Image: Mara Hoffman
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Everybody needs a few perfect sweaters in their life. And when we say perfect, we mean stylish but classic, cozy and comfortable (not itchy), and of course, eco-friendly and ethically made.
Well, good news: there is no shortage of sweaters that fit these qualifications. Below are our favorite brands that make beautiful, sustainable sweaters. But first, here’s what to look for while you’re shopping:
What to Look for in Eco-Friendly Sweaters
Natural and/or Recycled Fabrics: Unlike other fashion categories, it’s actually relatively easy to find sweaters that are 100% free of synthetic material. Even some of the materials used in conventional luxury sweaters like cashmere can be considered sustainable if sourced and processed the right way. Wool and alpaca are also two of our absolute favorite materials to wear.
Environmentally-conscious manufacturing: Again, it’s standard to find a zero-waste sweater, because the knitting process (usually) doesn’t involve cutting fabric into shapes that produce offcuts. But the processes involved in creating and dyeing yarns are often pretty harsh on the environment, using lots of water, chemicals, and energy, and leaving behind waste. Look for brands that are using more earth-friendly processes that reduce their impact, like zero-waste policies and renewable energy in their factories.
Fair labor and transparency: As with everything you buy, check for fair labor practices. Look for brands that prioritize transparency (do they tell you where their apparel is made?) and certifications like Fair Trade and SA8000. Also, look for brands that are owned by or support BIPOC.
Timelessness: If you choose wisely, a good sweater can last you decades. Look for brands that prioritize durability and timeless, versatile style. Choose sweaters that can be dressed up or down, that you can wear to the office, date night, and family dinner.
Here are the brands we recommend:
Tradlands is a high-quality women’s essentials brand, inspired by classic menswear. Its pieces are comfortable, yet timeless, with an emphasis on fit, detail, and quality. Of course, it values the welfare of its craftsmen and women all over the world, uses sustainably produced materials, and minimizes waste as much as possible. Tradlands’ sweaters are made from alpaca and/or cotton.
Lauren Manoogian’s knitwear collections are ethically crafted in Peru, where traditional craftsmanship intersects with experimental techniques. Offering small, specialty–focused seasonal collections, Manoogian’s focus ranges from signature hand-loomed wool, cashmere, and organic cotton knits to vegetable-tanned leather accessories.
Designed to be flattering to all body types and created with sustainability and versatility in mind, Hackwith’s sweaters are created by hand right in their Minnesota studio. It uses eco-friendly fabrics like Lyocell and cotton, and many of the pieces are made to order to reduce waste.
SiiZU delivers beautiful, high-quality apparel made with sustainable manufacturing practices directly to you at an affordable price point. It has sweaters made out of cotton, merino wool, cashmere, and silk. Read more bout SiiZU here.
Every brand that REI carries meets a minimum standard of ethical and sustainable operation. Although not every single item is made out of recycled and/or natural materials, it has a really wide variety of sweaters for men, women, and kids that are not only made in a conscious way, but are warm, durable and made to last a really long time. Or, you can shop from REI’s Used Gear section, which is perhaps the most sustainable (and affordable!) option. For more about REI’s sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.
People Tree is recognized by customers and the fashion industry as a pioneer in ethical and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over 25 years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans, and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections. Its sweaters are made out of cotton and wool.
Theo + George uses a lot of eco-conscious fabrics like natural cotton, wool, cashmere that comes directly from herdsman from Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and modal that’s sourced from an OEKO-TEX certified supplier. It’s committed to sustainable production, but it does use synthetics in a few of their pieces, so make sure to check the materials before buying!
Taylor Stich uses materials like upcycled and recycled (but durable!) yarns, organic cotton, natural hemp, responsibly-sourced leather, and synthetic down made from recycled plastic bottles. It uses production methods that work to lower its carbon footprint, reduce water usage, and limit chemical exposure. Plus, you can get discounts by pre-ordering up and coming designs.
Made from sustainable materials like cashmere and merino wool, Chinti & Parker is a luxury brand that carries some fun patterns alongside timeless staples.
Stella McCartney’s sweaters are all made with either recycled materials or natural materials like organic cotton, wool, and alpaca. In everything, the brand is committed to continual environmental and social responsibility as well as circular solutions.
Amour Vert (which means ‘green love’ in French) creates clothing that’s made from low-impact fabrics like organic cotton, TENCEL, OEKO-TEX silk, ethical wool, and more. Most of its products are made transparently in California, in limited quantities to reduce waste.
A leader in sustainability for the past four decades, Patagonia carries a wide variety of sweaters for men and women. Many of Patagonia’s pieces are made with fully or partially recycled and fair trade materials.
Eileen Fisher, the lady herself, has been leading the charge to pioneer sustainability in a mass-market brand, with a take-back, resell, and upcycle program, along with sustainable textiles. Her sweaters and cardigans are made from materials like cotton, linen, and merino wool and are certified non-toxic.
If you really want to up your sweater game: make your own! Wool and the Gang carries sweater kits, which you can sort by skill level and yarn/fiber type. And it doesn’t just carry wool. It has nontoxic TENCEL yarn made from 100% renewable energy, wool made from pre-consumer waste fibers, sustainably-sourced Peruvian wool, upcycled denim and jersey yarn made from fashion factory scraps, and more.
Started in 2000, Mara Hoffman didn’t start out as a sustainable brand, but has since become a staple in the conscious consumer’s wardrobe. The brand prioritizes natural, recycled, and organic materials, including organic cotton and alpaca for their sweaters. Its garment workers are treated and paid fairly and they aim to minimize waste and energy usage throughout the entire supply chain.
Nau creates clothing that is both sustainable and high tech. It uses all natural and/or recycled materials, with a bunch of certifications behind it to give you peace of mind. Plus, a portion of each purchase is donated to a grassroots environmental organization.
Filippa K operates under a circular framework that includes reducing, repairing, reusing, and recycling whenever possible. Its published a sustainability report every year since 2012 and is on track to hit its 2030 sustainability goals, which include only sustainable and recyclable materials, 100% transparency, and fair working conditions for everyone involved in making their products. Filippa K’s sweaters are made out of materials like natural mohair and wool.
Inspired by the luxurious cashmere sweaters the brand’s founder inherited from her own grandmother, Frances Austen is recreating that heirloom quality for their customer – the modern, well-rounded, grounded woman. The brand has a beautiful and relatively large collection of 100% cashmere sweaters, spun in Italy by Cariaggi. Its Cariaggi yarn uses 38-42mm fibers, the longest available, to make its low pill, long-lasting, and supremely soft cashmere sweaters. They are knitted in Scotland by Johnstons of Elgin, makers of fine knitwear for 200 years.
Made from a combination of GOTS organic cotton and recycled polyester, United By Blue has a selection of outdoor-inspired sweaters. Everything is made responsibly in Turkey and each purchase removes a pound of trash from our waterways.
ADAY’s clothing is focused on being technical, seasonless, and sustainable—so that you can wear it for a long time. The ADAY team hand-picks every factory they work with based on impact and certifications, and the brand use materials that are both innovative and high-performing, as well as eco-friendly. Its sweaters are made out of things like wool, recycled cashmere, and Lyocell.
Made Trade is one of our favorite curated online shops carrying ethical and sustainable fashion and home goods. Everything is expertly curated based on a set of ethics. Read more about why we love Made Trade here!
The team at NAADAM goes straight to the source of the best cashmere, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, and works directly with herders and their goats to bring you high quality, sustainable, and unbelievably soft knitwear at the fairest prices possible. This brand carries super-soft cashmere sweaters for both men and women.
The scrappy Dutch brand SoGoodToWear is trying to revive traditional cashmere goat herding in Nepal. “I think if I reincarnate as an animal I would reincarnate as a goat in Nepal,” says Burger. “It was a very Buddhist approach — they were one with the goat. They would live with the goat and treat it very respectfully as a being.” Unfortunately, there are few Nepalese goats remaining and they’re ill-suited for the warming climate of current Nepal, which is more humid than in years past and can lead to moldy cashmere. Sogoodtowear imports top cashmere goats from Australia and interbreeds them with Nepalese goats. The first of these climate-resistant goats were born this summer. Right now Sogoodtowear sweaters are 8% Nepal cashmere and 92% cashmere from suppliers in Italy and China that are certified as animal-friendly. It’s aiming for 100% Nepalese cashmere sweaters in six years.