I am definitely guilty of not supporting more British, black-owned brands. Like many people, the Black Lives Matter Movement has rightly caused me to stop and think about the brands I shop with and follow on social media.
You’ve probably seen that fast fashion brands both in the UK and the US have been called out on social media for their ‘performative activism’: allegedly showing solidarity with black lives whilst continuing to profit off marginalised people, and avoiding diversity in their boardrooms and imagery. But ethical fashion brands aren’t off the hook here, with some serious issues of lack of representation.
The good thing about making mistakes is you can use it as an opportunity to improve. That applies to fashion brands, it applies to me as a fashion lover, and it applies to you as a conscious shopper too. This post should help you understand why fashion can’t truly be ethical until it’s diverse.
Of course, I wanted to give a shoutout to some of my favourite British black-owned brands too. They follow all my usual criteria of being fun, vibrant, flattering, and ethically produced (because I will always campaign that being sustainable doesn’t mean sacrificing your personal style). As well as clothing companies I’ve also covered accessories too, because we’re allll about embellishment here at Styled by Alice!
I’ve also updated two of my most popular posts (‘ethical brands like Joanie Clothing‘ and ‘the best ethical brands to follow on Instagram‘) to feature some of these brands too. That’s because I really want us as conscious consumers to support black-owned businesses all year round, not just when social media makes it trendy. Let’s be true allies, but let’s be stylish while we do it!
Ethical fashion needs to be more diverse: here’s why
If you’re here then chances are you’re passionate about making more ethical and sustainable fashion choices. That’s great! Fashion’s impact on the planet is huge and catastrophic. That’s undeniable. And garment workers health and wellbeing should not be compromised for us to own pretty clothes. But if a brand truly wants to be ethical then diversity must be at the forefront of its business, and we as shoppers have the right to hold brands accountable over this.
As a white consumer I’ve totally overlooked that all my go-to ethical brands are white-owned, white-staffed, and their campaigns are largely white-fronted. These companies were created as a response to the problematic industry norms as created by the fast fashion industry, so why does diversity regularly rank well below using organic cotton or manufacturing in smaller factories for so many popular ethical brands?
Here’s the thing: when we as white ethical fashion shoppers and creators focus on helping marginalised people in the Global South without considering the current fashion model’s impact on minorities here in the UK, it creates a whiff of white saviour complex. You know, helping poor people abroad because it’s the morally superior thing to do. But we’ve got to practice what we preach at home and abroad. Ethical fashion should do good for everyone.
Of course, diversity doesn’t only mean more non-white faces on a brand’s Instagram feed. Inclusive sizing should also be a priority for any ethical fashion company. The black-owned clothing brands I’ve included in my round up below do offer a broad range of sizes as part of their mission. Because here’s the thing: once a business truly starts to value the needs of one supposedly ‘minority’ community, other consumers who might have specific needs start to come into consideration too. And just like that, the marketplace has opened up for so many more people to participate. Making ethical fashion more accessible for one underrepresented group is the foundation for making it accessible for everyone.
Why its important to support black-owned businesses in the UK
Let’s be clear: no one is saying white-owned ethical fashion companies shouldn’t exist. Of course they should. But as consumers, if we are as passionate about making considered purchases as we say we are then some of our money should be going to black businesses too.
It is a fact that there is a racial wealth gap here in the UK. One in five children in black households live in persistent poverty, and supporting black businesses provides job opportunities and offers more money for to reinvest in black communities. Meanwhile black-owned businesses are twice as likely to be rejected for bank loans. If we want the entrepreneurship of these brands to be rewarded then we have to put our money where our mouth is.
Of course, giving our financial support to black-owned fashion companies also means more money to spend on things like marketing, which in turn means more consumers will learn of their products. This ultimately helps these ethical companies establish themselves into the mainstream rather than as some ‘niche’ or ‘alternative’ offering. That’s a win for everyone interested in living in a more sustainable and fair world.
With all this is mind, here’s a rundown of my personal favourite ethically created, black-owned clothing and accessories brands, all based in the UK.
Black-owned ethical fashion brands
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“I just believe that us as women— should not criticize nor pull down other women. And why? Because we’re all just trying our best to be beautiful! We all just want to be loved, we want to be beautiful, and we’re all trying to leave our own legacy! The good news is that the universe is unending and that means there is enough space for each woman on earth to leave her own mark and to be her own legacy. To be her own kind of beautiful. So why spend even a second on trying to take away from another woman? Trying to steal, trying to criticize, trying to oppress? There is enough space for every woman and every kind of beautiful, in this vast cosmos! When you waste any amount of time trying to take what is another’s— you are wasting your huge chunk of a galaxy that’s already been given to you!”― C. JoyBell C. Have the most beautiful day. Wear your crown. Shine Bright. Stay fabulous. Xxx
If you love vibrant prints then you’ll love Kemi Telford! This brand has been a mainstay in ethical fashion circles for several years, and it’s easy to see why. These are styles created to transcend trends, and look great for years to come. Styles have a strong Nigerian influence but with a Western twist. Kemi Telford’s Instagram is full of customer snapshots, showcasing women of all skin tones, sizes, and styles rocking the brand’s vibrant skirts and dresses. Meanwhile, the company’s founder Yvonne is the face you’ll see modelling on the e-commerce platform. At £80 – £150, Kemi Telford is moderately priced for unique garments ethically made to last for years to come. Even so, there’s a samples and seconds section on its site which offers a more affordable way to get in on the action whilst minimising textile waste.
Struggling to shake your fast fashion addiction? Nyla Rei could be your new favourite brand. This small company is the brainchild of Instagram influencer Vanessa Daniels, and offers an ethical, small-scale take on the streetwear trend. The collection is produced in a family-owned factory in London in a limited run. All fabrics used are sourced in the UK, with a focus on biodegradable fibres, industry offcuts or deadstock fabrics. Each style is shown on a mixture of models of different sizes. The best bit? Nyla Rei’s pricing easily rival that of top High Street brands. Who says ethical fashion is always inaccessible?
Another influencer-run label is Kai Collective, created by Fisayo Longe. The brand’s name comes from the Nigerian exclamation of ‘Kai’, meaning ‘wowo’, and this ‘wow’ feeling certainly runs through its designs. Bold, voluminous silhouettes, luxe-look fabrics, and vibrant colours are key here. While the brand does use fabrics like polyester which might put of some sustainable style seekers, Fisayo is committed to building a close relationship with the factories to produce her clothes as ethically as she can. Kai offers its garments up to a UK size 20, making this brand as inclusive as it is bold.
Love Ur Look
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We stay positive because change can happen 🙌🏿. #georgefloyd ☀️ The colours on our positive power print dress are there to remind us of how working together we can make change happen. 🌈 Each colour is symbolic each one of us…. #alllivesmatter #blacklivesmatter #diversity …. We stay positive because letting in too much negative only feeds it to grow.🌹 @velvet.jones our stunning model @joannakrausephotography 📸 #change #makeithappen #sustainableclothing #fashionphotography #diversity #ethicalfashion #sustainableclothing #vintage #inclusion #pinupgirl #pinupstyle #pinupclothing #1950sclothing #midcenturystyle #midcenturyfashion #blackmodels
When was the last time you saw a black model in a reproduction vintage campaign? Love Ur Look was created by Ronke Fashola to provide pin-up clothing and kitsch style prints for a diverse range of shoppers, and styles are available up to a UK size 24. The label’s vintage aesthetic is designed to offer a counterpoint to fast fashion’s trend-led culture. Working as sustainably and ethically as possible is equally important as diversity to Ronke, who visits her factories twice a year and works with deadstock fabric where possible. The brand also donates to an animal charity in Rajasthan, where its manufacturers are located.
Did you know over 1.2 billion pairs of jeans are purchased every year?! That’s a heck of a lot of potential for items to end up in landfill. One brand eager to prevent this is Revival London, who create their designs out of old denim. Founder Rosette Ale is a secondhand clothing enthusiast, and she’s on a mission to make sustainable fashion cool. As expected with this style of upcycling, styles are limited and unique: perfect for bold style seekers after something no one else will have! The crop tops made from repurposed jeans are a personal favourite.
I. Love. Lisou! This is definitely the priciest option on the list, but Lisou’s contemporary and vibrant designs should be top of every maximalist’s lust list (Santa, please buy me the orange print suit). A vintage feel is key to these designs, as head designer Rene Macdonald is a self-proffessed “avid vintage collector’. Rene was born in Tanzania, and Lisou donates the proceeds from one piece per collection directly to helping young Africans with medical and educational needs. All styles are ethically produced in Portugal.
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T H E W E E K E N D We are fast approaching the summer season and although the future brings lots of change, somethings will always stay the same. Summer is golden! We must protect it at all cost 🤩 Community spirit has pulled us together and will continue to us pull through this time. We pray you and yours continue to stay safe. Sending you lots of SIKA ❤️ always xx At SIKA Online Boutique, spring has definitely sprung 🌿🌺💐🌻 #Accra #GHANA #SIKAALLDAY #AFUAXSIKA #NewCollection #SIKABEHINDTHEPRINT 😍 NO FADE 😍 Sign up to our newsletter via our online store to get updates on new collections, promotions and generally all things SIKA. #SIKASALE #newsite #newcollection #newcollaboration #sikaonlineboutique #sikadesigns #ethicalclothing #ethicalfashion #HandmadeinGhana #withlove ❤️ #AFUAxSIKA *We are bold *We are beautiful *We are here *We are SIKA
A feel-good dress is definitely a wardrobe essential, and I would love any of Sika‘s wonderful cotton dresses as part of my summer wardrobe. These striking designs are primarily crafted from batik cotton, a traditional fabric popular in west Africa that uses wax in the dyeing process to create intricate patterns. Sika is owned by Phyllis Taylor, a Londoner with Nigerian heritage. Phyllis is passionate about proving fashion can be sustainable and ethical, and the brand is committed to paying fair wages, creating employment and making a meaningful difference within the Ghanaian community where the garments are manufactured.
Black-owned ethical accessories brands
I was lucky to work with Aghogho from Leyelesi on a photoshoot in 2018, but if you’ve not heard of this handbag brand then you’ve got to check it out. Leyelesi works with a small team of artisan crafters in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria, using locally sourced, traditional fabrics. As well as the plethora of vibrant handbags, the brand also sells chunky statement jewellery made from brass, wood and rubber, as well as brogues and slippers. For most of us these accessories are an investment rather than a quick purchase, but that’s what ethical fashion should be. Whatever takes your fancy, Leyelesi’s accessories will provide a pop of colour to your outfits for years to come.
I’m a big advocate of statement jewellery, and Chalk‘s oversized designs would be a welcome addition to any fashionista’s wardrobe. Creator Malaika Carr studied architecture, and still works as a practicing architect part-time. The structure of large cityscapes is key to the brand, which translates as bold, geometric styles. Everything is handmade by Malaika, making Chalk’s pieces unique.
Yala has a bit of a cult following in ethical fashion circles, and its not just shoppers who are impressed with what this company is doing. As the first jewellery company in the UK to become a Certified B Corporation, Yala has a robust ethical code, focused on providing financial opportunities for skilled artisans in Kenya. There’s a focus on using recycled and deadstock materials, too. The result is some seriously gorgeous hammered brass jewellery with long-term wearability.
What are your favourite black-owned ethical brands available to buy in the UK? Feel free to share your suggestions with me on Instagram – @styledbyalicex
Happy shopping, my loves!