Image Credit: EILEEN FISHER
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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. Just avoid acrylic, a synthetic, fossil-fuel product.
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. As traditional items, sweaters lend themselves to artisanal origins. If not made in a workshop, look for brands that prioritize transparency and certifications like Fair Trade and SA8000. Also, look for brands that are owned by or support BIPOC designers.
Timelessness: If you choose wisely, a good sweater can last you decades. Look for brands that prioritize durability and 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:
Founded in 1984 and still helmed by Eileen herself, EILEEN FISHER is a certified B Corp that designs ethical, timeless and well-made clothes. It sells sustainably sourced sweaters that come in classic styles, including V-neck and tunic tops, made for dressing up or down. EILEEN FISHER’s sweaters come in quality materials, including recycled cashmere, cashmere blends, organic cotton and merino wool. EILEEN FISHER sources its certified organic Pima cotton in Peru, where the material is grown, spun, dyed and knit or sewn. By having this type of local supply chain, EILEEN FISHER can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. And it helps build relationships with its partners and support a local economy. EILEEN FISHER is also an advocate for circularity, which is why it has introduced several programs that further extend the lifecycle of a garment. With the Renew take-back program, customers can bring back/return old pieces, and EILEEN FISHER cleans them in an environmentally friendly way and resells them in nearly perfect condition. The brand ships to over 200 countries and offers extended sizing to give more options to more people.
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. It values the welfare of its craftsmen and women worldwide, uses sustainably produced materials, and minimizes waste as much as possible. Tradlands’ sweaters come in many styles and colors and 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.
A sustainable fashion pioneer, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans, and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco-fashion collections since 1991. Its sweaters are made of 100% wool, hand-knitted designs from artisans in Nepal and 100% organic cotton.
Founded in 2013, Theo + George designs basics that are adaptive and work well together. It uses eco-conscious fabrics like natural cotton, wool, and cashmere that come directly from herdsman from Tibet and Inner Mongolia and modal sourced from an OEKO-TEX certified supplier. Although Theo + George is committed to sustainable production, it does use synthetics in a few of its pieces, so make sure to check the materials before buying! Customers can find multiple timeless sweaters made out of cashmere.
B Corp certified Sézane is a French apparel brand that creates high-quality, timeless clothing at a fair and accessible price. You can find organic cotton, certified materials, recycled polyester and vegetable-tanned leather for the majority of its collections. 100% of Sézane’s shipping boxes are now made from recycled cardboard or are derived from sustainably-managed forests.
Stella McCartney’s eponymous label designs ethical and high-end clothing, shoes, and accessories with a responsible, honest, and modern ethos. Its sustainable and cruelty-free designs lead the brand to pioneer new alternative materials, pushing towards circularity and sustainability. Stella McCartney measures and reports its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions with an approved science-based target to reduce them. Its sweaters are all made with either recycled materials or natural materials like organic cotton, wool, and alpaca.
Amour Vert designs fashion-forward eco apparel without designer prices. Its beautiful and versatile pieces are made in limited quantities to ensure the highest production standards and eliminate any excess waste. Amour Vert also develops zero-waste designs and works directly with mills to develop its own fabrics that are sustainable, soft, and stand the test of time. 97% of Amour Vert’s products are made in California, with most within just a few miles of its San Francisco office. Its sweaters come in a variety of colors and styles and are mainly made out of organic cotton. With every purchase of an Amour Vert tee, a tree is planted in North America in partnership with American Forests. The brand is also one of the first companies to use compostable protective bags to store and ship its garments. It is also committed to only using packaging made from recycled materials and printed with soy-based inks.
A leader in sustainability for the past four decades, Patagonia carries a wide variety of high-performance sweaters made from hemp, wool, organic cotton or recycled cotton.
The Swedish brand Filippa K aims to have 100% of its styles be fully traceable and certified and reduce carbon impact annually. If you live in Europe, you can lease a Filippa K garment for four days for 20% of the price or return your old Filippa K garment to a store for recycling. 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 its customer – the modern, well-rounded, grounded woman. The brand has a beautiful and 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.
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 its works 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 materials like wool, recycled cashmere, and Lyocell.
Shaina Mote designs its versatile, timeless pieces in Los Angeles, CA. The brand is dedicated to supporting the local economy and has built a network of family-run factories and artisans who create the bulk of its collections. The knits are created by women in Lima, Peru using locally sourced alpaca wool and Peruvian Pima cotton. Shaina Mote strives to source the most responsible materials possible, opting for circular, organic, and low-impact fabrics and dyes. The packaging is entirely plastic-free and compostable.
Outerknown was started by 11-time World Surf League Champion Kelly Slater and acclaimed designer John Moore. As a brand, Outerknown is committed to transparency, working with manufacturers who abide by the Fair Labor Association’s standards and keeping a list of those suppliers right on its website. Outerknown uses eco-conscious materials like ECONYL (recycled nylon), organic cotton, and hemp, and it also gives back a portion of its profits to the Ocean Conservancy. Its sweaters come in neutral and bright colors and are mainly made of 95% recycled cashmere and 5% Merino wool.
ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by providing economic opportunities for women. The brand’s wages are transparently published on its website in order to protect the women makers and empower consumers. ABLE is a great brand for elevated, yet comfortable fashion pieces. Its sweaters are made using recycled polyester or organic cotton.
Another Tomorrow creates modern, sensual, high-quality, and timeless products with only organic natural materials that support soil health, ecosystems, and communities. It uses forest-based fibers from responsibly managed forests with zero net contribution to deforestation. Another Tomorrow’s sweaters are made of organic cotton or merino wool. The brand also offers resale to further extend its garments’ life and reduce raw material usage.
Founded in 2012, FRAME creates versatile and comfortable apparel that is inspired by London and crafted in Los Angeles. It uses a mix of post-consumer recycled materials and pre-consumer environmentally safe fabrics such as recycled polyester, organic Pima cotton, and bluesign-certified silk. Frame’s sustainable sweaters are made of organic Pima cotton and cashmere.
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.
Of course, shopping secondhand is also an excellent option when it comes to both sustainability and affordability. Check out this post for our recommendations for where to look for secondhand and vintage sweaters!