13 Fair Trade and Eco Friendly Denim Brands You Should Know Exist

Staff Guide | August 2016

Eco Friendly, and Fair Trade Jeans

We live our lives in denim. A good pair blends fashion and function to capture a chapter of our lives in a way that not much else can. That's why when we went on a search for ethical denim brands, we looked for brands that are bringing ethics and quality together to revolt against the trends of fast fashion and irresponsible production.

These 13 denim brands are pushing the limits of eco friendly manufacturing, they're asking tough questions about their supply chains and building products that last. If you’re on the search for your new favorite denim brand, you might also want to check out The 10 Best USA Denim Brands of 2016.


#1. G-Star RAW

Ethics | Organic and Recycled, Fair Wages, Give Back
Location | Amsterdam, Netherlands
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s and Men’s
Starting At | $150

G-Star denim is anything but traditional. They bring luxury and irreverence together to make pieces that will stand out on the street. Their design credibility has earned the brand collaborations with celebs like Afrojack and Liv Tyler but it’s their relentless commitment to ethics that puts them on this list. G-Star uses organic and recycled cotton along with recycled water bottles and Tencel® in order to minimize their impact on the planet. They back this up by publishing the names and locations of each of their manufacturing partners. G-Star also launched the GSRD Foundation in 2007 to support education and entrepreneurship in communities where their products are made.


#2. DL1961

Ethics | Eco Friendly Fabrication and Materials
Location | New York, New York
Where to Buy | Online and In Store Internationally
Design | Women’s and Men’s
Starting At | $178

DL1961 has brought national attention to ethical denim through their recent collaboration with Honest Company co-founder Jessica Alba. The brand uses innovative eco friendly fibers in their line of men’s and women’s denim and has reduced water, dye and energy use by 50%. Their pieces incorporate TENCEL® & ProModal®  to increase the durability and sustainability. DL1961 has an undeniable pulse on chic denim fashion and their designs are bringing ethical innovation into the spotlight. For that, they get two thumbs up from our team at The Good Trade.

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#3. MUD Jeans

Ethics | Fair Trade, B Corp, Recycled Products
Location | Utrecht, Holland
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | Lease From €7,50 Per Month, Buy Outright From €98

Fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world. In 2013 MUD Jeans launched with an idea that takes this issue head on. MUD Jeans are building on an innovative concept where jeans are leased instead of purchased. The customer pays a monthly membership for a pair of denim that is intended to last one year. At the end of that period, the consumer can choose to keep their jeans for another 4 months or return them in trade for a new pair. The model allows MUD to fully recycle the material and give it new life in another pair of denim. It's a bold new concept that fits brilliantly in our growing shared and ethics driven economy.

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#4. Kyuchi

Ethics | Fair Trade, Organic, Eco Friendly
Location | Amsterdam, Netherlands
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | €110.00

Kuyichi introduced the first pair of organic denim onto the market in 2001 and they’ve been leading the industry in ethics and transparency ever since. Kuyichi works directly with farmers who supply their organic cotton, and even encourage them to become shareholders in the company. In addition to their organic cotton, Kuyichi uses sustainable materials like recycled cotton and polyester from discarded water bottles. The brand was founded on the idea that socially responsible work conditions and environmental considerations aren't just trends, but a way of the future. They’ve been doubling down on that belief ever since.

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#5. Nudie

Ethics | Organic, Fair Trade, Recycle Program
Location | Göteborg Sweden
Where to Buy | Online, Retail Globally
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | $165

Nudie Jeans doesn't widely advertise their Fair Trade and Organic practices but they've quietly become a leader in ethical fashion. Their denim is about as cool as it gets and they match their modern look with modern ethics. They report the origination and the organic contents of every pair of denim they sell. Nudie also doubles down on the principles of quality over quantity by making durable and lasting denim that means less waste and more value in the long run.

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#6. Monkee

Ethics | Organic, Made in England
Location | Derbyshire, UK
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | £60

Monkee Genes has set their brand apart by taking issues of fair trade and child labor head on. They’ve rallied their customers around the mantra No Blood, No Sweat, No Tears and every pair of their denim is sold with a tag that reads, "Everyone involved in the garment has been paid a decent living wage." This unabashed commitment to ethics is paired with a renegade style that brings a range of colors styles and fabrics to their denim palette. When you shop Monkee Genes, get ready for a reboot on convention.

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#7. Howie’s

Ethics | Organic, Made to Last, 1% For Planet
Location | Madrid, Spain
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | $110

Howies is a UK based, active clothing company. Their shop features a range of products from bike wear to sweaters and denim. The promise that Howie's uses to bring it all together is sustainable quality. Their denim is triple stitched instead of double, the waist band isn't bleached, the cotton is organic and that's just the start. Howie's has actually gotten some attention for some innovative technologies that they put in their clothes to make them rain resistant (something that proves useful during London winters). All in all, these guys have a pulse on quality and they are stitching sustainability through every product they sell.

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#8. AG Jeans

Ethics | Ozone Technology, Sustainable Fibers, Give Back
Location | Amsterdam, Netherlands
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | $178

AG Jeans was launched in 2000 as a brand for the denim obsessed and while they’ve since expanded to create a full lifestyle line, they’ve never forgotten their denim roots. Their line offers a solid range of fits and wears for both men and women and is one of the most comprehensive ethical collections we’ve found. AG makes all of their denim in vertically integrated facilities which gives them the ability to control their impact on people and planet. Their production utilizes sustainable fibers including Tencel® and Modal® and they’ve decreased their water consumption by 50 percent using Ozone Technology.

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#9. Nau

Ethics | Give Back, Organic Denim, Monitored Manufacturing
Location | Portland, United States
Where to Buy | Online, In Person in Oregon
Design | Men’s
Starting At | $160

Nau has put sustainability into their value proposition since day one. Their production process is closely monitored and their denim uses 98% organic materials. The brand is what you might expect from the northwest, understated style built for outdoor adventure. Nau backs up their mission statement to do good by donating 2% of sales to supporting environmental leadership education.

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#10. Buck Mason

Ethics | USA Made
Location | Los Angeles, United States
Where to Buy | Online, In Store in Echo Park or Abbot Kinney
Design | Men’s
Starting At | $135

Buck Mason was founded by Erik Schnakenberg and Sasha Koehn with the ideals of American Made quality at its heart. Their selvage denim is sourced from mills in North Carolina and their style ignores fashion trends while doubling down on timeless design and durability. What we love about Buck Mason’s designs is the simplicity. Their denim is made on a shuttle loom which gives the denim a weight and durability that sets it apart. After the raw materials are created the product is constructed in LA where the details are set in order. Buck Mason’s quality sourcing and manufacturing are all standout and for that they get our vote as one of the best American Made denim choices on the market.

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#11. IOU

Ethics | Artisan Made, Profit Sharing, Transparent Manufacturing
Location | Madrid, Spain
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | $110

The IOU Project is pushing the boundaries of transparent fashion by putting consumers as close as possible to the craftswomen and craftsmen who make their clothes. The concept is brilliantly simple but virtually unheard of. When you purchase a pair of denim online, you receive a tracking code where you can read the full story of your jeans. IOU allows you to read about the origin of the fabric, the craftsman who turn that fabric into denim and the design story behind each piece. This level of artisan involvement means that each pair of denim has unique character and a far higher percentage of the revenue goes directly back to the craftsman and designer.

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#12. Baldwin

Ethics | American Made
Location | Kansas City, United States
Where to Buy | Online, In Store in Kansas City or At Retailers Nationwide
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | $198

Since its 2009 brand launch, Baldwin Denim has made a distinct impression on the fashion world with both their men's and women’s designs. Husband and wife duo, Matt and Emily Baldwin, have earned top marks from GQ and Vogue and their designs have become regular staples for JZ, Ellen Degeneres and Jason Sudeikis. While Baldwin sources top of the line Japanese raw materials, their design and construction are a collaboration between teams in Kansas City and Los Angeles. Baldwin's quality, ethics and style make it a regular staple of the team here at The Good Trade.   

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#13. Bluer Denim

Ethics | American Made, Fair Labor, Give Back
Location | Portland, OR
Where to Buy | Online
Design | Women’s & Men’s
Starting At | $95

Bluer Denim is Designed in Portland using cotton grown in Georgia. Their denim is milled in North Carolina, rivets and zippers forged in Kentucky, and final products are cut, sewn, washed and hand-finished in Los Angeles using eco-friendly ozone laundry processes. All of this makes Bluer a standout option for quality 100% American Made denim. What really gets our attention is their innovative 1 for 1 give back model. For every pair of jeans you purchase, Bluer will buy back your used pair for $5, refurbish them and deliver them to someone who really needs them. We love this simple model of waste reduction and community care.

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