavery in the fashion industry. Slave to Fashion at this moment needs £10,000 to reach its £35,000 goal. If you can afford to support this project, even if it only a fiver (and we all know that every little helps!) then visit the Kickstarter page here to read more about the project and to donate.