Today let me share seven UK-based Black-owned ethical fashion and accessory brands with you.
I know I’m speaking to the converted here when I say that fast fashion is built on an exploitative and racist business model. These fast fashion brands exploit people of colour by using a workforce of predominantly female garment workers in low-wage economies. These include places such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and Vietnam.
Here, many workers labour in terrible working conditions, far below the living wage. What’s more, workers are denied paid sick leave and other basic rights. All of this is just to make clothes that are worn only ten times before being disposed of.
Ethical fashion is a better choice. However, even in the ethical fashion sphere in 2023, there is a lack of representation. There’s a distinct lack of Black and minority brands. And not enough ethical brands are using Black models. It’s safe to say that in terms of diversity, fashion has a long way to go.
The UK Black-Owned Ethical Fashion Brands Guide
In order to celebrate diversity within the ethical fashion sphere, let’s shine a light on the UK-based Black-owned ethical fashion and accessory brands.
AAKS was founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. Akosua is a Ghanaian native who graduated from Kingston University London.
Akosua’s goal is to introduce the world to her favourite Ghanaian weaving techniques. At the same time, she wants to create sustainable jobs within Africa.
Handcrafted in Ghana, AAKS beautiful woven bags are made using ecologically harvested raffia. Scraps are even reserved for smaller bags, in order to minimise waste as much as possible.
A newcomer to the scene, BMUSE Vintage launched on Earth Day 2020. Selling a beautifully curated selection of stylish vintage clothing, they are an antidote to fast fashion.
BMUSE says “By honouring vintage as preloved fashion that already exists, we are not causing any further harm to people and the environment.”
London-based Glow Apparel (available at Social Supermarket) produce ethically made reflective knitwear. This range has been created with a wide range of wearers in mind. Rather than just focusing on cyclists, their knitwear has a broader appeal. From the chic commuter to the dog walker, or the parent or child wanting to be safe on the streets, their pieces are for everyone.
What’s more, this wonderful range of headwear and neckwear does not compromise style over function. Effortlessly ready to wear during the day, they’re beautifully reflective at night. This helps you to stay safe yet stylish.
Spear-headed by Comet Chukura, the knitwear is handmade by local London women, especially BAMER (Black, Asian, minority ethnic, refugee) women who often struggle to access the labour market. Glow collaborates with women’s groups to find makers, forming partnerships that empower them economically through a London Living Wage, benefit their wellbeing and help them fulfil their potential.
Kemi Telford (available at John Lewis) designs and sells beautifully bold Nigerian-influenced clothing with a Western twist.
Sustainability is at the heart of this Black-owned ethical fashion brand. Kemi Telford says “This brand was created to empower women. This means that our employees – and those of our manufacturers – are always treated with care and respect“.
What’s more, Kemi Telford is conscious of waste. Remnants from the clothing are made into colourful zero-waste scrunchies and gift bags.
Maison Archives sells chic sustainable fashion accessories sourced from Fairtrade co-ops. Think beautiful hair clips and headbands, as well as stylish bags and hats.
OlaOla is a Textile design studio, run by Ola Olayinka. Here they create bold & unique patterned accessories such as bags, hair accessories, and jewellery. As such, it’s a great one-stop shop for ethical accessories.
Each product is printed and hand-made in small batches in the UK. Making products to order in this manner allows for less fabric waste. What’s more, OlaOla uses all smaller off-cuts. Here they are upcycled into products, such as earrings, to further reduce fabric waste.
Yala is a female-founded modern jewellery brand. As the first jewellery brand in the UK to be designated a Certified B Corp, sustainability is key. As such, they pride themselves on their intricate design, sustainable materials, ethics, and transparency.
Their beautiful range of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings is handmade by Kenyan artisans. What’s more, Kenyan models, photographers, and stylists are used for all publicity shots.
Have you come across any more Black-owned ethical fashion or accessory brands? Do let me know!