Published: December 08, 2020Updated: September 12, 20229 min read
Looking for ethical gift ideas for your loved ones?Don't worry. I got 'em. There is still time to find the perfect sustainable + ethical gift for the holidays for that special someone on your list.
So, here's the deal. Maybe I am biased because all of the brands listed on this guide are my clients or students. But, I love what they make, believe in their values, and want to support them any way I can.
Real talk. I considered opening this list up to all brands (and not doing it based on virtue + vice nepotism) but here's what happened.
As I started asking startup founders questions about their supply chains, and they couldn't answer them. I am not going to get into the tea. But, a lot of the brands that reached out to me were either pulling fake statistics from the news (like the very publicly debunked stat that it takes a school bus full of water to make a t-shirt) or flat-out greenwashing.
The integrity of this blog means too much to me. I can’t go around promoting anyone who isn’t the real deal.
With my clients and students, I know we left no stone unturned, no question unanswered. Every tiny detail was considered to make the best possible (and most conscious) product ever.
Move over Reformation, Everlane, and all the other brands that make all the eco friendly and fair trade holiday shopping guides year after year.
It’s time to support small businesses.
If you are looking for uniquely sustainable and ethical gifts for someone special (think, the person who doesn’t need yet another Patagonia fleece), this is the ethical gift guide for you - full of social impact brands that are making real change in the industry.
I met Arielle three years ago when she came to India with me for a month.
One of my favorite memories from that trip was how over the 10 days Arielle created a custom zero waste shirt. She had a factory sew her zero-waste pattern in Delhi. Then, with the block printers in Bagru, she used her custom-made snake and rabbit blocks to print the shirts. And, lastly in Mahesware when we were visiting weavers she took advantage of a natural plant-based dye vat on the roof. And then, gave the the shirt a little color made with onion skins (which I mistook for someone cooking soup) that came out in a millennial pink hue.
When Ariel isn't working on her brand Four Rabbit she can be found on some of TV's most exclusive film sets (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmit, The Flight Attendant, and more) managing their makeup department.
You can find Four Rabbit in many stores including The Cooper Hewit Smithsonian Design Museum gift shop (talk about major accomplishment).
On My Wish List
When I went to visit Arielle at a popup she was doing at Madewell’s Soho location in NYC I walked away with a hand-embroidered scarf for my mom (it was supposed to be a holiday gift, but she wanted it right away). And for me, this snake embroidered wool hat. The scarf is one of a kind, and less than 50 of the hat are available. So, I know no one else is going to be walking down the street with the same style as me.
Harsh Agarwal is the founder and creative vision behind the ethical brand Harago, a men's line based in Jaipur. But, I totally wear the pieces too. We are newish, but fast friends. But, that is probably because we have so much in common. Love of textiles? Check. Love of finding delicious new places to eat? Check. Interested in connecting designers with artisans? Check. Obsessed with working in Jaipur? Check, check, and check.
Harsh's brand while new to the Indian fashion scene, has been exploding. This year his embroidered rabbit shorts were worn by Harry Styles and he has become a regular feature on Vogue. It is extremely difficult for Indian designers to break into the international fashion scene. And, nothing has warmed my cold sarcastic heart more this year than seeing his rapid success. Because, there is no one I could think of that deserves it more.
I like to think of his style king of like NYC's Bode, but in my opinion way more authentic to India.
Harsh specializes in traveling all over India to build out his sustainably sourced supply chain, working with artisan clusters, and finding some of the most beautiful vintage fabrics.
On My Wish List
If you are looking for a vintage one-of-a-kind piece. This is for you. The website is launching soon, but for now, you can buy your handmade (very limited edition) piece on Matches Fashion.
The product I am about to tell you about is a true Christmas miracle. Seriously, when you hear the story you're going to be like someone give these girls a Lifetime Holiday Special.
Here’s the look behind the seams tea.
Production for what I like to call the "boho witchy robe of my literal dreams" was anything but easy.
When we first got started India was hit with one of the worst COVID waves in the world.
Then when life finally started to get back to normal, Jaipur had one of the worst and longest monsoons in history. It just kept running. And, wouldn't stop. Delaying everything even further.
THEN, when we were finally done with production and ready to ship we were hit with having to navigate the global shipping container crisis which had gotten so bad and backlogged that both DHL and FedEx completely stopped taking packages altogether.
But we did it.
We made it through and now these beautiful robes are available just in time to give the perfect ethical gift for the holidays.
On My Wish List
This is an ethical gift I am giving to myself this year. Because who says we shouldn't buy ourselves gifts? Honestly, this Sunday Forever robe is my dream uniform – I will literally be living in mine, in India this winter.
Olivia is another LMCL graduate. And here is my favorite story about how she developed her product.
I remember one day on office hours she was like I have a huge problem the fabric I found for my leggings is pilling when I wack it with the velcro from my kids snow boot.
And I was just like ummm, stop hitting your leggings with your kids snow boot.
And she was like, but these clothes are made for moms and they need to hold up against everything life throws at them.
Watching this product evolve for over 6 months I can honestly say these are the rolls royce of leggings. The best fabrics, the best finishes, multiple fit trials, and wear tests. These are it. The holy grail of leggings. You're welcome.
Is run and designed by Stephanie Rampone. Who IMO is a serious startup hustler. In her first season in business, she started working with Rent the Runway and never looked back.
I love that she has chosen this approach for her business for two reasons. One (even though everyone isn't) I am a huge fan of rental clothing culture. While yes it takes lots of resources to ship and clean the garments, when you look at the big picture I think that clothing rental forces people to curate their closets and buy less overall.
Secondly just because it’s for rent that doesn't mean you can’t own it. Rent The Runway allows you to buy garments too.
My Little Belleville is the creation of Michelle Christenson. Who has seen amazing success selling her wearable art on Etsy.
Up until just a short while ago, everything Michelle made was hand-painted by her. But, with success comes new challenges. The orders were too much for her to be creating all on her own. So she enlisted the help of FIO.
I love a good fairy tale fashion startup story. And, Michelle is the startup dream. She started small, people loved her designs, and now she is growing bigger and better!
Michelle also makes great stuffing stuffers like, pins, earrings, and other small items that are perfect for stocking stuffers.
On My Wish List
The Lapiz Blue People Jumpsuit - produced with me and one of my partners in India!
Christopher is the owner of CYC The Shop based in Hawaii. He is also an LMCL graduate. Christopher has some amazing designs. But the one I want to pay special attention to here is this ethically made rainbow tie-dyed collection that he partnered with Harsh (mentioned above) to manufacture.
And, this, in my opinion, is the future of ethical fashion. Brands working together, not competing with each other. It makes me so happy to see when my network is able to work together and make each other better.
On My Wish List
Ok, one more item I have my eye on. These sweaters. I am already getting the tie-dye shirt for myself, So, I am thinking about getting the sweater for Will and then just stealing it from him.
Jade (and her dad) also came to India with me. And I had the absolute best time with them. Their family tradition is to take hoping photos while on vacation… And, well… we all got in on the action. (Some of the photos are even sprinkled around my Insta Feed).
Anyway. Jade has been making these beautiful natural dye kits. And, they are the perfect ethical gift for the sustainable fashionista in your life. Learning how to dye clothing, naturally, lets you breathe new life into an old garment.
On My Wish List
Here is one of my personal conscious living tips. When my clothes get stained (because I am a ridiculously sloppy eater), instead of throwing them out, I just dye them a new color to hide the stains.
You all probably know my girl Marissa by now. She is one of the original brands out there that was working in Jaipur and making block print designs. She is someone whose heart is really in changing the industry. So much so that she often gives back to startup brands and helps to mentor them to success.
Marissa and I have been spending time together in Jaipur for a few years now. Marissa has become my partner in crim for finding new suppliers, and the person I call when I need to go on a trek far outside the city to meet a new group of artisans.
Marissa's focus is on creating safe jobs for women and preserving artisan crafts.
Tia is a friend from Goa. You might recognize her from the late Hippie in Heels blog - Rachel was also a friend as well as a huge supporter of her easy-to-wear beachwear line with a focus on hand-loomed textiles and organic cotton.
Tia and I became friends when we were both on a trip to Jaipur and our paths crossed. I have been lucky to watch her line grow from a small tent at her mom's restaurant, to collection of different shops all over Goa, as well as pieces selling in selected boutiques in the UK and Spain.
On My Wish List
The Cali Maxi Dress. Full disclosure, just looking at this dress makes we want to book my next tropical beach vacation.
Pauline is Will’s sister. I told you from the start this list was going to be all people I know. Pauline's tagline says it best - "functional profanity", and all of her conversational ceramic pieces are not just for home decor, but are actually designed to be used.
When asked why all the nipples, Pauline responds - "Because nipples make people smile. Arts not worth doing if it’s not fun, and there’s nothing more fun than making something that makes someone laugh or smile."
One of the biggest challenges for Pauline was leaning into her weirdness. At first, she was worried that her art would not be for everyone. And, to that I said don’t worry - it’s for the right people.
And, when you look at this kiss my ass tray, I bet you can instantly think of some quirky person in your life that would love it.
On My Wish List
The Kiss My Ash-Tray. I quit smoking many, many, years ago. But I just find it so funny.
A FEW OTHER VIRTUE + VICE FRIENDS + FAM BRANDS WORTH CHECKING OUT
PS - quite a few of these brands are running discounts and giving away freebies if you signup for their newsletters!