Report reveals New Zealand’s most ethical fashion brands

The annual Ethical Fashion Report proves New Zealand is at the top of the list for caring about how our clothes are made.

By Jessica-Belle Greer
Ethical New Zealand fashion brand Kowtow

When you think of your favourite piece of fashion, perhaps a classic-cut blazer or wear-anywhere jeans, it’s often the small details, the hand-finishing or beautiful colour, that had you fall in love with that wardrobe staple. But it’s hard to know who to thank for these characteristics, with workers from all over the world involved in the production of just one garment, from the cotton growers, to material dyers, pattern cutters and packagers.

With the supply-chain for even a standard cotton t-shirt being so multi-faceted, fashion brands also struggle to know exactly where everything in their next sell-out style comes from, and therefore the conditions its clothes are made in.

The Ethical Fashion Report is an annual overview of the practices of some of our most beloved fashion brands by international aid and development organisation Tearfund. It works with Baptist World Aid researchers to boil down how well brands know their makers, and how well they are looking after them, in a bid to end exploitation and poverty around the world.

The report ranks the labels for an overall grade in terms of; their policies, worker empowerment, awareness of their suppliers and their processes, and room for improvement. The average overall grade for New Zealand brands in the 2017 report is B-, which is a mark higher than the average grade from the international report, a C+.

Here are the top ranking New Zealand companies from the report:

Kowtow: A
Liminal Apparel: A
Karen Walker: B+
Kathmandu: B+
AS Colour: B-
Glassons: B-
Macpac: B-

As reported in Simply You’s latest issue, New Zealand brands seem to be leading the way in sustainable and ethical fashion.

Kowtow, which was profiled in the ‘Closet with a conscience’ feature, has come out on top again as a leading New Zealand brand, along with Liminal Apparel. Both received an A grade – an impressive feat considering only 13 out of the 106 brands involved internationally received an A grade.

Art director and founder of Kotow, Gosia Piatek, recognises the human cost of fashion and says she is proud her brand, which is ranked six out of all 106 brands, has ethics and sustainability at its core. “Conscious fashion is not a trend anymore - it’s a fact and the only way forward,” says Piatek. “We forget that it’s all handmade: that there’s a person operating that machine, or tucking that seam under with his or her finger.”

Karen Walker received an honourable mention for being a ‘most improved’ brand, advancing from a C grade to B+, as well as Macpac, which went from a D+ to B-.

Twelve New Zealand owned companies were examined by the report. As it takes a considerable amount of time and money for brands to fully assess their supply-chain not all brands feel they can get involved with the report.

However, with online shopping at our fingertips the scope of our shopping extends to numerous labels that were involved overseas.

Here are some of the top ranking brands from the report that we can easily shop in New Zealand:

Zara: A
Adidas: A-
Berlei: A-
Bonds: A-
Cotton On: A-
Jockey: A-
Rebook: A-
Sheridan: A-
Supre: A-

If you are interested in the full guide, and further information about the report, click here.

For more, see this month's Simply You magazine, visit our Facebook page, and follow us on Instagram.

  • Author: Jessica-Belle Greer

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