I was inspired to write this post by the impending birth of a friend’s grandchild, which I’m delighted to report arrived this week happy and healthy. He’s lucky to have one of the best grandmas (I’m sure it’ll take a while for her to get used to that title) in the world to love him! When you ask people what turned them onto sustainable living the answer very often has to do with becoming a parent. There’s something so primeval about wanting to protecting our children from all the world’s ills and nowadays the impending threat of the planet’s demise unfortunately must be counted as one of them. Therefore it’s not surprising to see how buoyant the organic cotton children’s clothing sector is, both at home and abroad.
Before I launch into listing all of the brands involved, lets pause for a moment; do you really need to buy new? Charity shops are bursting with good-quality pre-loved garments for children at a fraction of their original cost and if you only want to buy toxin-free organic fibre clothing you’ll find some items on the Facebook group Preloved Organic Kids Clothing Ireland .
For the moment my budget doesn’t allow me to limit our clothing to toxin-free organic garments and so the next most sustainable option for us is to wear second-hand clothing as much as possible. Our family are very lucky to benefit from hand-me-downs from other families. It’s a total godsend, saving us a fortune and lots of shopping time. I top up their wardrobes with items from local charity shops when I find them. Not only is this a planet positive choice, it’s also the least expensive way to cloth my children. I would estimate that 70% of my kids wardrobes are made up of pre-loved garments. I appreciate that some parents can be iffy about buying second-hand clothes for their children, but let me allay some of your fears.
If it’s hygiene then you could put a garment in the freezer overnight to kill any nasties, although I’ve been buying second-hand clothes for years now and never had a problem.
If it’s the hassle factor then I suggest limiting yourself to just one shop a week. Trust me as soon as you nab you’re first bargain you’ll be hooked. Alternatively check out pre-loved baby & toddler clothing site flopsyshop.ie or search on ebay.ie with the filter option ‘used’ ticked, remembering of course to ask for as little packaging as possible when posting. There are also tons of Facebook groups selling (or giving away) second-hand kids clothing.
If it’s the shame factor of buying second-hand then I let you in on a little secret. Everyone’s doing it! And why wouldn’t then? You get clothes in excellent condition for pennies, which allows you to spend your hard-earned cash on more enjoyable things.
If you can’t find what you need second hand then here is a list of sustainable ethical kids clothing brands to help you shop new items as sustainably as possible.
What to Look For
When I was researching sustainable ethical clothing for kids I was struck by just how much of it centred on organic cotton, but not all organic cotton is the same. If you’re going to spend the extra money for a premium product you need to ask a few questions to make sure it’s worth it.
- Is the fibre independently certified as being organically grown? It’s very easy to just label something as organic, I would only trust something certified by an independent organisation like The Soil Association or GOTS.
- Is just the fibre certified or the entire supply chain certified as organic? With the former just the fabric is certified as organic, with the latter every step along the journey of the fibre becoming a garment has been certified as organic. Obviously the latter is better, but will inevitable cost more.
- Is the garment made with 100% organic fibre or just blended with it? Remember blended fabrics aren’t currently recyclable as is the case with H&M’s organic range.
- Has the fibre been processed without the use of toxic chemicals and certified as such, i.e. Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certified?
- Has the factory that made the garment a fair and ethical certificate. Certificates in this area include Fairwear, Fairtrade USA or FloCert on behalf of Fairtrade International or they may have gained SA8000 certification for having achieved socially acceptable practices in the workplace. Fair Wear is the only organisation that states it’s a non-profit. As part of my research I learned about a split between Fairtrade USA and FairTrade International, with claims that Fairtrade USA were setting their standards to low.
- Where is the factory located? You may instinctively think that a European based factory is more sustainable but it may be more sustainable to have a garment made in the same country as the fibre is produced in, as this will save on packing materials and possibly transport emissions. I wouldn’t get too hung up on trying to work out which is more sustainable, just wanted to alert you to the fact that it’s not always obvious.
Sustainable Ethical Clothing Brands
Frank and Nora is an Irish baby and kid clothing brand that only uses GOTS certified organic cotton and Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certified dyes.
Slugs and Snails is an Irish company making tights and clothes for kids <6 years of age solely from GOTS certfied organic cotton, They state that they only use yarns and manufacturing processes which are Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 certified.
Kids in Tweed is an Irish clothing brand making clothes for children <8 years of age in Ireland from Donegal tweed.
Made by Cece is an Irish clothing brand offering clothes for women and children <10 years of age, which can be made in organic cotton.
Moobles and Toodles make bodysuits, rompers and leggings for babies in GOTS certified organic cotton in a factory in Turkey. They say that employees in the factory are paid fair wages and work in safe conditions and that a lot of the graphics are hand printed in Ireland using Eco-friendly inks.
Lost Shapes t-shirts and sweatshirts for men, women, teenagers and children are made from organic cotton, recycled fibre made from plastic bottles, organic cotton waste, or Tencel lyocell in Fair Wear certified manufacturers. They ink used by Lost Shapes does not contain CFC’s, HCFC’s, aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile solvents, lead, heavy metals or any toxic chemicals , and is suitable for vegans. And as they do not use photo emulsions for their screens they are also able to do away with the need for solvents in the cleaning process. They also provide plastic free packaging, all of which is recyclable, and most recycled.
Insane in the Rain in the UK make rain resistant jackets from recycled plastic for men, women and children <10 years of age. The recycled plastic fabric they use is called RPET, which stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or recycled PET.
We Love Frugi is a UK-based company making clothes for kids <10 years of age from organic cotton that has been certified by GOTS and the Soil Association. They donate 1% of their turnover to charity each year.
Toby Tiger is a UK organic clothing brand for babies and kids <6 years of age. No independent certification was visible on their website.
Little Green Radicals is a UK brand of clothing for babies and kids <8 years of age, made from certified Fairtrade organic cotton and free from chlorine bleach, formaldehyde or dangerous dyes. The factory they use is based in India.
Pigeon Organics is based in the UK and creates clothing for babies and kids <8 years of age from organic cotton fairly in factories in India. All but a few items are GOTS certified and their certification covers the whole supply chain, not just the fabric. On their website they list the few items that don’t have certification and why. The electricity the company uses comes from renewable sources and any ‘seconds’ (eg. garments with small printing faults) and end of season stock is donated to charities working with vulnerable babies and children. They also donate money from the sale of their greeting cards, to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
Picallily in the UK make clothing for babies and kids <4 years of age from GOTS certified organic cotton from a project called Chetna Organic, a fair trade cotton programme with a mission to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers by making their farm systems more sustainable and profitable. The Chetna farmers also own a 10% share in the factory that makes the clothes too. The company says that the workers in it’s factories receive a living wage but no independent verification of this is provided.
The Fableists is a UK brand offering GOTS certified organic cotton for kids <10 years of age, that is packaged in biodegradable PVC-free packaging, and in 100% recycled cardboard boxes. Each garment cites the certification that applies to it and any standards that apply to the factory that made it.
Based in the UK Kite Clothing for babies and kids <10 years of age is either made from certified organic cotton or recycled plastic bottles. The clothing made from recycled plastic bottles appears to be certified as not having any harmful chemicals in it, i.e. OEKO – TEK standard.
UK-based Palava make the most delightful ‘storybook’ inspired clothing for women, babies and children <10 years of age out of GOTS certified organic cotton in factories in Turkey, Romania, and Lithuania.
Tatty Bumpkin in the UK sell carbon-neutral clothing, GOTS certified organic cotton and OEKO-TEK certified bamboo clothing, fair trade toys and accessories for kids <10 years of age. The dyes they use are enzyme free. They say that they visit their factories to ensure fair working conditions and that their packaging is recyclable or from recycled materials.
La Queue du Chat is a French based children’s clothing brand offering certified organic cotton clothing for babies and kids for kids <10 years of age made in a certified factory in Umergam, Gujarat, India, a coastal town located some 150 km north of Mumbai. The whole production chain is certified FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations) and the Factory is certified SA8000 for social accountability. The company is also subsidising the rent of an orphanage in the locality of the factory and in France, they send baby & children clothes to charities that provide essential assistance to homeless mothers annually.
Armed Angels is a German brand making ethical fairtrade clothing for men, women and children <8 years of age using only sustainable materials such as organic cotton, organic linen, organic wool, recycled polyester, Lenzing Modal® and Tencel®. They have been GOTS certified since 2011 and work with Fairtrade and Fair Wear Foundation to ensure they are working to ethical standards.
Living Crafts is a German fair and certified organic clothing brand for men, women, babies and children <12 years of age from organic cotton, organic wool, organic linen or silk. Their organic textiles and are certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) along the entire manufacturing chain. They say that they also pay attention to the working conditions of the producers and to fair trade and the company is an official member of the Fair Wear Foundation.
Thokk Thokk is a German brand offering casual clothing for men, women and children <14 years of age made from organic cotton, sometimes blended with synthetic fibres. They have a Fairtrade Licence for its basic shirts and is certified as being organic by GOTS. They also offer free shipping.
Another German brand Sense Organics make Fairtrade and GOTS certified organic clothing for babies and kids <8 years of age.
Nadadelazos based in Spain offers a wide range of clothing for babies and kids <10 years of age, some of which are made from GOTS certified organic cotton. They also spend a percentage of their profits environmental non-profits and charities.
Maxomorra are a Swedish brand of clothing for babies and kids and have been a GOTS certified brand since 2012, meaning that they only use organic cotton or recycled fibres, harmless chemicals and provide safe and good working conditions in our factory and traceability throughout the entire value chain. They don’t sell directly to the public but you can buy through retailers listed below.
Morromini are based in Sweden and provide organic cotton clothing for women, babies and kids <8 years of age made in Tirupur, India. Their entire production is certified by GOTS.
Duns Sweden makes it’s GOTS certified organic cotton clothing for women, babies and children <14 years of age, in India.
Another Swedish organic cotton clothing brand is JNY for babies and kids <8 years of age. They organic cotton they use is certified by GOTS and OEKO -TEX.
Modeerska Huset in Sweden has their GOTS certified organic cotton clothing for babies and kids <10 years of age exclusively made in Ismir in Turkey. They state that the colours and dyes they use in their clothing are also as environmentally friendly as possible.
Mini Rodini in Sweden make kids clothing from Fairtrade organic cotton, Model, Tencel and recycled fabric. All of their garments comply with the OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 for harmful substances, the organic fabric they use is GOTS certified, their blended fabric is OCS certified, their recycled fabric is GRS certified and their wood based fibre is FSC certified. They say they’re committed to pay staff in their factories a living wage by 2021. They publish a report on their sustainability efforts every year.
Froy and Dind in Belgium only use sustainable materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, tencel and recycled PES to make their clothing for men, women, babies and kids <14 years of age. Most of their organic cotton is GOTS certified and all their clothing is produced in Turkey and Portugal. They don’t sell directly to the public but you can buy their garments through the online retailer Faam.
Alba of Denmark is a kids clothing brands providing certified organic clothing for babies and kids <12 years of age, sometimes blended with other fibres like polyester. They state that the factories they use are run fairly and provide information on the standards achieved by the factories they use here.
Smalfolk in Denmark offers clothing for babies and <12 years of age made with organic cotton, blended with other fibres. They state that they use organic cotton and that most of their garments are OEKO – TEX certified but there is no sign of independent certification the organic cotton they use.
Another Danish brand Serendipity Organics creates clothing for women, babies and kids <11 years of age from GOTS certified organic cotton and alpaca wool. Apart from one garment the manufacture of their products is also fully GOTS certified. This means the entire production process from cotton growth and spinning to finished production live up to the standards set forward in Global Organic Textile Standards. Furthermore, all cotton garments are Fair Trade certified (SA 8000) and their cotton suppliers are also Flo-Cert certified. Although not certified as organic the alpaca wool they use comes from baby alpaca’s raised in the Andes in Bolivia. All buttons are made from either seashell, coconut or taugua nut and their zippers and poppers are nickel free and YKK approved. Their garments are made where their organic cotton is grown thus avoiding excess transportation. Also their alpaca and ilama wool is spun by small groups of women by hand in cottage industries in Bolivia.
The only clothing brand for men, women, babies and kids <14 years of age that didn’t exclusively use organic cotton is Patagonia, who in addition to organic cotton also offer clothing made from recycled soda bottles. All of which are printed with PVC- and phthalate-free inks. Their fleece garments are Fairtrade certified and they state that they work with factories and mills to ensure ethical work-practices, good working conditions and processes that are less harmful to the environment. The company also gives 1% of their sales to support environmental organizations around the world and they offer a repair service in the US and have teamed up with iFixit to create care and repair guides so customers can repair themselves.
The following are online retailers of organic kids clothing from various brands
- Kotoneco (Ireland) stocks brands Duns Sweden, JNY, Froy and Dind, Nadadelazos, Modeerska Huset, Albababy and Smafolk Denmark. The owner of this company also runs the Facebook group Preloved Organic Kids Clothing Ireland
- Rainbow Kids (Ireland) sells brands including Maxomorra, Toby Tiger, Little Green Radicals, Pigeon Organics, Alba, Livie and Luca, amongst others.
- The Mermaids Purse (Ireland) sells brands Maxomorra, Moromini, Duns of Sweden, Forever is a Second and Slugs and Snails.
- Baby Chic (Ireland) sells Maxomorra, Picalilly, JNY, Blade & Rose and Funky Giraffe.
- The Green Rainbow (Ireland) sells Forever is on Second, Moromini, Naperonuttu, Slugs and Snails, Raspberry Republic, Duns Sweden, JNY and Maxomorra.
- The Cotton Drawer (Ireland) sells JNY, Pigeon Organics and Smafolk,
- Fluffy Bums (Ireland) sell brands JNY, Pigeon, Moobles and Toobles, and Smafolk.
- The Little Wooden Peg (Ireland< age 8) sells brands Little Cotton, Bien a Bien, Guno, Mabli, Nellie Quats and Condor.
- Little Barn (Ireland < age 7) stocks Little Hedonist, iglo + indi, I dig denim, Little Man Happy and Loudly DK.
- The Ethical Market (UK) is an online retailer for sustainable ethical crafters. Good spot for something unique.
- Bapipur (UK) sell Frugi, Maxomorra, Picalilly, DUNS of Sweden, Kite and JNY
- Boobalou (UK) sells a few items from Maxomorra and DUNS of Sweden.
- Funky Monkey (UK) sells clothing from Blade and Rose, JNY, Frugy, Kite, Maxomorra, Picalilly
- The Natural Store (UK) sells Picalilly, Supernatural Kids, Tatty Bumpkin, Kite and Red Urchin
- Yes bebe (UK) stock Kite, DUNS Sweden, JNY, Little Green Radicals, The Little Green Sheep, Maxomorra, Picalilly, Slugs and Snails, Smafolk, Toby Tiger, Polly Pony
- The Natural Collection (UK) sell Frugi, Fableists, Kite, Marzipants, Pigeon Organic, Rider and Sense Organics.
- The Ethical Superstore (UK) sell Frugi, Fableists, Kite, Marzipants, Pigeon Organic, Rider and Sense Organics.