Want to know the best ethical and sustainable knitwear brands in the UK, to go to for cosy jumpers, sweaters and cardigans? I’ve got you covered with this handy guide to the brands for men and women to know, as well as the ethical issues to be aware of.
Knitwear is a key winter staple, beloved by many for its natural thermoregulatory abilities to keep you warm without feeling sweaty. But beyond the cosy factor, many knitted items come with a footprint of animal cruelty, toxic dyes, and less-than-natural materials.
Wool may be a natural and renewable material, but many brands weave synthetic fibres, such as acrylic through their wool knitwear.
There are numerous reasons for this. The use of acrylic is said to reduce bobbling and help your item retain its shape. However, the main reason is that acrylic is cheaper than using natural wool. This means many brands lean towards these cheaper synthetic fibres. Yet acrylic is plastic, so this means your knitwear is derived from fossil fuels and will shed potentially harmful microplastics every time it’s washed.
However, it’s not a simple case of 100% pure knitwear being good and synthetic fibres being bad. Within the woollen industry, there are key issues of animal cruelty within the supply chain.
Mulesing, for example, is a practice carried out on merino lambs to help avoid flystrike – an infection caused by flies. Here, strips of skin are removed from the lambs in a painful procedure without anaesthesia. It’s a cruel practice, that some countries have banned, whilst others like Australia continue to allow mulesing.
The Eco-Friendly Knitwear Brands To Know
Thankfully, there are more sustainable and kinder ways to buy knitwear. Some brands use recycled wool, others opt to give a new life to existing garments, and other eco-friendly brands use 100% natural wool sourced from transparent and traceable farms.
To help point you in the right direction, I’ve rounded up my favourite eco-friendly woollen brands to know, that are as stylish as they are sustainable.
The price range key for this guide is:
£ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+
You can use the quick links to jump to information about each brand, or keep scrolling for the full guide:
- The Nearly New Cashmere Co
- Beaumont Organic
- Oxfam Online
- Colorful Standard
- Beyond Retro
- Celtic & Co
If any of the sustainable clothing terms baffle you, check out my post on how to be an ethical shopper. It explains what all the different eco-labels mean.
The Nearly New Cashmere Co
Budget: £ – £££
Caters for: men and women, sizes XS to XXL
Available directly from The Nearly New Cashmere Co
Offering one of the most sustainable ways to buy knitwear, The Nearly New Cashmere Co offers a wide selection of preloved 100% pure cashmere knitwear.
The Yorkshire-based team rescues thousands of discarded 100% cashmere items each year. These rescued pieces are then meticulously reconditioned, and where necessary, repaired, to make every piece as good as new.
With a wide selection of jumpers, cardigans, polo necks, dresses and loungewear – there is a huge selection of recycled and restored styles and sizes to choose from.
And not content with just selling preloved cashmere, The Nearly New Cashmere Co works to keep your knitwear in good shape for as long as possible. Should your cashmere knitwear need some TLC, then The Nearly New Cashmere Co offers a reasonably priced repair service so that your pieces can be part of your wardrobe for many years to come.
Budget: ££ – £££
Caters for: women UK sizes 8 – 20
Available from Beaumont Organic
Beaumont Organic – a Manchester-based women’s ethical clothing retailer – makes beautiful casual clothing solely from sustainable fabrics.
This brand works only with factories that are within the EU and is transparent about all the factories it uses. In fact, Beaumont Organic says all of its clothes are fully traceable back to the machinist due to the small-scale family-run factories that we work with.
Beaumont Organic is also committed to paying fair wages and providing good working conditions. This means you can be sure your clothing is made as ethically as possible.
Whilst Beaumont Organic offers a wide range of clothing, when it comes to knitwear, this is made from responsibly sourced and non-mulesed lambswool. No synthetic fibres are added, so your knitwear is always 100% natural.
What’s also to love is that Beaumont Organic offers free repairs to all UK customers on all its garments to extend their lifespan and reduce textile waste.
Get 10% off your first order when you sign up for the Beaumont Organic newsletter.
Caters for: men (XS – 3XL) and women (UK sizes 6 – 24)
Available from: Oxfam Online
Another super sustainable and budget-friendly way to shop for woollen clothing is Oxfam Online. Here you can shop for preloved knitwear for men and women, and help support a charitable cause, all from the comfort of your own home.
Oxfam Online is incredibly easy to navigate. It has dedicated knitwear sections for both men and women. From these sections, you can then filter by size, brand, price, colour, and condition to help find the perfect piece. It’s so easy, that I personally find it easier to find things on the website rather than in my local charity shop!
Everything on Oxfam is photographed well. All of the clothing listed is shot from multiple angles, so you can get a clear view of your potential purchase.
Items are reasonably priced, although I feel a little more expensive than in-store. It’s made up by the fact that delivery is just £3.95, no matter how many items you order. For extra peace of mind, returns are free. You also get the added bonus that your purchase is supporting Oxfam’s work to alleviate global poverty.
Get 10% off your first purchase when you sign up for the Oxfam Online mailing list.
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: men and women (sizes XS – XL)
Available from Colorful Standard
Another low-impact way to incorporate wool into your wardrobe is to use recycled wool. Thankfully, brands are making it easy to add recycled wool to your wardrobe.
Colorful Standard, for example, specialises in a wide range of wardrobe staples in a myriad of colourways. These are ethically made in Portugal, from Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified merino wool.
Its recycled merino wool collection includes crewneck jumpers, socks, scarves and hats. Essentially everything you need to stay sustainably cosy!
Colours include muted basics such as black, grey, navy and white. And if you are feeling bolder, then its bright shades offer fun options such as Kelly green, bright coral, flamingo pink, and much much more.
Worried about the impact of these dyes? Worry not. Colorful Standard garment dyes its clothing using certified environmentally friendly dyes. This means that the garments are first produced, and then dyed according to demand only. This way, Colorful Standard can produce its products without wasting large quantities of dye.
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: men ( sizes XXXS – XXXL and women (sizes XXS – XXL)
Available from Rokit
Vintage retailer Rokit has a vast collection of preloved vintage & designer knitwear for men and women in the UK that can be bought online.
Whatever your style or era, from handmade knitwear to vintage designer jumpers, knitwear, Rokit is sure to stock it. And with a vast inventory, covering sizes 3XS to 3XL, Rokit’s size inclusivity is something to applaud.
Rokit has also developed its own Rokit Originals Range. This is a collection of reworked vintage pieces. This gives a new life to old garments and creates new items to be loved over the long term, keeping old clothes out of landfill.
Every item is thoroughly inspected, cleaned and pressed before being added to the website. This means you won’t get any nasty surprises when you receive our item.
Get 10% off at Rokit by using the discount code TAKE10 at the checkout.
Caters for: women sizes 8 – 16
Available from Trouva
Another top choice for ethical knitwear is Bibico. This stylish women’s clothing brand makes laidback natural and organic fairtrade fashion that’s simple yet stylish, and very wearable.
All of its timeless knitwear is made from non-mulesed merino wool. The clothing is also produced in fair trade cooperatives that are certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation.
Bibico believes in slow fashion. As such, it designs and manufactures two collections a year which are produced in small runs. Its beautiful designs are classic, timeless and made with quality raw materials that you will want to wear again and again.
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: men and women (sizes XS – XXL)
Available at Beyond Retro
Beyond Retro is another top eco-friendly choice for vintage and secondhand knitwear for men and women.
Here, vintage pieces have been carefully sourced from around the world. With dedicated knitwear sections for both men and women, you can shop by size, price, style, era, brand and colour. These handy filters can really help you hone in on the perfect piece to keep you sustainably cosy this winter.
Use the exclusive discount code MORALFIBRES at the checkout to receive 15% off your order at Beyond Retro.
Celtic & Co.
Caters for women UK sizes 6 – 18
Available via Marks & Spencer
Based in Great Britain, Celtic & Co. specialises in knitwear made exclusively from ethically sourced natural fibres.
Celtic & Co has a rigorous policy in place to ensure all of its wool meets animal welfare standards.
All of Celtic & Co’s wool suppliers must certify that they do not supply any materials from sheep which have been mulesed. And Celtic & Co. will only accept Merino wool from Australia from certified non-mulesed or ceased-mulesed wool sources. Ceased-mulesed means that no lambs born on the farm in the last 12 months have been mulesed.
Celtic & Co is a passionate supporter of British manufacturing. As such, many of its products are made within Great Britain. And with a focus on quality and design, rather than seasonal trends, Celtic & Co. pieces are also designed to last the distance.
Budget : £££
Caters for: women sizes XS – XL
Available from Herd
Another way to shop for ethical knitwear is to look for products made locally from locally sourced wool. Herd is a luxury fashion label offering this very option.
On a mission to revive British wool, of which demand has dropped dramatically, Herd is looking to reinvent British wool.
Each piece Herd makes has a total journey, from sheep to finished product, of just 230 miles.
Herd’s wool is Grown and made from 100% Bluefaced Leicester fleece from the Northern Uplands of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.
The brand then draws on the expertise of farmers, spinners, makers, knitters and skilled craftspeople across England, to create stylish knitwear that will stand the test of time. These are dyed using plant dyes for the lowest impact possible.
Sign up for the Herd newsletter and get 10% off your first order.
If you need any more inspiration, then do check out my guide to over 50 women’s ethical clothing brands. And for more cosy clothes guides, check out my guide to ethical hats, to keep your head cosy, and my guide to eco-friendly socks for warm toes.
PS: See my guide on how to wash wool to keep it looking good for longer.