While sustainability and shopping can seem slightly counterintuitive, you’ll be glad to know that it is possible to get an entirely new wardrobe from New Zealand fashion labels while still being able to consider the environment.
Of course, we’d still recommend buying thrift or vintage whenever possible, as this is still the best way to “slow down” fashion.
New Zealand imports an estimated 380,000 tonnes of textile each year, with over half in landfills. The decomposing textile produces greenhouse gas emissions, with synthetic fibres and blended clothing making up the majority of fast fashion.
In 2020, a study found that 87 per cent of microplastics pollute Auckland’s waterways and come from synthetic fibres from discarded clothing.
Thankfully, New Zealand is home to incredibly ethical fashion companies. Aside from its rich grandeur of landscapes and wildlife, the nation has always put sustainability at the forefront of its culture and businesses.
If you’re looking for amazing, sustainable, and chic fashion brands in New Zealand, here are a couple down below that are both progressive and fashion-forward at the same time.
Sustainable clothing brands to discover in New Zealand
Values: Ethical, Fair Trade, Organic, Inclusive, Fair wage and treatment.
Price Range: NZ$22 – 219
The Mane, an acronym for Made At No Expense, Project designs garments using organic textile such as 100 per cent cotton with a blend of 5 per cent Spandex to give the cotton’ memory’.
The brand manufactures all its clothing from its partner companies in India, where it ensures that all employees are treated fairly.
According to the company, the brand is working towards using 100 per cent recycled Spandex to support its sustainability initiatives further.
Values: Organic, Natural, Ethical, Local.
Price Range: NZ$25 – 389.
Rachel Mills is a sustainable brand that fulfils its entire operations in-house, from cutting, sewing, pressing, packing, and shipping the garments from their workroom in New Zealand.
Launched in 2012, the label offers affordable pieces using Oeko-tex certified organic cotton and upcycled deadstock fabric such as nylon and elastane.
The company’s goal is to promote a positive work environment and improve the supply chain by manufacturing its product locally.
Values: Ethical, Natural, Organic, Fairtrade, Fair Wage, Circular Design.
Price Range: NZ$29 – 649
Kowtow Ethical Clothing is one of the early brands that propelled the sustainable fashion movement in New Zealand. Founded in 2007 by Gosia Piatek, this clothing brand aims to create positive change by utilising sustainable and renewable fibres like GOTS-certified organic cotton while prioritising fair employment, wages, and human rights.
The label’s manufacturers in India are SA8000, meaning they encourage clothing manufacturers to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace.
In terms of circularity, the company offers a free repair program for all minor repairs, including mending seams, broken stitching, small holes or tears, and replacing buttons.
In addition, the company also implements a Take Back Programme, where customers can return any garment purchased that has reached the end of its wearable life.
According to the clothing label, it is still researching solutions to attain the full circularity of its products.
Values: Slow fashion, Ethical, Handmade, Recycled.
Price Range: NZ$145 – 895.
The brand was launched in 2016 after its founder, Julie Puddick, was inspired to design and create clothing from re-imagined fabric.
Puddic says she searches for fine textiles, trims, and embellishments from secondhand retailers, vintage boutiques, and fabric specialists worldwide.
The word “Masami” hails from the Japanese phrase “gracious beauty”, and the brand supports slow fashion by offering custom-made pieces and made-to-order garments using recycled fabrics or sustainably sourced materials like organic cotton, linen, and silk.
Little Yellow Bird
Values: Organic, Sustainably-sourced cotton, Fair Trade, Recycled.
Price Range: NZ$10 – 200
Little Yellow Bird is an eco-friendly clothing brand in New Zealand that seeks to provide innovative solutions to improve the fashion industry.
The brand uses 100 per cent organic cotton, natural fibres, and ZQ certified merino that is traceable from farm to factory. It also uses non-toxic GOTS-certified dyes since they are adamant about contributing further to water pollution.
In addition, consumers can send back their clothing once they reach their end of life so the company can recycle the material into new fibres.
Values: Circular, Ethical, Fair Wage and Treatment.
Price Range: NZ$75 – 1795
Founded by Maggie Hewitt, the brand is firm in its values of being transparent and inclusive. Maggie Marilyn utilises recycled polyester, ethical non-mulesed wool, regenerated nylon, GOTS certified organic cotton and linen, and deadstock fabrics.
Each piece, stated the brand, is created to be seasonless, circular, and traceable, which can help its consumers appreciate the value of their clothing.
In addition, the label promotes circular fashion upcycling the used fabric of their consumers to transform it into new designs.
Values: Ethical, Natural, Inclusive.
Price Range: NZ$80 – 250
Recreate is a sustainable clothing label that seeks to provide inclusivity and fair treatment to its workforce as much as they value the environment.
The brand’s clothing materials use GOTS-certified, raw organic cotton and denim sourced from Thailand using recycled water and AZO-free dyes.
Furthermore, the New Zealand fashion brand supports community projects such as school sponsorship. Medical assistance and social support.
Values: Ethical, Natural, Upcycled.
Price Range: NZ$23 – 345
Outliv is an eco-friendly label known for using upcycled material and deadstock fabrics.
From creating bags and clothing, the brand aims for longevity in their products by utilising pre-loved fabrics such as denim or leather. Producing these materials can be quite harmful to the environment, which is all the more reason for them to continue recycling them.
In addition, the company also donates a percentage of their profit to ‘Sea Cleaners’, an environmental organisation, and has raised $1163 to date.
Values: Fair wage and treatment, Organic, Natural.
Price Range: NZ$10 – 129
Nisa, which means “women” in Arabic, is an undergarment brand that uses fabric from GOTS certified organic cotton and Econyl yarn for its swimwear, a 100 per cent regenerated nylon made from fishing nets and nylon waste.
The label was launched in 2017 after its founder Elisha Watson, worked in Red Cross as a volunteer and discovered a shared passion for sewing with many women in the former refugee community. Setting up a sewing workshop took the form to provide employment opportunities for migrant workers and former refugees.
Values: Organic, Natural, Ethical, Slow Fashion.
Price Range: NZ$59 – 550.
Ovna Ovich is a sustainable fashion brand created to pay homage to the Russian director and designer Maria Davis.
According to the company, It’s devoted to celebrating the duality of women, which is both compassionate and strong.
All of the brand’s clothing is locally produced and use natural and organic materials such as certified merino wool, GOTS certified organic cotton, viscose, Tencel, linen, and cupro.
The buttons in the brand’s clothing are made out of sustainably sourced shells and nuts from palm trees.
The brand supports slow fashion by producing small batches of clothing each year using timeless designs.