Kit me out in Union/Hippy/Socialist/Anarchist/Morals Friendly Clothing
November 14, 2013 5:04 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for a new clothing supplier. The previous company I shopped with have been outed as a bunch of labour-abusing dirtbags and I can't have that. I need to know the names of some places I can buy clothes with confidence and conscience and was hoping maybe I could get some suggestions.

Looking for trousers, shirts, t-shirts, socks, underwear and shoes. I don't have a lot of money so when I do buy clothes I like to buy clothes that are high quality and long lasting (without being out of reach financially).

Fashion-wise I like things plain, with no name brands or labelling of any kind. T-shirts (short and long-sleeved), jeans and "khaki"-style trousers. I am based in the UK but am happy to buy stuff from overseas so long as I can trust it's origin and it is not prohibitively expensive. I also need some new shoes which would ideally be vegetarian friendly.

If I could describe my personal style I'd say something like "chameleon by way of skater". I like trainers (sneakers), layered t-shirts/shirts, usually earth tones, black or dark blue. I like to not stand out (which is hard given my height).
posted by longbaugh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Thrift shops, especially ones whose profits go to organizations you support.
posted by mareli at 5:30 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There are not enough anarcho-syndicalist thrift stores around where I live!

Seriously though - I really do genuinely appreciate the suggestion but thrift stores generally do not meet one or more of the standards or requirements I have set out above (personal style, name branding, lanky person available sizes). I also want to pay people to make stuff and not just buy pre-owned things: I think manufacturers, creators and workers should get money for the stuff I buy.

With that in mind, I'd like to pay real live people a real living wage for manufacturing quality goods that increases positivity in the world through increasing quality of living and does not make me a walking billboard for someone else's shit without recompensing me for the pleasure of doing so.

If the recommendation includes the ability for me to have custom printed pro-union statements on t-shirts all the better.
posted by longbaugh at 5:49 AM on November 14, 2013

sounds like buying high quality pieces from a small manufacturer/designer/tailor on etsy would suit you nicely...
posted by zdravo at 6:02 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Patagonia
posted by Room 641-A at 6:32 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: American Apparel gets a lot of flack because the owner is kinda scummy and the marketing is a little porny, but their manufacturing is pretty high on the ethical scale, and I like their t-shirts and such.
posted by radioamy at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've just had a quick peek at Etsy - the "handmade" section mostly appears to be cheap t-shirts or Converse All-Stars (made in sweatshops) with sprinklings of glitter and pictures ironed on to them.

Patagonia certainly possesses the right ethics but the UK site indicates that a normal cotton t-shirt is around £50.

Morals (unsurprisingly) ain't cheap!

I can justifiably buy maybe one t-shirt a year but I'm also having trouble finding just basic, plain clothing without pictures, slogans or anything else - the t-shirt linked above was the only plain one I could find and it still has a label on it. Mind you, I doubt that I could convince a bank to invest in a company that refuses to brand itself externally and I suppose I could always cut it off.
posted by longbaugh at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2013

Why not find a tailor and have pants made for you? That would take care of at least one item of clothing. No single manufacturer is going to have everything from t-shirts to shoes and meet your requirements, nor will any single retailer. (Patagonia doesn't make every item in their own factories, for example. While they certainly strive for fair dealings, etc.., they don't directly control all the production.)
I think you have to decide what your priorities are--would you rather shop at a locally owned small store or at a chain? The local store might not have any influence with the factory that makes their goods, but might treat their employees better than the chain (or they very well might not.) A large chain will have considerably more clout with their suppliers.
I'm not saying you can't have it all, but how much time do you want to spend looking for your perfect T-shirt seller?
posted by Ideefixe at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: Edun is an ethical brand (founded by Bono and Ali Hewson). It's mainly designer prices, but you can also find pieces on cheaper sites such as asos. They also have a collaboration with Diesel.
posted by billiebee at 8:32 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We wear American Apparel a lot -- no labels, decent quality. I weighed the morals of the founder/CEO against the overall manufacturing and came up on the side of manufacturing. Everyone falls on a different side (he did an excellent interview for Vice magazine that won me over).

Also Alternative Apparel.

Pact makes great underwear and socks, and their manufacturing seems pretty awesome. We own a lot of their stuff, can attest to good quality.

I do buy at resale shops and thrift shops for some clothes like jeans, sometimes coats and sweaters. My kids wear a lot of hand-me-downs and wear AA clothes, sometimes Boden (though I can't find much information about their manufacturing off their site).
posted by mamabear at 8:40 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the tailor idea. Another approach might be to find someone who advertises as a dressmaker, maybe custom bridal. They should be able to source and work with a good variety of materials for t-shirts, buttondowns, and so on.
posted by lakeroon at 10:02 AM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: For socks - consider Wigwam. Green manufacturing, community supportive, anti-cheap-labor.
posted by lakeroon at 10:07 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I buy a lot from People Tree. Yeah, morals aren't cheap, they do periodically have massive sales on old lines, and I buy All The Things!

I will be watching this for more suggestions for the UK.
posted by Helga-woo at 10:37 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came back to suggest American Giant which is made in the USA and Old Town Clothing which is made in the UK (and on my list of someday-really-want-to-buy stuff).
posted by mamabear at 11:35 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: GoodHumans has a clothing section

I also like bgreen underwear.

Found blanks on clearance through the

Valet had a spread a while back about US-sourced eco-friendly goods but this is the closest I could find on their site. Might be worth poking around, or sending this same question to them? (I see that you're in the UK but they might still be able to help)

No Sweat used to have an apparel shop but it looks like it's all wholesale now. Sniff. I still have sportsbras and my ancient 'No Sweat' fake chucks from them.

Blackdot sneakers got some snark, but to me it seems like they are trying to be part of the solution.

I'm femme so I also like blue canoe. doesn't have a good advanced search function for "non-sweatshop + pro-union" filtering but it's a start.

Rawganique has been the answer to many of my prayers too.

I'm on a budget so I usually just supplement my thrifted-or-otherwise-secondhand wardrobe with these shops but honestly a lot of them aren't much more than non-ethically-sourced new clothes.

Thrift stores here often have clothing from Big rather than Tall people but having a tailor alter some things is an option I've exercised myself. I usually get alterations at the dry cleaner, it is usually more affordable.

Also nthing Etsy, though they just changed their standards for 'handmade'. I still like their vintage selections. Ebay, too.
posted by leemleem at 11:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I love Nau. They're expensive but the clothes are well-made. Their "About" section explains who they work with and why.
posted by chowflap at 12:35 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

This blog might be of interest to you. It specializes in men's clothes, of good quality and ethically made.
posted by annsunny at 1:26 PM on November 14, 2013

Just popping back to say this thread prompted me to go shopping and currently People Tree have one of their massive sales on right now - there's men's tshirts from £8.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:33 PM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: Vegetarian Shoes. I like my desert boots so, so much.
posted by justjess at 11:49 PM on November 14, 2013

I asked a similar question on MeFi a bit ago, but about where to find business casual clothes for ladies.

I like Everlane because their entire production process is transparent, their clothing is very classic, and while it's more expensive than many outlets it's not designer prices.
posted by forkisbetter at 8:03 AM on November 15, 2013

Best answer: Howies are UK based and seem to be quite skater in style.

I feel; your pain - ethical clothing isn't cheap, and I hate visible branding too. What you can do is buy a seam ripper from a haberdashery and use this to carefully remove branding labels.
posted by mippy at 3:34 AM on November 18, 2013

Response by poster: It's been a long time since I asked the question but I've started using the Ethical Consumer site so I thought I'd mention it.

It's a £29.95 subscription per year but even if you don't subscribe you can register and at least see the gradings/ratings for each individual company - M&S and H&M scored 10.0 out of 20.0 in the clothing retail section (and those were the highest scoring high-street stores!).

Highest rated clothing retailers otherwise are as follows (with their rating out of 20.0 below).

(16.0) People Tree
(15.5) Living Crafts Clothes
(15.5) THTC Organic Clothing
(15.0) Braintree Organic Clothing
(15.0) FAIR+True Clothes
(15.0) Outsider

I hope this will prove useful if anyone searches in future :)
posted by longbaugh at 1:36 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

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