Not many of us will be surprised to hear of the fashion industry’s historically uncomfortable relationship with working rights. Fashion brands that pay a living wage can be hard to find in this shadowy sector.
Often making headlines for all the wrong reasons, fashion companies can have supply chains that are dizzyingly complex and hide heart-breaking ethical transgressions.
The fashion industry accounts for an eighth of the global workforce, employing an incredible 430 million people globally. A constant struggle of this giant of a sector is paying a living wage.
From sweatshop workers that earn less than a dollar a day, to modern slavery allegations, the fashion industry has some improvement needed.
An Industry of Underpaid Workers: LIVING WAGE VS MINIMUM WAGE
But it’s something that consumers are increasingly concerned about. A Fashion Revolution survey found that more people (39%) said that buying clothes made by workers paid a fair, living wage was important than any other issue surveyed. And a Mori survey found that 3 out of 5 people would pay more for fashion produced by workers paid a living wage.
Finding fashion brands that pay a fair wage can be difficult. This difficulty partly comes from the fact that there is no global legal, set amount for a living wage. Living wages and minimum wages are also not usually the same.
A living wage is quite simply the amount that workers and their families need to meet their basic needs, including an amount for the unexpected. See a fuller breakdown in our section on Unliveable Wages here.
A minimum wage is the lowest legal amount that employers are allowed to pay employees. Governments often keep these deliberately low in order to attract foreign business. Minimum wages are often not enough to meet employees’ basic needs and some countries have no minimum wage limits at all.
Stuck in a Poverty Cycle
Many of the people working in the garment industry, particularly in underdeveloped countries, are trapped in a cycle of low-paying work creating a barrier to breaking out of the poverty cycle.
Garment workers, particularly those working for fast fashion brands, earn an average of $147 per month but in Bangladesh the minimum wage for garment workers is 5,300 taka, just $62 a month.
The study of an annual report released by one fast fashion giant showed that not a single garment worker they worked with was paid a living wage.
On average workers in many countries earn 2-5 times less than the amount they need to provide dignity, safety, and security for themselves and their families.
The ACT Initiative for a Living Wage
Programmes such as the ACT initiative are working to make a fairer sector. Considering a variety of stakeholders, the ACT Initiative is a global framework working towards living wages in the garment sector.
Brands including Next, H&M, Primark, and Tesco have signed the initiative, however many of the signatories’ achievements in fulfilling living wage promises need significant further progress.
Fast Fashion and External Audits
While it is generally required that organisations adhere to governmental and legal requirements regarding working conditions, these can be inadequate for protecting workers.
Voluntary audits and social and accountability certifications such as those by SA8000 and Fairtrade provide greater protection. While fashion supply chains can be so complex that even these organisations can struggle, such certifications do show a company’s commitment to safe and fair working conditions.
The fast fashion sector is a common culprit for underpaying its supply chain and garment factory workers. Consistently rock bottom prices can be a good indication of worker pay abuse.
However, the issue of underpaid staff exists across the fashion sector. Looking for brands with transparency and accreditations is a good start to finding brands paying a living wage.
22 Fashion Brands that Pay a Living Wage
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1. Where Does it Come From?
Where Does it Come From? is a social enterprise that creates clothing and textiles that are ethical, versatile, and aren’t afraid to embrace some fun vibes. The British brand creates men’s women’s and kids’ styles, pairing quirky prints with classic designs to create unique looks.
The organisation guarantees a living wage throughout its supply chain and all clothes are fully traceable. Where Does it Come From? is a member of the BAFTS Fair Trade Network.
2. No Nasties
With impressive sustainable credentials and ethical practices, No Nasties are a planet positive company working to do good. The brand is based in Goa and has striking designs that maintain a classic charm while embracing some edgy vibes.
No Nasties pays a living wage at every stage of the supply chain. The organisation is vegan and lives by its commitment to making clothes that make the planet better.
Noctu produces nightwear and loungewear that ticks all the boxes for a good night’s sleep. With clever designs and quality fabrics, items are beautiful, comfortable and luxuriously soft.
Noctu is ensuring a living wage throughout its supply chain and much of the final manufacturing stage is done in the UK. Noctu also uses GOTS certified cotton, proving sustainable and ethical fashion make for the sweetest dreams.
Creating sustainable men’s shirts, Carpasus styles are elegant, practical, and effortlessly stylish. Made with high-quality materials including organic cotton and linen, every Carpasus design has a feeling of luxury.
The Swiss-based brand supports supply chains transparency and ensures workers are paid a living wage throughout the supply chain.
5. The Classic T-Shirt Company
With casual styles that maintain a classic yet relaxed feel, The Classic T-Shirt Company has t-shirts for every occasion. Whether you want something bright or monochromatic, oversized or a snug fit, this US-based label has something for you. The brand also ships internationally.
Part of a fairer fashion future, The Classic T-Shirt Company ensures a living wage across its supply chain. The brand is GOTS certified, cuts emissions by manufacturing locally, and audits its supply chains to ensure ethical standards are being upheld.
With all clothing products certified by Fairtrade International, you can be sure when shopping at Bhumi you are supporting a fairer fashion sector. Specialising in basics wear as well as bed and bath products, Bhumi has tops, bottoms, and underwear that are silky soft and practical.
The family owned Australian brand ensures a living wage throughout the supply chain and offers consumers an impressive amount of information regarding where, how, and who made their clothes.
7. People Tree
A veteran of the ethical fashion sector, UK-based People Tree has ethical women’s wear that embodies a stylish timeless appeal. Ticking all the right boxes on the sustainable and ethical fronts, the company is a fashion brand that pays a living wage, and many products are GOTS or Fairtrade International certified.
To make it even better, the brand uses non-toxic dyes and eco-friendly materials, proving you can be kind to both people and the planet.
With men’s, women’s, and children’s styles available, Swedish brand, Dedicated, is where ethical fashion meets a modern playfulness. Dedicated has everything from dresses to socks in its comprehensive range.
The brand takes an active approach to ethical fashion. It has a comprehensive Code of Conduct and ensures a living wage is paid across a significant percentage of the Dedicated supply chain.
9. Citizen Wolf
Creating superior quality, made-to-measure t-shirts, Australian brand Citizen Wolf is the ultimate place to pick up your new favourite shirt. The company uses eco-friendly fabrics and even reuses offcuts to minimise waste. They also ship worldwide.
Citizen Wolf guarantees a living wage throughout most of the supply chain, and the brand’s facilities are Ethical Clothing Australia certified.
With eco and ethical styles on offer, German brand Armedangels is the home of modern, sophisticated, and on-trend looks. The brand has designs in both men’s and women’s styles and an impressive commitment to ethical fashion.
As well as paying a living wage throughout the majority of the supply chain, Armedangels is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation.
If you are looking for some seriously stylish jeans that were made in a way that is kind to both planet and people, Kuyichi is the place for you.
The brand offers a range of trendy, high quality men’s and women’s jeans. As well as jeans, Kuyichi also has tops, skirts, dresses, and jackets. Based in the Netherlands, Kuyichi ships across Europe and the UK.
Kuyichi is working to fix the problems of the fashion system to create a brighter future for the people working in the industry. It is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. Kuyichi ensures payment of a living wage throughout most of its supply chain, and is always exploring new ways to further improve the sector.
12. Yes Friends
Specialising in minimalistic t-shirts and hoodies, Yes Friends is the home of the affordable, stylish basics we should all have. The British brand has certification from Fairtrade International and pays a living wage throughout most of its supply chain.
Looking out for the animals as well, Yes Friends has vegan products.
13. Infantium Victoria
Creating ethical clothes for the littlest eco-warriors, German-based Infantium Victoria, has a range of chic children’s wear.
The brand publishes its supplier lists and guarantees payment of a living wage in the majority of its supply chain. Infantium Victoria offers even the youngest members of the family only the most stylish ethical, and sustainable clothes.
14. Nobody’s child
Nobody’s Child strives to be as ethical and socially conscious as possible. As well as being completely transparent about where their clothes are made, they comply with ILO conventions ensuring good working conditions and living wages for “all people working for and with our brand”.
They also manage to do it at an affordable price. You can now find Nobody’s Child in Marks & Spencers and soon to be in John Lewis and Selfridges later in 2022. They specialise in beautiful dresses but you can also find denim and athleisure and their ranges extend to plus-size and children, ensuring that nobody is left out!
15. Known Supply
A fashion brand that pays a living wage, Known Supply has casual styles that are on-trend without being over the top, making them perfect for everyday wear. The certified B Corp company ensures a living wage throughout the majority of its supply chains. The US-based company ships to most countries worldwide.
Known Supply promotes employment in disadvantaged communities and is helping to create a thoughtful and impactful fashion sector.
16. Honest Basics
With men’s, kids’, and women’s styles, German brand Honest Basics specialise in, as the name may suggest, basics. The brand has versatile, everyday clothing styles that don’t lose their timeless, modern, and sleek appeal.
Clothing is produced in GOTS certified factories. Honest Basics guarantees a living wage for a significant percentage of its supply chains and offers supply chain transparency. They ship to most countries worldwide.
Stylish underwear and basics from Miakoda are comfortable and practical while still having a touch of sass.
Based in New York, clothing is made locally in New York and the company offers international shipping. All fabrics from this innovative brand are GOTS certified, or Control Union certified, meaning its styles are not only soft and comfortable but ethical too.
Miakoda fabrics are knitted in WRAP certified factories and brand representatives visit the factories to ensure ethical standards are met. Throughout the majority of the supply chain, the brand guarantees a living wage.
18. Birdsong london
The stunning Birdsong London collection is built on the pillars of ethical production, quality craftsmanship, and beautiful design. The label has versatile, eye-catching pieces with everything from slogan tees to vibrant dresses on offer.
Birdsong works to make a positive difference. The London-based organisation creates employment opportunities for women from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities. In the final stages of the production of Birdsong products, the brand guarantees a living wage.
Culthread clothes are versatile, edgy, and effortlessly cool. The brand has appeared in publications such as Marie Claire and Eluxe Magazine. London-based Culthread creates enviable designs that always stand out in the crowd and that can be shipped worldwide.
The brand has achieved the coveted ‘Great’ rating on Good on You. In the final stages of manufacturing Culthread ensures payment of a living wage, has a comprehensive code of conduct, and visits suppliers.
20. Organic Basics
Specialising in eco-friendly basics that ship worldwide, including underwear, essentials, and activewear, Organic Basics has the quality essentials we all deserve. The Danish brand guarantees living wages for at least part of its supply chain, however doesn’t provide information on the exact percentage.
When it comes to environmentally sustainable fashion, Organic Basics has a comprehensive approach and has supported projects run by WWF and Nordic Ocean Watch.
21. Lucy and Yak
Lucy and Yak designs embody a quirky, fun loving style. The UK brand isn’t afraid of a bold print and has commendable attention to detail, ensuring every garment is well made and complete with stylish features.
Lucy and Yak ensures a living wage for some of its supply chain. While it doesn’t disclose the percentage of the supply chain workers it ensures are paid at a living wage level, the brand is making positive steps towards ethical fashion.
22. Sorella Organics
The sleep and loungewear from Sorella Organics are as ethical as they are luxurious. These minimalistic styles embody a simplified luxury perfect for relaxation. With men’s, women’s, maternity, and babywear on offer, Australian-based Sorella Organics has something for the whole family.
In addition to supporting living wages, the brand promotes supply chain transparency and products are Fairtrade International certified. They ship to most countries worldwide.
A Fairer Fashion Future
It is no secret that more often than not the fashion sector has made headlines for all the wrong reasons concerning ethical production and fair wages. But the positive news is that there are organisations out there working to change the industry and create a fairer future for fashion.
Fashion brands that pay a living wage are taking an active stance against the pay abuses ingrained in the traditional fashion sector. With every purchase from an ethical fashion brand, consumers are casting a vote for a more ethical fashion industry.
Next time you are looking for a wardrobe update, help to make a fairer fashion future, because beautiful clothes should be kind to the people that made them too.
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