Underwear, knickers, pants, lingerie, briefs: no matter what you call it, it’s very likely you wear it (and if you don’t, well, you do you. You’re fabulous). But your smalls can make a big difference – and choosing ethical underwear has a surprisingly big impact on everything from the planet to the people who make it.
We believe that just because something is sustainable doesn’t mean it can’t look good.
Below are five brands who have prioritise beautiful design and comfort alongside ethics, whether they choose to work with only surplus fabrics, source organic materials, or partner with charitable organisations that empower vulnerable women.
You might prefer sexy silks, or you might be more of a super-soft cotton gal – but whichever you’re after, we’ve got both cheeks covered.
Ethical underwear: 6 UK brands to look out for
If you want proof that sustainable can be sexy too, well, Luva Huva’s ethical underwear is it. Think delicate chantilly lace bras, lace-edged suspender belts and delicate babydoll slips, all designed to tease and tantalise. At the more practical end of the spectrum, the brand offers plain briefs, boy shorts and simple-meets-sexy pyjama bottoms.
All of Luva Huva’s underwear is handmade in the UK by a small team, using either offcuts or ethically considerate fabrics like bamboo, hemp, soy, organic cotton and tencel (made using environmentally responsible processes and sustainably sourced raw wood material), and can be made to measure so that every body gets the best fit.
From the dainty to the downright daring, Brighton-based Ayten Gasson has things covered when it comes to sustainably made underwear. Set up by designer Ayten, the boutique is committed to ethical production processes. They use upcycled vintage lace and organic fabrics like bamboo and peace silk, which is made using non-violent silk harvesting.
Dazzle in jewel-coloured camisoles, keep things covered with a silk bed jacket or slip on a pair of super sleek pyjama pants, and sleep easy in the knowledge that whatever you’re wearing, it’s made with the best of intentions.
Hackney-based Lara Intimates is both seriously cool and seriously hot. The ethical underwear brand swerves traditional lacy undies in favour of a simple and sexy look. It offers no-frills modern cuts that are stylish, supportive and suit every body shape. Meanwhile mesh inserts add a feminine touch to straight-forward designs.
Whatever you’re after, you’ll find it here: there are thongs, there are full briefs, there are hipster briefs, there are high-waisted briefs, there are bras for big boobs, there are bras for small boobs. And with all this choice, Lara Intimates’ sustainability credentials are even more impressive. The brand uses ‘deadstock’ (surplus) fabric to make its underwear; operates a zero-waste policy with its own offcuts; sustainably sources everything down to the hook and eye closures on its bras; and has a Factory Seconds line, which sells items with tiny faults at a cheaper price.
In short, Lara Intimates operates in a way every company should.
We’re already fans of Birdsong for its bright, bold and beautiful designs and commitment to fair pay and ethics. But throw in its simple, super-soft knickers and bras.and you’ve got an extra reason to love this British brand. Birdsong’s slogan is ‘No Sweatshops, No Photoshop’, an ethos we’re totally on board with.
The team knows every single woman in the supply chain that produces its clothes. The jumpers, for example are knitted by Knit & Knatter, an elderly womens group in Bradbury. The 100% organic cotton t-shirts are hand-painted by London-based charity Mohila Creations, which works with low-income migrant women. Most of the garments are finished by hand by Heba on Brick Lane, which pays living wage in a safe work environment.
Rapanui’s underwear is as simple as it comes. But that’s not a bad thing, because with pants this well made, nothing else really matters. Available in a range of sacharine hues like mint and lavender, the knickers are super soft and comfy where it counts. Plus they have wide elastic at the waist band for a sleeker, more flattering fit.
Based on the Isle of Wight, Rapanui makes all of its items in the UK using organic materials and in a factory powered by renewable energy. The company’s factory manufactures orders in real time when the item gets sold, so there’s no waste. Worn-out items can be sent back and get recycled into new products – something that’s only possible with the purest materials.
Rapanui is a brand that understands the bigger picture. So, it shares its supply chain and its technology with everyone. This means anyone can use that information to started their own brand. Now that’s what we call selfless.
So you want to live a more ethical lifestyle, but you don’t know where to start. Well, when you aren’t reading Live Frankly, have a peruse of MAMOQ, a one-stop online shop for ethical fashion.
The brands MAMOQ features all meet the website’s values. This includes working with independent artisans, using recycled, organic materials and giving back to local communities.
That means even the pants have been ethically sourced.
Ladies can pick up some lacy lovelies from Olly, a brand working with organic cotton whose items are handmade by seamstresses in Hungary, or blokes can swaddle their bottoms in classic boxers from True Boxers, which nods to eye-opening fashion documentary ‘The True Cost’. The choice is yours.