Ethical Shopping

I’ve meant to share some of my favourite ethical brands for a while and with the Christmas shopping season about to begin, it seems like the right time.

For about a year-and-a-half now I’ve been on a quest to source our clothes as ethically as possible. Buying clothes for the girls I felt convicted of how wrong it was to dress my children in clothing made by other children. Since then I’ve made the attempt to support companies that pay fair wages, don’t employ children, and care about the environment. I also try to choose Canadian companies, when possible.

At first, it felt overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start and it seemed like it was going to make a huge difference in our clothing budget. The solution, however, is simple. Buy less. Buy better. Instead of buying three pairs of pyjamas for Pearl, I buy one pair at a higher cost and, usually, better quality. Having two girls definitely helps as many items can be passed down to Rose. I do most of my shopping online and so frequently keep an eye on sale sections and buy clothes for the girls a season ahead.

About 80% of our clothing comes secondhand. I am always looking at our thrift stores for the girls and I and have great luck, especially for the kids. The girls have been fortunate to receive great hand-me-downs from their older cousins, as well as gifts from friends and family. I saved a lot of Pearl’s clothing as she grew out of it and I’ve bought very little new for Rose. (Some exceptions include seasonal stuff since the girls were born at opposite times of the year. A lot of that stuff I’ve gotten secondhand though.)

Children’s clothing:

Let’s start with Little and Lively:

This small business is based out of Abbotsford, BC and has a line of adorable kids clothing, as well as some women’s clothes. One of my favourite items from them are their bonnets. Rose has three and wore them frequently throughout the summer. Peter said she looked like an Amish baby but the wide brim was great in the summer sun and she got lots of compliments.

In the middle picture Rose is wearing their floral shorts (Pearl had a matching pair) and in the third photo her t-shirt is also from them.

Here’s Pearl in her matching floral shorts (right) and her stripy dress (with pockets!)

Pearl’s t-shirt above is from Mountain Equipment Co-op, better known as MEC around here. They are my go-to for kids outdoor gear but also have a lot of great quality for both kids. Their newt suit is one of the essential kids’ items for West Coast weather (ie: rain) On the left, Rose is wearing a newt suit we were given as a gift for Pearl and on the right she is wearing a fleece suit from MEC that I got second hand. That bike trailer pictured is also from MEC but we got it from Craigslist.

Another BC-based business is Nest and Nurture out of Kelowna. I’ve ordered just one item from them but it’s one of my favourites in Rose’s wardrobe. This forest green romper:

The major downside to it however is that it doesn’t have snaps at the bottom and so it’s a definite pain for diaper changes. I do like though that with the adjustable straps I think she’ll be able to get a second summer’s use from it.

Hatley is a fairly large Canadian company that has become one of my go-tos for swimwear, clothing, and pyjamas. They have physical stores though I’ve yet to go into one of them. The girls’ swimsuits have all been from Hatley for the last year or so and have lasted well through beaches and pools. Rose is wearing her suit below and will receive Pearl’s hand-me-down suits when she’s ready for the next size. (My pro-tip: look for swimsuits in January when they usually have some kind of sale.) Pictured on the right-hand side is Pearl in her Easter dress (with pockets!). She wore the dress a lot through the spring and summer and it’s still in great condition. Last Christmas the girls received dresses from Hatley as a gift and I also bought their Christmas jammies from there.

Rain boots have been another Hatley purchase we’ve made a few times. The middle picture below shows Pearl in her yellow boots. She’s since outgrown that pair and moved on to another Hatley pair. Full disclosure – the handle on one of her yellow boots did break off after a season of use. It doesn’t affect the wear at all but it did bother Pearl. I actually purchased both pairs of boots from lagoonbaby.com which has some frequent sales. (And is where I bought cloth diapers from.)

I was going to share that the dress Pearl is wearing in that middle picture is from Vancouver-based company Vonbon but it turns out they are now closed. That dress was a gift and the Vonbon pants Pearl loved were from the thrift store but their stuff was super soft and cosy and I’m sad to hear they are no longer around.

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This is Pearl in her Life on Limbs t-shirt. This is our friends’ shop where they design clever and comfortable t-shirts. Pearl is a big dinosaur fan and so this felt perfect for our strong-willed three-year-old. She’s wearing shorts from mini mioche, a Canadian kids’ company.

Women’s Clothing:

PactThis American company specializes in 100% cotton. I actually found them through MEC when searching for ethical underwear. They’ve since become one of my go-tos for underwear and socks for the girls and I. They make men’s, women’s, and kid’s clothes but I’ve only bought women’s clothing from them so far.

That’s me wearing a very cosy Pact sweatshirt. It has a slouchy fit without being shapeless and it’s lovely and soft. I also have a plain, grey v-neck that I get lots of wear from. Great source for plain basics.

Boden:

Boden has become one of my favourite sources of classic, grown-up clothing. I place an order with them about once a year, usually around my birthday. Their stuff is well-made and always garners compliments.

I have sweaters, shirts, dresses, and a recently-purchased pair of pants from Boden and I always feel stylish when I wear them.

Boden also has adorable clothing for children but I have yet to buy any of it. Their prices are a bit higher and I have a harder time justifying the cost for clothing my kids are going to grow out of. (I’ve hopefully stopped growing.) My girls have some Boden clothes that they received as hand-me-downs from their older cousins and I will say that the quality is still great, even after making it through two or three kids.

(Also worth noting: being British, Boden’s sizes are different than you might be used to in Canada or the US so check their size guide before ordering.)

On my feet:

On the left are my flats from The Root Collective.  They have some really beautiful and colourful flats but I went with a versatile grey suede. Rose is wearing moccasins from Laurentian Chief, which are made in Canada. I’m usually a size 8.5 but I sized down to an 8 for these and it was the right choice.

On the right are my boots from Oliberte, hand-made in Ethiopia. I bought them a year ago and they are still in great condition. I bought them in a size 9 which has worked well because I often wear them with wool socks. The ones I have on in this picture are from Fazl, a company that supports women and children in India and was started by our friends Mike and Vanessa. I’ve bought Peter two pairs of their socks and a pair for Pearl in Christmases past and my feet have been jealous ever since. This year both Rose and Pearl will find a pair of Fazl socks in their stockings. (Don’t tell!)

And at the beach: Nettle’s Tale

I don’t have a picture because I don’t really want to put myself in a swimsuit on the internet but when I was pregnant with Rose I bought a swimsuit top from this Vancouver-based company and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s done my well two summers in a row, pregnant or not. It was more than I’d spent on a swim suit before but I think I would buy from them again because it’s both comfortable and supportive.

Your turn! What are your favourite ethical companies? Have you tried any of the ones I’ve mentioned?

8 thoughts on “Ethical Shopping”

  1. I had to buy a dress for a wedding this summer and was discouraged (and not very excited about!) the offerings at the usual clothing stores. Cheaply, poorly, and non-ethically made. Plus, I very rarely buy clothes for myself (and don’t enjoy it :p) so I wanted something classic and quality that would last a while! So I bought a Toad and Co dress from MEC and I love it! It’s super versatile, really comfy, and a good company to support.
    For the kids I rarely buy anything new, usually thrift/consignment stores but MEC is my fave too 🙂

    1. I always thought of MEC as just a gear shop but they have some great clothing and have introduced me to some other fantastic companies too. I wish we had a more consignment shops on the Coast – we’re always checking out thrift/consignment stores when we’re in Vancouver!

  2. I love Little and Lively-and MEC of course! These look like great recommendations. I watched the documentary on Netflix-The True Cost and it made me cry, highly recommended! I’m torn as to whether it’s better to buy local, because if we all ban products made from places like Bangladesh, etc. a bunch of people (who really need the money) will be out of a job. Paying more money for better quality and ethically produced products from all around the world sounds like a good way to go, we just need to send the message to retailers that we’d rather pay a tiny bit more for goods when they are produced in an ethical way…

    1. I’m torn on the same question of whether it’s better to buy Canadian or support a company in Bangladesh that is paying fair wages. And making sure that product made in Bangladesh is accessible for their own locals to buy. I live in a small town and so I try to support locally-owned businesses as much as possible because I see what an effect it has on our community. I’m encouraged to see more people questioning who made their clothes and hopefully we can get that message across to retailers too!

    2. Yes, I think you’re right in that this is getting much more attention, and I really do hope it starts improving even more! Lord knows we have a long way to go…

  3. Thanks so much for the info! Without much intention I’ve realized the boys basically have seasonal capsule wardrobes. So I’ve just started looking into how to make more selective, ethical purchases when they need to size up or add winter layers. We just got new boots at Hatley (and FYI their brick and mortar store is very limited compared to their website). I will definitely check out the women’s links too, I’m starting to refresh wardrobe after baby. Plus you always look great so I’m happy to know your sources 😀

    1. Thanks! I am 100% in favour of buying yourself a couple of nice pieces of clothing after having a baby. I bought a sundress the summer after Pearl was born and a couple of tops last fall after Rose. Both times I initially felt like it was a bit of a waste because I was still losing baby weight but it made me feel so much better about myself in those early postpartum months.

      I like the idea of capsule wardrobes but I’m never able to limit myself that much! Pearl basically has a few items that she wears over and over again so maybe it will come more naturally to her!

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