Ethical Fashion, Fair Trade & Ethically Made, Sustainable Fashion, Sustainable Living

How to Buy Ethical, Sustainable Jeans

How to Buy Ethical, Sustainable Jeans

Last updated May 9, 2020. 

When I first got into ethical fashion, jeans were not at the top of my shopping list. Because jeans tend to last longer than other clothing pieces, I find myself shopping for them less frequently. But since they are more of an investment piece, I try to be extra thoughtful about my purchase when I do shop for jeans. I want to find good quality, flattering jeans since I will be wearing them for years.

In this post, I’m sharing three different ways to shop ethically for jeans.  Whether you’re on a budget or have tons of money to spend, I can help! 

Consignment Stores

My absolute favorite way to shop ethically for jeans is at local consignment stores! Case in point: All of the photos in this blog post feature jeans I purchased at consignment stores.

Consignment is a sustainable way to shop because you are purchasing something that has already been made rather than creating more demand and putting additional strain on the earth’s resources. Shopping consignment also helps keep perfectly good clothing from stacking up in landfills. And, it’s much easier on your wallet than buying new.

To find high quality, well made jeans, I prefer to go to upscale consignment stores that offer designer denim. (My favorites in the Raleigh area are Fifi’s and dress.) As you’re browsing the racks, look for jeans that look close to new. These almost new jeans offer the best of both worlds: slightly broken in and not so stiff, but still look sharp and have many years left to offer.

Don’t be afraid to be choosy when denim shopping. I go home empty handed more times than not. Holding out for the perfect pair of jeans is worth it, because you want to buy a pair that you really love and will be excited to wear for many years.

How to Buy Ethical, Sustainable Jeans | Fairly Southern

Online Consignment

Shopping for consignment jeans online can be a great option, provided you know exactly what you’re looking for. You can waste a lot of money buying jeans that look great online, but may be ill-fitting on your body type once you actually try them on. And consignment purchases generally aren’t returnable, so you need to be careful.

I buy consignment jeans online only after finding a brand that I’ve tried on in person and really love. That way, I know exactly what size will fit without ever trying them on.

I recently scored an amazing deal on jeans when consignment shopping online. I already had a pair of Hudson High Waisted Barbara jeans that I bought while consignment shopping locally, and I loved the fit. When I found another pair on Poshmark that was brand new with tags, I pounced. I paid only $50 for a pair of jeans with a $185 price tag still attached. They were a guaranteed home run since I already knew they were high quality jeans and would fit me perfectly.

My favorite online avenue for consignment shopping is Poshmark. thredUP, Mercarai, and eBay are other popular options.

(You can get a $10 credit for signing up for Poshmark using invite code CUPCAKE4815. Use this link to get a $10 credit on your first thredUP order!)

How to Buy Ethical, Sustainable Jeans | Fairly Southern

Ethically Made

If you don’t have access to good local consignment stores, aren’t finding what you want at a consignment store, or prefer to buy new, there are definitely ethically made jean options out there! Below is a list of brands:

Able: Higher end denim featuring both classic and more fashion-forward cuts. Ethically made by women globally.

AG Jeans: Designer denim made under a strict ethical labor policy using production methods with a low environmental impact. Offers jeans in a variety of fun colors!

Blanche: European denim made from sustainable, chemical-free cotton using resource-efficient production techniques.

Bluer Denim: Ethically made in the USA using eco-friendly ozone laundry processes. They also have a buy one, give one business model.

Boyish: Vintage silhouette jeans made using sustainable fabrics and eco-friendly production practices.

Cheap Monday: Creates unisex and gendered jeans using sustainable materials. Transparent about their supply chain, publishing all of their suppliers on their website.

Citizens of Humanity: Pricey, made in the USA denim with a focus on reducing water consumption during the production process.

Deadwood: Small batch denim made from GOTS certified organic cotton.

Everlane. This ethical fashion powerhouse produces high quality, long lasting jeans made in ethical factories.

Grace & Lace: Affordable denim and pull-on denim jeggings. Pull on, y’all. Ethically made abroad and in the USA; proceeds benefit orphanages.

G-Star RAW: Denim that is ethically made using eco-friendly manufacturing practices with sustainable, ethically sourced materials. You can spend hours reading about all of their great initiatives on their website, and I love that they are so transparent about their manufacturing practices!

J.Crew (added 2/1/19): Our bestie and clothing giant J.Crew has added a line of Fair Trade and LEED certified eco jeans! All the praise hands!

Kowtow: Designer denim made in SA8000 certified factories using Fairtrade certified, organic cotton and GOTS certified dyes.

Kuyichi: Uses sustainable materials (organic cotton, recycled cotton and polyester, and tencel) as well as eco-friendly manufacturing practices (laser washing and ozone techniques and natural dyes). Garments are ethically made in factories that are listed and profiled on the Kuyichi website for maximum transparency.

Levi’s: Believe it or not, mega denim brand Levi’s is actually pretty forward thinking when it comes to ethical manufacturing, boasting a Better Cotton Initiative for sustainable cotton farming, a Water<Less program that aims to decrease the amount of water used in their denim production process, a special Authorized Vintage collection that features consignment and remastered consignment jeans, and a Worker Well-being initiative that invests in garment workers’ education and financial empowerment. Pretty awesome!

Madewell: This popular brand now offers Fair Trade Certified denim, including jeans, jackets, shorts, skirts, and overalls!

Monkee Genes: Organic, ethically made jeans in a variety of men’s and women’s styles.

MUD Jeans: Organic, recycled jeans with a circular business model called “Lease a Jeans.” Once you’re done with your jeans, you ship them back to MUD, and they will send you a new pair–a great model for someone who wants to be wearing the latest style but is also sustainability-minded. MUD will shred the old pair of jeans, blend the shreds with organic cotton, and turn the mixture into a new pair of jeans! (Seriously, how cool is this?? I wish this was available in the U.S.)

Nobody Denim: Luxe jeans made ethically in Australia.

Nudie Jeans: Made ethically from 100% organic cotton in all kinds of different styles. Offers free repairs!

Outland Denim: This certified B corporation employs at-risk women in Cambodia to create their denim.

Patagonia: Each pair of jeans is manufactured differently, but all use organic cotton and eco-friendly manufacturing practices, and some are Fair Trade Certified.

Raleigh Denim Workshop: Handcrafted, limited edition, made in the USA denim. Most of the denim is raw, meaning the jeans have not been pre-washed for softness. This is great for the environment, but also for ensuring they break in uniquely to your body. If you’re a North Carolina local like me, you can try on the jeans in person at their storefront in downtown Raleigh.

Reformation: Denim made with fewer chemicals and less water. They are incredibly transparent about each and every measure they take to make sure their clothing is being produced ethically and sustainably, even acknowledging areas for future growth (very remarkable!).

Source Denim: Men’s jeans made with eco-friendly materials and a less water, less energy manufacturing model.

Target: Yes, Target now offers Fair Trade Certified denim in several styles, including some plus size options!

Warp + Weft: Ethically made jeans produced in a cutting-edge, environmentally friendly facility. They even have kids’ sizes!

There you have it, fashionistas! Three great ways to purchase ethical jeans. Do you use any of these jean shopping methods? Have you tried a pair of jeans from one of the ethical brands listed above? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase a product using a link from this post. Read more here about my disclaimers/disclosures.

How to Buy Ethical, Sustainable Jeans | Fairly Southern


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