Ethical and sustainable fashion is a movement dedicated to using the fashion business as a force for good, both in terms of ethical labor practices and for its softer footprint on the planet. However, it's becoming increasingly clear that if racial equality isn't a main tenant of the movement, the sector is deeply flawed. And if talk about being sustainable or progressive is masking racist businesses practices (as has been reported this last week within the industry), it is an altogether failure.
Systemic racism over centuries of oppression have created boundaries to funding and ownership for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Yet, investing in Black-owned businesses is a path towards closing the racial wealth gap, strengthening communities, and creating economic opportunities. As such, we wanted to highlight Black-owned brands in the sustainable and ethical fashion realm that you might not have heard of.
As an individual, it can sometimes seem like we can’t effect much change. And to an extent it’s true - it will take collective action to change the system that has kept minorities and marginalized people from achieving greater success. But as an individual you can protest, sign petitions, donate, use your voice and choose to support Black businesses. Whether we like it or not, we live in a capitalistic system and vote with our dollars. As consumers, what we choose to fund has collective power. We encourage you to support these and other Black-owned businesses, and cast your vote for change.
DIARRABLU is high contemporary lifestyle brand founded by Diarra Bousso. The brand’s mission is to iterate for sustainability while highlighting the African continent’s rich colors and unique patterns through practical and versatile pieces designed using mathematical concepts or algorithms.
Brother Vellies was founded in 2013 with the goal of keeping traditional African design practices, and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs. Now handmade artisanally across the globe, Brother Vellies creates luxury accessories that celebrate cultural histories and timeless design.
Omi Woods jewelry are contemporary heirlooms that celebrate our connections to Africa and her diaspora. The jewelry is individually and ethically handmade with fair-trade African gold and globally sourced conflict-free fine metals. Omi Woods jewelry is intended to be worn everyday, gifted for special occasions and passed down to future generations so its meaning can live on for generations to come.
Two Days Off is a sustainable line of thoughtful pieces by Gina Stovall. Each piece is made in Los Angeles either to order or in limited edition batches. We believe that a good wardrobe should be simple, conscious, and have enough ease for everyday life.
Local European is a young brand that believes it’s their responsibility to use sustainable practices in the manufacturing process to inspire both our customers and fellow designers to consume mindfully. All pieces are made of deadstock fabrics which reduces textile waste, saves energy and lowers the carbon footprint.
lemlem is an artisan-driven collection of women’s, men’s, children’s and home goods made entirely in Africa. Supermodel Liya Kebede was inspired to launch the brand following a trip to her native Ethiopia where she met a group of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their craft. Meaning to bloom and flourish in the Ethiopian language of Amharic, lemlem is committed to elevating artisanship and expanding production and jobs across Africa.
Founded in 2016, ALIYA WANEK is an eponymous womenswear label that focuses on exploring the connection between one’s identity and style. The mission is to create comfortable, stylish clothing ethically and sustainably as an extension of the wearer’s individuality. If not sewing the garments herself, Aliya works with a production sewer and other local contractors in the Bay Area to produce and dye her garments, always taking into consideration ways to reduce the brand’s environmental impact.
Earth Toned Collective is a sustainable and ethical women’s apparel brand. Designing with the Earth in mind via eco friendly and revived materials. Our form of luxury is meant to connect you to Nature, liberate and celebrate you. It is our understanding that Service and Style can coexist. At ETC sustainability is about Setting The Tone for how you show up for self, for nature, and for humanity. We spend most of our lives in our clothes, so we design with care to our environment, and the people who play an integral role. ETC designs to sustain life.
Chelsea Bravo’s collections now feature both womenswear and menswear, creatively infusing an artistic hand combined with simple and free shapes through a contemporary silhouette. Pieces are sampled and made-to-order in-house. The brand and designer is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.
zou xou aims to create a shoe wardrobe of modern essentials that are well-made, unfussy, and minimal. The collection is a narrative of elegant and simple designs made visible through refined contours, subtle detailing, and exceptional quality. The shoes are handcrafted by Argentinian shoemakers using age old techniques and premium leathers. Produced in small quantities, the shoes are made to last and reduce waste and energy as part of responsible manufacturing practices in the slow fashion movement.
What are your favorite Black-owned brands in the ethical fashion sector? We'd love to hear from you!