The Best Brands for Sustainable, Ethical, and Cozy Sweaters
- by EcoCult Staff
- Sep 28, 2022
Image credit: Toad & Co
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Sweater season is—finally—almost upon us. If your cold-weather closet is lacking long-lasting pullovers and cardigans that fit your current style, it’s time to revamp your wardrobe with timeless and long-lasting pieces.
The brands on this list are bursting with versatile and gorgeous sweaters that are designed to keep you warm and comfortable for life.
Before you buy, let us walk you through our criteria for a good, eco-friendly sweater:
Natural Fibers: When shopping for sweaters, be discerning with the fabrics you choose. Avoid cheap sweaters made with acrylic fibers. Not only does acrylic retain odor, but it also takes a major toll on the environment—both in the energy it takes to create it and the decades it takes to decompose. Look for brands that use high-quality, natural materials such as organic cotton, cashmere, alpaca, yak, merino wool, and Tencel. Sweaters made of these materials will be safer, more breathable, and stay comfortable for years to come (with proper care, of course.)
Fair Labor: It’s important to know where the material in your sweater was sourced and how it was made. Look for brands that map their supply chains and are forthcoming about their labor practices and that have certifications such as Fair Trade USA and The Fair Wear Foundation.
Responsible Care: A good sweater should last you for years, not a single season. In addition to buying pieces made of natural fibers, take proper care of them. Avoid dry-clean-only sweaters, as the chemical solvents used in this process have negative health effects and cause environmental hazards. Wool sweaters can be worn longer between washes because of their natural resistance to odor, so just hang it up to air out before you put it away. Spot cleaning stains is fine! When it does come time to clean them, avoid detergents with protease enzymes, which can cause irreversible damage to wool.
Pre-loved Platform: Some brands host second-hand marketplaces for their customers to buy and sell their garments on. If you’re in the market for a great sweater and are looking to save some money, this may be the perfect option for you. It’s like thrift shopping directly from a brand that you know makes pieces that will last.
Responsible Packaging: You can avoid throwing away a lot of plastic packaging waste by shopping from brands that use recyclable, reusable, or compostable mailers and garment bags.
Non-Toxic Dyes and Finishes: A recent study examined shredded fabrics bound for recycling and found all wool samples contained some sort of NPEO, an endocrine disruptor that can mess with your hormones, and commonly tested positive for chromium, a toxic heavy metal. To avoid these unsafe toxins, heavy metals, and endocrine disrupters widely used in wool processing and dyeing, buy from brands that only use natural and organic dyes or are OEKO-TEX or GOTS-certified.
PAKA makes incredibly warm sweaters from locally-sourced alpaca wool in the Peruvian Andes. This material makes its collection of sweaters and hoodies odor-resistant, moisture-wicking, and soft yet durable. Each product is hand-made by women artisans with all OEKO-TEX certified materials and organic dyes. The brand uses completely biodegradable and compostable packaging.
Toad & Co
Toad & Co’s sweaters come in a variety of fun and flattering designs, including cardigans. It uses OEKO-TEX-approved fabrics such as wool and recycled blends for a breathable and comfortable fit. The brand also offers closet “clean-out” kits for those who want to sustainably get rid of their clothes and sends its orders in reusable mailers. Just note that some sweaters must be hand washed—which is way better than “dry clean only”!
Tradlands crafts small batches of cotton cardigans and alpaca sweaters. Its selection is sourced and manufactured in Peru and is designed to combat fast fashion through versatility and a low cost per wear. It includes a variety of necklines in classic colors that are easy to match with both fall and early spring outfits. The brand uses 100% compostable garment bags and hosts a platform where you can buy and sell pre-loved Tradland pieces.
This WOC-owned brand designs colorful and ethical basics inspired by old-school skate culture. It’s based in Los Angeles, where it fulfills all of its orders in recycled paper mailers and compostable bags. BackBeat uses recycled and sustainably farmed fabrics such as hemp, GOTS-certified organic cotton, and Tencel. The brand offers sweaters, sweatshirts, thermal tops, and cardigans in a variety of bright color palettes and patterns.
Patagonia offers recycled wool and cashmere sweaters in several versatile styles. They’re neutrally colored, easy to match, and designed to last a lifetime. 85% of the brand’s line is Fair Trade Certified. The durable pullovers are made of organic cotton and recycled materials. Its suppliers are located in Vietnam, India, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Columbia, Mexico, and the U.S.
Christy Dawn has a selection of beautifully classic sweaters designed to keep you warm in every season of your life. They’re made from organic cotton and alpaca wool that’s sourced and organically dyed in India. The brand maintains a short supply chain in which every member of the team plays a direct role in manufacturing. Make sure you check the washing directions, as some are hand washable while others are dry clean only.
Outerknown has a collection of cashmere and organic (and traceable) cotton crews, cardigans, and hoodies in warm colors. It partners with the Fair Labor Association and the Textile Exchange to ensure adequate conditions and wages for workers. The brand also has a platform where you can buy and sell your pre-loved Outerknown clothing. Its suppliers are located in Portugal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Peru, Morocco, China, and the U.S.
This queer and women-led brand requires its suppliers to sign a sustainability commitment to ensure ethical and fair trade manufacturing. Its sweaters are made of Tencel-based biofleece, recycled bottles, recycled cashmere, and merino wool. They’re machine washable, lightweight, and designed to be cozy without being too hot. This breathability, combined with the neutral color selection, makes ADAY’s sweaters perfect for every season. The brand’s suppliers are located in Portugal, China, Turkey, and the U.S.
The Knotty Ones
The Knotty Ones is a Lithuanian-based sweater brand founded in 2011 by three best friends. It employs over 70 female Lithuanian artisans and partners with local women-run factories that ensure living wages and safe working conditions. The brand draws inspiration from its pagan roots and Baltic heritage to create warm and gorgeous small-batch sweaters. Its cruelty and plastic-free yarns are dyed with OEKO-TEX® non-toxic certified dyes, and all of its products come in compostable packaging.
Filippa K offers a selection of neutral-colored sweaters in a variety of unique cuts, including crops, shrugs, and funnel necks. They’re made of fully traceable and naturally-dyed Swedish wool, merino wool, yak wool, and cashmere. The details of each garment’s manufacturing history are available on every product page. It’s a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, which performs routine factory audits and performance check-ups. The brand also has a preowned section where its community can buy and sell second-hand Filippa K pieces.
ABLE is a women-led brand that makes organic cotton and recycled polyester sweaters. It offers both classic and patterned options such as striped pullovers and cardigans in several lengths. They’re designed with longevity in mind, and the brand will even allow you to exchange sizes (on select sweaters) any time after your purchase. Its suppliers and manufacturers are located in Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Portugal, and Tennessee.
This brand hosts a huge collection of sweaters in a variety of lovely colors, patterns, and prints made with organic cotton and merino wool. Its manufacturing takes place in California in limited runs to ensure fair labor and minimize waste. Amour Vert directly partners with mills to develop sustainable specialty fabrics made of traceable raw materials. The brand uses compostable garment bags, recycled materials, and soy-based inks in its packaging. It also has an online resale marketplace where you can buy and sell pre-loved Amour Vert pieces.
Stella McCartney is a vegetarian company that frequently audits its supply chain and always visits its suppliers before agreeing to work with them. Its sweater collection includes textured jumpers, cable knit pieces, and ribbed knit styles made of organic cotton, recycled cashmere, and 100% sustainable viscose. The majority of its eye-catching knitwear is made in Italy, but not that it is dry clean only.
Madewell offers a selection of sweaters in muted colors and styles you can easily dress up or down. They’re made from recycled and sustainably-sourced cotton, Tencel, and recycled plastic. The brand partners with Fair Trade USA, and its second-hand platform, Madewell Forever, allows its customers to sell or buy used Madewell clothing.
This made-to-order vegan brand creates gorgeous sweaters out of recycled wool, organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled synthetics. All of its garments are designed and manufactured in the brand’s birthplace of Slovenia. It maintains close relationships with its production partners and frequently visits them to ensure safe working environments.
Baukjen is a London-based brand that uses a mix of natural, bio-based, and recycled materials to create its extensive collection of women’s fashion. The Certified B Corp has its own pre-loved platform and rental program for multiple ways to shop. Each product features a list of sustainable attributes such as ethically made and natural materials. Its tier one suppliers are held to its code of conduct through regular third-party audits, and its packaging is recyclable and biodegradable.
Jyoti Fair Works
This German-Indian fashion label works closely with small stitching workshops and family-owned factories to design timeless and long-lasting clothing and accessories. It only uses GOTS-certified organic cotton to create its limited biannual collections. The brand features each member of its manufacturing partners on its website to show transparency throughout its supply chain, and ensures adaptable hours for working parents.
This Fair Wear brand began by collaborating with organic Peruvian cotton farmers. It makes classic sweaters with organic cotton and hemp. Each product page shares the details of where it was made, and what certifications, such as GOTS and Oeko-Tex, it carries. It shares all of its suppliers and manufacturers on its website, many of which are routinely audited by the Fair Wear foundation.
This American brand takes inspiration from skate, surf, and music cultures to make comfortable and cool modern menswear. It uses wool from Scotland, England, Australia, and cotton from Portugal, and the US, as well as Italian alpaca blends. Its collection of quality garments includes loungewear, shoes, sweaters, and even DIY suiting.
Armed Angels uses recycled materials, organic cotton, and RWS and GOTS-certified wool from suppliers that meet its own animal welfare guidelines. Its manufacturers use dyes permitted under GOTS, and apply manufacturing techniques that minimize fabric waste. It offers repair tutorials on its website to extend the life of your clothing and also offers a discount on your next purchase when you send in your old clothes.
Veneka is a capsule wardrobe-based fashion platform created by designer Shivika Sinha to make getting dressed simple and sustainable without sacrificing style. You can pick out your own pieces, or ask assistance from a personal stylist. It curates its selection from Fair Trade-certified or transparent garments made out of organic, biodegradable, or recycled materials.
This Danish luxury brand designs minimalist looks handcrafted by artisans. Its certifications include bluesign, GOTS, and Oeko-Tex. Its fabrics include recycled, natural, and bio-based materials, and it sends its deadstock fabric to a re-spinning mill in Java, Indonesia. Its supplier code of conduct, as well as detailed lists of manufacturers, are available on its website. The brand works with a family business in Bali that specialize in natural plant dying techniques.