The Ups and Downs of Ethical Fashion over the last 10 years October 16, 2015 15:45

Ethics Girls started in June 2007 and it seems both so long ago and like it was just a week ago.  It's been over 10 years of up and downs for us with most of the time getting your head down and trying to survive.  Just occasionally you hear some news that takes you away from thinking about yourself and you are drawn into looking back at what has happened  over the few years to the UK ethical fashion market.  

The news that really threw me just recently was the closure of "Who Made Your Pants?"  - a truly inspiring social enterprise and co-operative based in Southhampton.  Becky is the founder and we met fairly early on in our start up stages as we were both setting up co-operatives and both looking at the enormous cliff edge that faces everyone in the first phase of a start up.  Becky had a fantastic idea - using fashion textile off-cuts to make pants, made in the UK by women primarily refugees who would get training and support to enrich their working lives here in the UK.  Even in the title of the company, the "Who" idea stressed the importance of bringing transparency into a fashion industry made up of many brands and companies that outsource their manufacturing work, where it is easy to neglect the direct responsibilities of the workers and the environmental impacts of making a product.

After initially reflecting on how hard it is to make your own way in the fashion industry, my thoughts wander to all the other companies and brands that have gone by the wayside since we started our journey.   Ethics Girls listed quite a few of these brands in our early days, helping to promote their news and new products as each season went by.  

We still have product photos on file so I decided to repost some here to re-stamp them back into our minds.  If we think the fashion industry is tough, then try adding extra costs for fair working pay, good working conditions, transparent supply chains, low environmental impacts for the materials AND striking a good and popular style and range of clothes for every season - it's a real tall order for anyone and few brands have managed to keep their heads above water over the decades.

So here we are tipping our hat to those of you who opened as an ethical business, only to eventually close up shop.  We thank you for being around and congratulate you for taking that difficult decision to come to an end - it's a brave person who stops and moves on :)

Here are just a few of the products and brands that have closed down over the last 10 years.


 clockwise from top left: BoBelleLondon (eelskin handbags & accessories), Frank & Faith (womenswear brand - organic and bamboo), Life's not Fair (Fairtrade lingerie), Where - women's shoes, Plush Chocolates (Fairtrade chocolate), Ascension (formally (ethical fashion online retailer), Regenerate (ethical tees), Miksani (ethical womenswear brand) and Who Made Your Pants? (eco pants).



Fresh Off the Rails - People Tree 2015 September 05, 2015 18:49

As we wave good bye to the summer, its time to get organising for those special carefully selected purchases of the new season.

Browsing the People Tree collection had some great finds, especially thanks to the cute animal themes and the odd nod to those infamous Scandie drama jumpers :)



This is cute little dress with a beautiful owl print - the Claudia Owl Dress - coming in yellow & teal at £60. Made in 100% certified organic jersey.  Made in India, by Assisi Garments, a social enterprise.








What a superb doodle dog :) the Doodle Dog Sweatshirt - £60. Organic cotton and embroidered gold design. Again made by Assisi, in India.








We are not forgetting the cats :)  This is the happy cat tee - short sleeved and with a choice of pink or eco white - for £30.  The grey is a longer length and is £36.  All are made from organic cotton and made by Assisi Garments.

The Francesa Fairilse Jumper, 100% wool for £120.  Part of a striking fairisle range which includes a cape.

Made by KTS in Nepal. KTS employs 2,500 artisans who produce a collection of hand knitted and embroidered cardigans, jumpers, hats, gloves and scarves for People Tree.

Good luck with your Autumn/Winter 2015 choices :)  may they be loved and live well in your wardrobe for years to come :) 

 Check out this video about Assisi Garments :)





Shop for your Shape by Ruth Rosselson - an archived blog from 2010 August 02, 2015 12:44

Fed up of ordering the wrong size, Ruth Rosselson looks at the different sizing of the ethical fashion labels to make online shopping easier.

Over the past decade, there’s been a profusion of TV shows celebrating women’s bodies and encouraging us to dress for, and to celebrate, our shape. We are more aware than ever that women’s bodies are not homogenous, not just in terms of what size we are, but where we carry our fat – or if we have any fat at all.

When it comes to buying clothes, our experience of shopping and trying on clothes mean that most women are aware of what sizes we take in which high street shop and which labels are more likely to flatter our shape. Where we might take fit a 14 with one label, we know that we’re a 12 elsewhere, and might even be a 16 somewhere else. This is because there is still no standard when it comes to dress sizes.

When it comes to ethical fashion, things become a little trickier because many of the ethical fashion companies do most of their business online. Trying on a top in three different sizes is not an option unless you don’t mind ordering (and paying for) more clothes than you’re going to end up owning, and sending most of them back, often at your own expense. Unfortunately, just like the high street, the ethical fashion labels also have different measurements to each other for their sizing. No two labels that I looked at had the same sizing as each other, and all had slightly different waist to hip and waist to breast ratios.

Speaking to the designers themselves, it’s clear that there are a number of issues at play. Firstly, many designers seem to be designing for themselves in terms of the shape they’re designing for. Katie from Miksani confesses that she starts her collections by designing a size 10 to fit herself. “I’m a size ten, but I’m six foot with no real chest to speak of” she says. Likewise, Bibico’s founder and designer Snow says “You design a little bit in the image of yourself. In my mind, I’m designing for someone who’s relatively slim; a more athletic shape”. 

Zoe Robinson runs Thinkstyle (, a personal style and image consultancy specialising in ethical fashion. She explains that most of the ethical clothing designers are designing for their peers and so are aiming their ranges at women in their twenties and thirties. Yet, most of the ethical clothing market actually comes from women in their 40s and older. “But nobody’s really designing for that age range” says Zoe.

When it comes to making clothes in a multitude of sizes, because the ethical labels are much smaller businesses than their cousins on the high street, they are at a huge disadvantage. As Anya at Frank and Faith explains, “it’s tricky because you can’t do small orders. In fact, we had to reduce our sizes by making our clothes in dual sizes”. Katie at Miksani agrees. “It’s just not cost effective for us to introduce bigger sizes if we’re not selling enough”. Bibico sell their clothes across Europe and admit that the different shapes of women’s bodies across the continent does pose a problem for the label. “It definitely makes our life more complicated”, says Snow. “But we can’t make different patterns for all the different markets. My suppliers would go crazy.”

However, the labels are all still evolving. “They want to sell their clothes” says Zoe, “and so they’re listening to customer feedback”. Antony Waller from People Tree admits that that sizing and fit was a real issue when the label was establishing itself. “We spent time and money getting sizes closer to the ones that our clients wanted and this evolved over the space of about two years.” Snow agrees that there’s still work to be done with Bibico. “I think there’s room to work on sizes” she says “and that’ll be the evolution of our label.” Looking ahead, Miksani will also be aiming its range at a slightly older age group, and as a result, sleeve and skirt/dress lengths will be longer. Katie also hopes the label can afford to expand into bigger sizes in the future.

When it comes to dressing for your shape, Zoe advises you not to rule out a label just because of its statistics. “Instead, look at the kind of fabric and cut of the garment as well. Think about what you want the garment for and what you want it to do. Look at how fitted a garment is supposed to be worn – if it’s jersey or a floaty fabric, it’s much less of an issue than if it’s fitted with no leeway.” Anya at Faith & Faith also advises against looking too hard at sizing and looking instead at different shapes of clothing. “Swing-shapes are ideal for bottom heavy women” she advises “and ruched tops great for bingo wings”.

For those who want to know more about the sizing of the different labels, Ethicsgirls looked at the different measurements (displayed on brand websites) and the waist to breast, and waist to hip ratios of ethical fashion ranges.

Across the ranges here’s a summary of our exclusive research:

  • Every single brand differed in terms of the exact measurements of its sizing.
  • The ratios differed between brands, and between the sizes.
  • None of the brands had the same sizing or ratios as the high street brands looked at.
  • The waist to breast/hip ratio show that People Tree and Outsider are best for hourglass figures; their sizing has a narrower waist, but generally larger hip and breast measurements than the other brands.
  • Asquith is also good for hourglass figures, with the largest hip to waist ratios of the lot.
  • Frank & Faith and Urban Buzz are best for flatter/tube shapes; they both have the smallest bust/hip to waist ratios. Uban Buzz sizing is slightly bigger than Frank & Faith.
  • Gossypium has the smallest sizing and is good for pear shapes; busts are flatter and hips wider.
  • Bibico is also good for pear shapes and have slightly bigger sizing than Gossypium.
  • Eva Grant could be good for apple shaped women and top heavy women. The brand has the largest bust sizes of all the brands looked at and also the widest waists.


We are posting some of our archived blog posts, partly to see how ethical fashion has grown and changed since 2007.  Since writing this post Frank & Faith has ceased trading.

Project Transfer in Leeds - 6th & 7th February 2015 February 08, 2015 18:12

Last weekend was a fantastic idea for a pop up idea - Project Transfer.  This was a joint project aimed at helping shoppers think more about their shopping habits. This event involved a pop up tee shirt factory in the shopping mall, Trinity Leeds.

The shoppers were asked a series of questions and from their answers, this will inform the design of their tee shirt. They were able to see who their tee shirt was made as a group of skilled makers and machinists get to work making a tee shirt.Each garment will be a unique money can’t buy item to their exact specifications. Each shopper to visit the exhibition will be invited to be photographed for the project and asked what shopping and style means to them. 

TRANSFER, a joint initiative between the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, UAL the University of Sheffield (UoS) and funded by the ESRC,

Check out what happened on the day -  all the action can be found on Twitter: #ProjectTransfer #MyTshirtSpeaks @ProjectTRANSFER.