Ethical and eco: feel-good lingerie and swimwear

These days it’s fair to say that most of us are a lot more aware of the environmental impact of the choices we make. We might not have changed our lives that much, but we are learning that little things matter, whether that’s doing the recycling, using fewer plastic bags or low energy lightbulbs, or buying organic veg.

And then there’s our clothes.

Made in the UK and Fairtrade have become a trendy labels in the last few years; organic cotton and fibres like bamboo and Tencel are appearing more and more often in the clothing we buy; and more and more brands and retailers are offering ethical or eco products. Why? Because there’s a demand for them.

Both ethical and eco are simple labels that in reality are much more complex. When people talk about them they can be talking about everything from working conditions and pay to where and how fabrics are sourced, types of fabrics and chemicals used, where garments are made and how they are transported. There are so many things to consider.

So in many ways it comes down, once again, to the little things. While it can be very difficult for brands to control every aspect of their supply chains, many are doing what they can.

There are numerous lingerie and swimwear brands out there sourcing fabrics locally or manufacturing in the UK or Europe to reduce their carbon footprint, choosing organic or environmentally friendly fabrics, or even donating a portion of their profits to support a cause.

This can sometimes mean a higher price tag, but this is by no means always the case, and you certainly don’t have to compromise on looks or quality to buy ethical or eco lingerie and swimwear. Here we take a look at just a few of the many brands that are making a change or taking a stance, and hopefully introduce you to some lovely new labels to add to your wishlists.


Pants to Poverty

Pants to Poverty

Pants to Poverty launched in 2005, producing simple but stylish underwear for men and women made from fair trade and organic cotton. The company works with farming communities in India to ensure sustainable production methods and helps to fund seed development and education within those communities. It is also working closely with its factory, also in India and which operates a carbon neutral production system, on a real living wage programme for factory workers.

Pants to Poverty’s product is simple and uncomplicated – comfy pants made from super soft organic cotton in cool patterns and colours. You can buy direct from the brand or via its network of stockists.

You can also take advantage of the company’s Pants for Life subscription. You receive 12 pairs of pants over a year for £170, which is a discount of 25%, and £15 from your subscription goes towards Pants to Poverty’s educational programmes in its farming communities.

Who made your pants?

Who made your pants?

Who made your pants? is a workers’ cooperative in Southampton founded by Becky John back in 2009 to combine her love of knickers and ethical principles. The brand’s range of three styles of pants are all made by local women from Southampton’s refugee population, and you can find out which of the women made your pants by looking on the label.

The company provides a safe and friendly environment for its all-women employees, offers training in employability as well as how to make pants, and provides access to support services. And the pants are made from end-of-line fabric that would otherwise be wasted, turning it into gorgeous, comfortable knickers. This means constantly changing colours and patterns, which keep the collection fresh and interesting.

You can choose from the original lace Aimee shorts, the higher cut lycra or jersey Rosalind shortie, or Cecilia, a deeper style of short. Prices vary depending on the fabric and range from around £12.50 to up to £25 for a pair.

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Ayten Gasson Peace Silk lingerie

Ayten Gasson

Ayten Gasson is a luxury independent lingerie and nightwear brand that manufactures every single piece in the UK in an effort to support the local manufacturing industry. The gorgeous vintage-inspired collection includes silk bras, knickers, camisoles, robes and eyemasks in stunning colours, often trimmed with vintage lace sourced from the old Nottingham lace mills.

As well as the local fabrics and manufacture, Ayten Gasson also offers two ranges of eco lingerie, one made from organic silk and the other from Peace Silk. This refers to silk that is harvested using a special method that does not kill the silk worm, producing fabric with the same feel as normal silk but an interesting, raw appearance. Styles include a camisole, knickers and a bralet and prices are comparable to the main collection.

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Augustine London

Augustine London

Augustine London (formerly In Bloom London) is a lingerie brand dedicated to working as sustainably as possible, using fabrics that have minimum impact on the environment and working with mainly European suppliers who have the right certifications.

It was set up by Emily Huc, a designer with a passion for lingerie and a background in international development and environmental protection, in the belief that fashion, so crucial to our identities, is an ideal mechanism for helping to achieve a change in attitude towards a sustainable culture.

Augustine’s range of lingerie and loungewear is made mainly from organic cotton and Tencel, a man-made fibre produced from the wood pulp from beech and eucalyptus trees that is manufactured in a ‘closed loop’ system, which means that water and chemicals are reused. Prices range from £34-£44 for a bra.

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Luva Huva ethical lingerie

Luva Huva

Another brand with a focus on sustainable fabrics, Luva Huva‘s range of underwear, nightwear and loungewear offers some really lovely styles, all made in the UK. The brand is all casual elegance that is very wearable, and from humble beginnings in 2008 the company has grown to have stockists in the US and Europe as well as the UK.

The brand, which was founded by Joanne Ketterer, uses fabrics such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and soy in its collection, as well as sourcing end-of-line fabrics, vintage lace and elastic from one of the UK’s last suppliers. Other fabrics include merino wool, angora and cashmere, all of which are sourced from suppliers adhering to strict animal welfare standards.

The collection is really quite extensive, and the nighties and babydoll sets are adorable. Prices start at around £18 for a pair of knickers, with nighties costing around £50.

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Swim and beachwear

Beach Candy

Beach Candy

Beach Candy is a luxury beachwear brand that focuses on both ethical and environmental principles. The brand is made in and inspired by India, combining contemporary design with traditional techniques of dyeing, printing and embroidery.

Beach Candy was launched by Sophie Paget Steavenson, who moved to Mumbai in 2008, and offers both light and summery beach style with a truly unique edge. The brand works with a charitable organisation in Mumbai that provides work to people living in the city’s slums, providing them with a secure income, skills and a chance to leave poverty behind. The workshops operate to fair trade principles and workers are paid a living wage.

Through an NGO, the brand also works with artisans in rural communities who use their traditional handcraft skills in embroidery and weaving to embellish designs. This gives the local craftspeople access to a wider market, and the NGO also provides healthcare and education facilities in the area.

The range include dresses, kaftans, sarongs, tops, underwear, bags and hats. Garments are pricey, as you might expect considering the manufacturing process, and you can easily pay upwards of £200 for a beach dress, but they are gorgeous!

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RubyMoon swimwear


RubyMoon is an online swimwear brand dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs in the developing world. The brand works with development charity Care International’s Lend With Care programme, which provides micro loans to women to set up small businesses and find a route out of poverty. It’s a ‘hand up not a hand out’ system that gives women the means to create their own income, which makes a real difference to their lives and the lives of their families.

RubyMoon invests 100% of its profits in micro loans, and when these are repaid, it puts the money back into swimwear to generate more profits to invest. In addition, the brand sources all its fabrics and manufactures its swimwear in Europe, working with factories that adhere to strict ethical standards.

The collection itself is a little bit different to most other swimwear ranges. Most pieces are reversible, offering a block colour with a fun and colourful print design, and there are both one pieces and bikinis to choose from. Prices start at around £45.

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Lisa Blue swimwear

Lisa Blue

Lisa Blue is a swimwear brand with a mission – to help protect whales and dolphins. Founder Lisa Burke was inspired to do what she could to support marine conservation efforts through her own experiences with these creatures, helping her to recover after a long illness. And in return, she launched a swimwear label that gives 25% of its profits to the Australian Whale Conservation Society.

The Australian brand is based out of Byron Bay and offers an extensive collection every season that has something to suit all tastes, from stylish and stunning block colour bikinis to daring cut outs and vivid prints.

The brand is not widely stocked in the UK, but you can find a selection of styles online at and For a wider selection, see, which offers international delivery.

Freya Active softsuit in ultramarine

Freya Active

It’s not just little brands that are doing their bit for the environment. Freya Lingerie launched a range of swimwear under its Active label two years ago that supports the conservation of rainforests.

The Freya Active swimsuits are made from a fabric called Sensitive Life Soft, which is part of the SensitivEcoSystem range by Italian fabric supplier Eurojersey. This is a programme set up with the World Land Trust, a non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving the world’s rainforests and their wildlife.

The World Land Trusts works with a number of organisations, providing funds to allow the purchase and protection of rainforest land. For each Freya Active swimsuit made from Sensitive Life Soft fabric that is sold, half a metre of rainforest is purchased and saved from destruction.

The Freya Active swimwear range includes an underwired suit, a softcup suit and a tankini and prices start at £42.

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