Who would we be to say that we were going to give you the ultimate gift guide for Valentine’s Day and not talk about lingerie. Whether you’re buying some pretty little underthings for yourself or a little something special for that special someone, you’re gonna want to make sure you get something that looks and feels good. Not only should lingerie make the wearer feel confident and sexy, but it’s also the item of clothing that is closest to their skin.
Regrettably (insert sigh here), a lot of lingerie brands are produced in the same way as fashion brands — i.e. using harsh chemicals and taking its toll on the environment and the factory workers. And while there are quite a few sustainable clothing brands out there today, it’s a little bit more difficult to find a lingerie brand that is following sustainable and ethical practices. That being said, I’m happy to report that they do indeed exist. Spoiler alert: Victoria’s Secret did not make the cut, but read on to find out more.
While not a lingerie brand per se, Azura Bay has done a lot of the work for you when it comes to finding amazing and socially conscious lingerie brands. While at university, the founder of Azura Bay noticed that finding ethical lingerie was both tough and time consuming, so she set out to take the legwork out of that process.
She has since found tons of beautiful (like really beautiful) and luxurious options that are also ethically produced — often times artisan and handmade using Fair Trade and eco-friendly fabrics and production processes. On top of that, for every purchase, Azura donates a portion of the proceeds to either the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Because I am a Girl, or World Wildlife Fund Canada — your choice.
The story of Naja Lingerie is basically the story of a love of beauty, rebellion and wanting to make the world a better place — and who’s not gonna read that, amirite? First and foremost, Naja makes stunning pieces and a variety of styles. But they’re also all about empowering women — they design and shoot their pieces not with the male gaze in mind, but rather for the smart, courageous and sexy women who will wear them. They also employ single mothers in Columbia to sew their handmade pieces — giving them above market wages, health care and flexible work policies and giving their children books, school supplies, uniforms and school meals. And to reduce their impact on the environment, Naja uses digital and sublimation printing techniques which significantly reduces their water waste. And they use fabrics that are made from recycled plastic bottles in each of their collections, and are always looking for new technologies that are better for the earth.
Between the Sheets
Kind of like the Everlane of lingerie, Between the Sheets is focused on transparency and is also one of the few B Corp certified options. That means they hold themselves to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, constantly evaluating how their practices impact their employees, the environment and their customers. And the company wants you to know the story — i.e. what happened from idea to your closet — of every piece in their collection.
Really committed to made in the USA, between the sheets does everything — product design, manufacturing, warehousing and shipping — in a 4-mile radius of New York City. They also source all materials with sustainability, ethics and environmental impact top of mind, in terms of both what it’s made from and where it’s coming from. And because they are in such close proximity to where their garments are produced, they can ensure that their workers are paid a fair and legal wage, meaning no sweatshops and no illegal labor.
For a little more minimal look, look no further than Brook There. Brook There’s primary fabric is organic cotton from South Carolina complimented by real silk trims and a touch of spandex. The reason for using organic being two-fold — environment and health. The founders weren’t too keen on the environmental impact of the chemicals that traditional cotton farming used (conventional cotton production uses more insecticides than any other crop on the planet) or on putting that next to their skin.
Similar to Between the Sheets, Brook There also tries to reduce its impact by keeping it local. They produce everything in the USA. From the farm in South Carolina, their fabric is dyed in Pennsylvania and cut and sewn in New England, which is where it lives until it ships to you. This minimizes the impact of transporting products/materials across the ocean, etc. It also means they can keep an eye on their production, making sure it lives up to their ethical and labor standards every step of the way.
Across the pond, a girl named Joanna came across a piece of vintage fabric at a second-hand market and had a vision of how she could use that beautiful fabric find to create a positive fashion label — and voila, Luva Huva was born. Continuing on the same course as that initial piece of inspiration, Luva Huva creates ethical lingerie with a pretty, feminine feel.
The small team (there are five women plus one whippet, although I’m not sure how much sewing she can do, but that’s for another time) makes almost all of Luva Huva’s orders from scratch. They use locally sourced and ecologically considerate materials and fabrics (think bamboo, hemp, organic cotton), as well as remnants, vintage and end of the line fabrics and trims. But that’s not all, one of the best things about Luva Huva, is that because they make everything from scratch, they can create made to measure garments to fit any body and custom sizing is always free of charge. So basically, beautiful couture lingerie that fits you (and only you) like a glove — I mean isn’t that what dreams are made of?
Berlin-based Anekdot is making upcycling sexy (never thought I’d see those two words in the same sentence). Every piece from Anekdote is made in their Berlin studio which allows them to monitor both quality and wastage. And really taking that whole, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” thing to another level, the company upcycles its materials from the luxury fashion industry or uses their leftovers to design all of their pieces. This means they’re reducing the waste coming from the luxury fashion industry, and because they’re designs come from what they already have they’re not creating more waste. It also makes each collection limited edition, and really there’s nothing sexier than that. Told you, upcycling = sexy.
Would love to hear from you — what is your favorite ethical lingerie brand?