My edit of knitwear that’s not nasty
There are some things that it is easy to find an sustainable version of. T-shirts, sneakers and jumpsuits being three of the top contenders. But when it comes to knitwear, it’s a bit more difficult, particularly because ethical woollen knitwear is a lot more expensive to produce which means, you guessed it, that it costs a lot more to buy.
I hate to price people (including myself!) out of the sustainability conversation (although, as demand for it grows, the cost to produce it should, in theory, be reduced, so I have my fingers crossed for the future). But a lot of you have been in touch to ask me about it recently, so I’ve done some research into the best places to buy it.
The other thing I’m conscious of is that many vegans prefer not to wear wool. I don’t eat meat, but I haven’t got to the point wear I don’t wear wool. Yet. However, animal welfare is important to me, so I now try to avoid wool that’s come from unhappy sheep. Specifically, from sheep that have been subjected to mulesing – a painful practice that’s done to avoid infestation from something called flystrike (and isn’t even proven to be 100% effective).
Merino sheep – which have wrinkly skin and can produce more wool – are particularly prone to it when the herd are raised in a climate they’re not suited to (such as Australia). Mulesing is mostly used in the southern hemisphere, so it’s good to look out for British and European wool because it’s not necessary in the climate, and New Zealand banned it completely last year.
I’m also still happy to wear wool because it has so many advantages, being naturally water resistant, antibacterial and temperature regulating. There’s a reason we’ve been making clothes out of it for hundreds of years.
But if wool’s not for you, don’t beat yourself up about choosing a polyester alternative. Being sustainable is HARD, and nuanced, and is about making priorities for YOURSELF. Just make sure you choose something you love that you think you will own for years and years, and you’re still being ASAP – as sustainable as possible. There are also some organic cotton jumpers here, which are generally a more affordable option as well as not being derived from an animal.
Of course, the best (and most economical) way to bag yourself a sustainable sweater is to buy secondhand or knit one yourself from responsibly sourced wool or cotton, but I know that’s not an option for everyone, so here we go with some lovely brands doing lovely things…
Navygrey’s gorgeous knits are fully traceable “from fleece to finish”. The brand only uses wool that is guaranteed to be mulesing-free, and works with two mills; one in Italy and one in Scotland. The jumpers are then made in a female-led factory in Portugal. I was lucky enough to be gifted this red Traditional sweater (top) and I am thrilled with it!
I visited the Rapanui factory on the Isle of Wight recently, and it blew my mind! The sustainability of this jumper doesn’t stop at the organic cotton it’s made from. It’s circular, which means it’s been designed to be sent back to Rapanui when the customer has finished with it in order to make it into new garments (they’ll even provide you with a freepost label). The factory is solar powered and is full of amazing AI technology that they programmed themselves in order to make the business run more efficiently. All the packaging is paper. I could go on…
There is so much to love about Sancho’s, an independent ethical and sustainable store based in Exeter in the UK. As well as their own brand (which doesn’t currently make knitwear but is worth checking out for dungarees in particular), they stock other labels that share their ethos. Sancho’s also has a groundbreaking tiered pricing system, which allows people to pay one of three prices and helps to negate the problem of people being priced out of enjoying sustainable fashion.
Two Thirds is another great option if you’re vegan or would rather not wear wool – the jumper I am wearing here is made from 100% organic cotton and also comes in a green colourway. I love this brand for its range of fun intarsia designs and colour stories that run across garment ranges so you can easily create outfits.
Sheep Inc is the first carbon negative knitwear on Earth! It does this by sourcing wool from farms that use regenerative farming methods, as well as investing 5% of its revenue into biodiversity projects. Follow them on Instagram for regular pictures of their very happy sheep.sheepinc.com
People Tree have been making sustainable clothes since 1991, so they know their ethical onions. If you click on the product details for each garment, you can see exactly where it was made, which in this case was in a vocational training centre in Nepal. This jumper empowers the local people of Kathmandu as well as being gorgeous.
The jumper I am wearing here is from Lowie, which uses natural materials, has a clear list of its makers in its website for traceability, and the label also offers free repairs for life, which is brilliant! Imagine if every clothing brand offered that service…
I’m a big fan of Genevieve Sweeney’s socks, and she makes rather handsome jumpers and cardigans as well. Genevieve’s designs always brilliantly straddle minimal and statement. She sources eco and sustainable blends from Italy, as well as British spun fibres, and makes her garments in the UK – finding clothes that were made as locally to you as possible is a brilliant way of being more sustainable.
As the name suggests, this brand specialises in organic clothing, and its knitwear is no exception. Made ethically in the UK, you’ll find easy-to-wear classic styles and the quality is beautiful.
One of the things I love about Jaggery – in addition to the gorgeous knitwear – is the wealth of information you can find on their website. Want to know where they source their buttons from? It’s recycled shells. Fancy seeing a picture of the ladies who knit the garments in south India and are paid a living wage? Head to the makers page.
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