Sustainability is sexy. No ifs or but(t)s about it.
So, in the spirit of making patooties more planet-friendly, we stripped down to find some boudoir ethical lingerie brands worthy of bedroom eyes. We’ve covered ethical underwear in the past, but this time we’ve dialed the style up to ten, trading in basics that cover your bottom into lacy little numbers that, well, don’t cover so much.
To learn more about how we selected these brands, keep reading past the end of the brand list, or jump straight down.
While we normally advocate for buying used and thrifting for clothes before buying new, some things are just a little too personal to buy used. Still, we urge you to exercise constraint and purchase new items minimally. You just need a few nice pieces to spice up those special occasions.
Slightly different to our normal lists, we included Azura Bay on this list, which is actually a retailer of beautiful sustainable and ethical lingerie – they ensure a super-inclusive size range and that their brand partners adhere to stringent ethical standards – so if you need a quick answer to your search, this might be it.
One last pro-tip from the planet before we get stuck in: Make sure you wash your lingerie in a Guppyfriend wash bag, which not only protects your delicates but also keeps dangerous microplastics from entering the water table (and eventually our food chain!). You can find one at Reformation or REI.
Now let’s size up the best ethical lingerie brands.
This award-winning Danish brand has been putting the booty in beautiful ethical lingerie since 2010, which they claim to be “almost as sustainable as being naked.” Their product lineup includes bodystockings, teddies, bras, and more with plenty of patterns and prints to choose from.
Aside from the name, there’s nothing “under” about this brand. Instead, they’re overqualified, overwhelmingly eco-conscious, and over the top cute!
Underprotection’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Underprotection’s environmentally friendly lingerie uses a variety of top-notch PETA-approved natural fabrics, including GOTS-certified organic cotton and banana fabric and lyocell, both certified by OEKO-Tex 100 and Union of Natural Fibers. They’re also one of the only ethical lingerie brands using milk fiber, a silky byproduct of the dairy industry made from soured milk protein.
Underprotection uses OEKO-Tex certified and GRS-approved recycled fabrics like polyester, elastane, and nylon. The Q-NOVA nylon makes up all the lace and mesh fabrics and is 99% recycled and made from a chemical-free processing method.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Underprotection was given the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) Young Designer license in 2013. This means they’re audited to uphold supply chain standards set by both the International Labor Organization and U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.
Most styles are made in a small factory called Fashion Forte in New Delhi, India. They’ve been working with this woman-owned factory since the beginning and are fully transparent about their long-term 20-person workforce here. Recently they’ve also started working with new fair trade factories in Latvia and Greece to keep production closer to home. Each product description tells you where that particular garment is made.
- Green business practices: All products are shipped in recyclable paper packaging or biodegradable poly bags.
- Inclusivity: Underprotection writes, “We love women, all kinds, all sizes, and our goal is to make you feel as beautiful and comfortable as possible.” You’ll find a complete range of sizes from XS-XL.
2. CLARE BARE
About Clare Bare
If you want a more edgy, boudoir look for your lingerie, Clare Bare has some cute and kinky ethical designs for you. Their range of ethical women’s lingerie includes bralettes and panties, lace-back bodysuits, garter belts and shorts, robes, slips, and extra sultry cage bras (for the brave and strap-happy).
Their philosophy is quite admirable and inspiring:
“Sexuality is complex-we should not feel the need to be defined by one thing or another. We are always aiming to be “both” in every aspect-hard/soft, masculine/feminine, light/dark, sophisticated/naive, etc. Lingerie is a medium for experimentation, play, and empowerment.”
You can really see this come to fruition in their designs, which combine light and flirty florals with bold black lace, trim, and straps.
Clare Bare’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Clare Bare prioritizes used vintage and salvaged fabrics whenever possible. These come from other fashion manufacturers, and thrift store finds, and each product description tells you where your fabric came from. If they can’t source a material used, they rely on a new local supplier of Lenzing Modal. They recently made this switch after using bamboo jersey during their early years.
All elastic and hardware (which is mostly new rather than upcycled) come from a local L.A. supplier as well.
All dyes are 100% organic and include specifically Brazilian Logwood (purples, blacks), Indian Lac (pinks, reds), Caribbean Plants (teals, blues), Osage Orange (yellow). While Indian Lac is made from the excrement of the Cochineal insect – not the insect itself – they are happy to provide a synthetic alternative for vegans.
- Supply chain & labor practices: This made-in-the-U.S. ethical lingerie brand crafts everything by hand (down to the dyeing) in their downtown Los Angeles studio. Each order is handmade and in many cases hand dyed so orders take 1-4 weeks to ship.
- Green business practices: To be zero waste themselves, they meticulously collect their fabric scraps to be remade into one-off and one-of-a-kind pieces, which you can shop here.
- Inclusivity: Clare Bare lingerie is available from sizes XS-XL, and they use a diverse cast of women to model their products.
Best friends Julie Kervadec and Lara Miller founded AmaElla with a simple crowd-funding campaign in 2016. Today, they remain a company run entirely by females for females. Their simple, vintage items include negligee nightwear, bras, and knickers (they ARE a UK-based company, after all).
Whether you like feminine florals or edgy strappy ethical lingerie, these designs are just modest enough to leave a little room for the imagination!
AmaElla’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: AmaElla’s organic lingerie is made of a Confidence-in-Textiles-certified fabric called SmoothSilk, which is made of GOTS and Oeko-Tex 100 organic cotton. 9% of each piece is elastane, for the straps and waistbands.
- Supply chain & labor practices: AmaElla pieces are designed in the UK by designers-in-training, and produced in Portugal by local women. This Portuguese factory is certified by the ILO and adheres to U.N. ethical standards.
- Inclusivity: Take a look at their social feeds, and you’ll see real women, skin rolls, stretch marks, and all (hallelujah!). Plus, their models pose doing everyday things, rather than making you think, “WHO EVEN STANDS LIKE THAT?!”. Their sizes range from XS to XL in knickers and sleepwear, but bra sizing is less inclusive, only ranging from 32A to 38C.
- Community & charitable giving: By partnering with UK education non-profits, AmaElla partners employ design students as their chief designers giving them the opportunity to practice and hone their skills.
“Upcycle brand” Anekdot makes some seriously beautiful lingerie and sexy loungewear. By combining bold solids with soft, transparent lace inserts, Anekdot pieces are flattering and feminine. They sell bras and high or low bottoms individually, or as matching ethical lingerie sets.
Not only do these vintage florals look old school, but they actually are since all fabrics are sourced from vintage deadstock that would otherwise go to the landfill. This means their collection runs are limited and unique.
Anekdot’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Every component of Anekdot’s lingerie line is made from pre-consumer production leftovers and fabric trimmings. Even the organic cotton crotch liners are upcycled fabric cut-offs. Using upcycled materials means their products aren’t always biodegradable, but they only source from production lines certified by GOTS or OEKO-Tex 100 certified.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Because Anekdot sources deadstock fabric, tracing the specifics of each piece is difficult. They do try by including a detailed sourcing list in every product description. Generally, they source hardware locally from Germany, elastic from 1980s fashion production runs in London, and leftover bra straps from Sri Lanka.
- Green business practices: Shipping is minimized by sourcing most fabrics from somewhere in Europe, and everything is handmade in Berlin, Germany, or Poland.
- Inclusivity: Anekdot sizes run XS-L
- Community & charitable giving: Aside from regularly participating in Fashion Revolution Week and other Fashion Revolution events, they also sponsor other charitable events. In 2019 they sponsored the Durham University Charity Fashion show to support the Environmental Justice Foundation.
For a huge selection of affordable, sustainable lingerie, look no further than Reformation. We doted on this transparent company when covering ethical dresses and swimwear, and a quick peek at their sustainability report will tell you why (or keep reading and we will). We love how every product description comes with a footprint calculator telling you how much water, waste, and CO2 was saved in producing that garment.
Reformation’s intimates are elegantly classic. With mostly soft lacy styles in a range of products like see-through slips, transparent bralettes, and bum-flattering panties in all cuts and shapes. You can also find their ethical lingerie at Nordstrom stores, reducing shipping from online orders.
Reformation’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Reformation uses a wide variety of recycled synthetics and plant-based fabrics across their line. For lingerie, however, the selection is much smaller. Their lacy lingerie is made from a recycled nylon blend, and their stretchier bralettes and panties are made of TENCEL Lyocell derived from sustainably managed forests. Both are blended with elastane in the straps and waistbands.
Rest assured that all fabrics for your sensitive areas are tested against a large list of restricted substances, and some come from Bluesign or OEKO-TEX 100 certified suppliers.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Over 65% of their full line is produced at their 32 factories in Los Angeles, which employ mostly women from underrepresented groups. They invite the public to take monthly tours in person or by video for full transparency. Other factories are in China, Morocco, and Turkey, and are regularly audited to uphold the Global Social Compliance Programme’s (GSCP) Code of Conduct.
- Green business practices: Their certified green building offices use eco-friendly office supplies like recycled tire pens and run on electricity purchased from wind power suppliers. Reformation has been carbon neutral since 2015 by offsetting operations through the Brazilian Rosewood Amazon Conservation Project and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. They offset the power your computer uses when shopping for their products online.
To encourage customers to reduce their carbon footprint too, they sell Native Energy climate credits and offer $100 of store credit for customers that switch to wind energy suppliers.
Having signed the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, they plan to recirculate 500,000 garments by 2025. And… they’re already over halfway there.
- Inclusivity: While some of the range is available from size XS to XL, a large portion of the intimate range only goes up to L, the equivalent of a 38” bust and 31” waist. So, it’s not incredibly inclusive for larger women, which is a shame given how on-the-mark the rest of the company is.
- Community & charitable giving: Reformation does good by starting at home. They encourage their staff to volunteer, both with company-wide volunteer days and giving individuals a monthly paid day off to do so. They also regularly plant trees through L.A.’s TreePeople and other rotating organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
6. ECO INTIMATES
About Eco Intimates
This bespoke label comes to us from Byron Bay, Australia, where founder and chief designer Madonna Bain (no, not THAT Madonna) has been lovingly designing every piece of lingerie and sleepwear from her home since 2008.
With lots of ruffles and pastel colors, Eco Intimates creates a soft and sensuous bedroom look.
Eco Intimates’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Organic cotton is the core of EI’s virgin materials. Most pieces feature a 100% cotton broderie anglaise. Upcycled materials for trims and accent panels (like lace and elastic) are purchased from local suppliers and tailors.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Madonna designs everything in her Byron Bay home and studio and even fully makes some pieces there too. Most manufacturing occurs at a small-batch handmade home industry factory in Bali, Indonesia. The home-industry means the seamstresses work from their homes on their own time, which ensures flexible and ethical working conditions.
- Green business practices: When it comes to shipping, they wrap garments in undyed compostable tissue paper, then place them in paper bags or Better Packaging compostable bags.
- Inclusivity: Madonna founded EI “’to remind women how truly beautiful they naturally are”. She keeps this in mind with every new design she makes and offers sizes from XS to XL.
- Community & charitable giving: In the vain of promoting body positivity and uplifting women, they recently started the EI Real Girls Campaign to highlight bad*ss ladies just being their wonderful selves.
The name is Japanese for “love and respect”, German company Aikyou is the self-defined “lingerie brand for small busts”.
When it comes to feeling sexy and feminine, small-busted women can sometimes get a bit left out. Aikyou aims to change that and make women feel gorgeous just as they are with unpadded or minimally padded designs. By playing with interesting geometries, mesh inserts, and multiple straps, their collection is uniquely fierce while maintaining a classic simplicity.
Aikyou’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: All Aikyou garments are made mostly of Fair Trade and OEKO-Tex 100 certified organic cotton (with a little elastane where necessary). Though they don’t hold the GOTS-certification for monetary reasons, they uphold their cotton to the same standards.
They only use eco-friendly dyes and die-cast zinc closures and adjustment buckles, which are guaranteed hypoallergenic and nickel-free.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Aikyou is a certified Fair Trade ethical lingerie company also vegan across the whole limited supply chain. They manufacture in and source from Europe only. Fabric production occurs in Germany (yarning, spinning, and cutting) and all the sewing is done in Croatia.
- Green business practices: They use DHL GoGreen shipping service and package in sustainable forestry-certified recycled or recyclable boxes.
- Inclusivity: Aikyou sizes only run US 2-8, so they don’t reach the upper tiers of the inclusivity spectrum. However, we appreciate that they bring love and light to another body type the fashion industry doesn’t typically favor. Going beyond the small-breasted Aikyou caters to the large population of women who have had mastectomies and too often get ignored by the fashion industry.
- Community & charitable giving: Aikyou supports Pro Animale (which cares for animals like dogs and horses) as well as bee protection programs.
8. AZURA BAY
About Azura Bay
This one’s a funny one, folks: Azura Bay is a retailer (not a designer) of ethical swimwear, loungewear, and wildly inclusive sustainable lingerie, based in Canada. They partner with other sustainable lingerie stores and brands (some are on this list, like Only Hearts and Underprotection) to sell ONLY the most sustainable and eco-friendly intimates. Since many brands limit their sustainable products to one piece or one line, Azura Bay combines them into one convenient shopping location.
They also offer different sizes than those offered by the designer directly. That’s why you’ll find 9 different sizes of the Underprotection Lima Recycled Lace Bralette on Azura Bay, but only five directly on the brand’s website.
This means their variety and selection is vast, from ethical sporty lingerie to delicate bodysuits. It’s a real one-stop-sexy-shop! We’ve never run into this before when crafting these brand lists but thought they were well worth the inclusion.
Azura Bay’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Azura Bay only includes pieces from brands made of the conscious materials. This includes GOTS-certified organic cotton, TENCEL Lyocell, recycled lace, and other fully upcycled synthetics.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Again, Azura Bay doesn’t manufacture themselves, but they carefully vet brands and only choose to sell those with ethical sourcing policies and sustainable practices. Most products are made in the US, UK, or Canada. They don’t include those that are made in non-Fair Trade factories in India, Mexico, and Peru.
- Green business practices: When it comes to shipping, they use 100% recycled boxes, recycled/recyclable EcoEnclose poly mailers, Better Packaging Co compostable mailers, and even recycled tissue paper. They’re another Bead & Reel ethical brand, as well.
- Inclusivity: Aside from offering a huge range of sizes that the designers don’t directly, they host new photoshoots with a more diverse range of ladies to strut their stuff and show off these pieces. We love the plus-sized inclusivity and how downright REAL all their models look.
9. LARA INTIMATES
About Lara Intimates
This London-based company is bringing eco-friendly bras to all babes, no matter their bust size. Lara Intimates was founded on the belief that “all women deserve to own perfectly fitting, sustainable bras”.
Their wire-free or wire-full bras are not only supportive and functional but sexy enough to count as lingerie in our book. These solid colored pieces feature semi-transparent overall fabric and a fully transparent mesh cleavage cut-out for flirtatious flair.
Lara Intimates’ Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: All Lara’s fabrics are 100% reclaimed from a local UK supplier that sends them landfill-bound luxury lingerie fabrics in perfect, unused condition. The only new components on their clothing are the hardware (hooks, strapping cinches, and the like), and elastic (which is made by local, eco-friendly suppliers).
- Supply chain & labor practices: Lara makes everything right in their all-female powered London Soho studio to maintain complete control over the ethics of their manufacturing.
- Green Business Practices: Not only do they upcycle from other production lines, but they have a zero waste policy for their own. This means they save and shred any scraps and trimming to be remade in the future. They also sell their Factory Seconds at discounted prices so that bras with minor flaws can still find a loving chest to support.
- Inclusivity: In terms of bras, especially, they have the single best size ranges we’ve seen, from 26A to 36I, with the promise of even more coming soon. They show off these products on diverse women in all sorts of sizes (even pregnant models!).
- Community & charitable giving: Between all the shameless pink and outcry blog posts to “free the nipple!” we can’t help but feel empowered when looking at Lara Intimates’ website. Which is exactly the point! Check out their Boob Diaries for more on the wonderfully supportive (pardon the pun) community they have cultivated.
10. ONLY HEARTS
About Only Hearts
Only Hearts is a New York City luxury lingerie brand that makes pieces that are “sensuous, natural and just a little bit naughty”. Some are a lot bit naughty.
Only Hearts has so many really beautiful and risque teddies and two-pieces, but only their Organic Cotton Collection and Recycled Lace Collection meet our sustainable lingerie criteria. Shop everything from high waisted lace thongs to flirtatious cotton chemises.
If you need convincing that these pieces will make you look and feel irresistible, we’ll just say even Scarlett Johansson and Kate Moss have …
Only Heart’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Surprisingly, the organic cotton collection is made of 100% GOTS Peruvian Pima cotton. It’s processed with oxygen and whitened using bleach-free GOTS-approved hydrogen compounds. They only use dyes that are approved by the Ecological and Toxicological Association of Dyes (ETAD) and GOTS ISO 140000 in the final dyeing stage.
Their recycled eco-friendly lace lingerie is made of Global Recycled Standard approved 88% reclaimed nylon. That’s up from 59% when we last mentioned this brand in our ethical underwear article only a year ago!
- Supply chain & labor practices: While garments are sourced from various places around the world (like the cotton which is grown in Peru), everything is made right in New York City’s Garment District.
- Inclusivity: Only Hearts does, unfortunately, suffer from one of luxury fashion’s downfalls, in that its sizes run S-L.
- Community & charitable giving: While Only Hearts doesn’t mention any charitable endeavors, they are all about cultivating a community of female uplift and empowerment. Their social channels are filled with posts about women’s rights and the rights of other marginalized communities.
11. CHAKRA INTIMATES
About Chakra Intimates
Perhaps the most unique brand on the list, Chakra Intimates infuses sexy sustainable lingerie with reiki-charged crystals hand sewn to sit at key chakras.
Without getting woo-woo on you, positioning these gemstones near the body’s spiritual centers can give the wearer energy and balance. You can learn more in their guide to the power of chakras, but for the short version, founder Krista Ruegg explains it best:
The general idea […] is to harness the living energy of the stones (“which have been growing and absorbing energy from the earth for thousands of years”) to balance and strengthen the spiritual body. “Just as you eat and get the benefits from healthful food, this is another way of bringing something good to your body.”
Even if you don’t believe in all that, these designs are still lovely. With opaque fabric covering the most intimate bits and lace insets across the rest, they’re a great blend of modest and revealing. Their nine different products (including bras, panties, robes, and a chemise) come in an array of earthy colors.
- Materials: Chakra Intimates are made using TENCEL Modal sourced from sustainably grown European beech trees. Since the dyes are also plant-based, the fabrics are fully biodegradable. They also claim each Grade A gemstone is ethically sourced. You can read more about each stone in the product descriptions.
- Supply chain & labor practices: 100% made not only in the USA but in the Los Angeles area. It all starts at a small, sweat-shop free fabric mill in the city itself. Finished fabrics are then sewn in a factory in the San Fernando Valley, close to Krista’s house. No shipping required. They’re also a Bead & Reel approved brand!
- Inclusivity: Their models are very diverse in age, body type, and race, but sizes only run small through large.
- Community & charitable giving: Aside from generally empowering women, physically and spiritually, part of Chakra Intimates’ mission is to contribute to women’s outreach services and highlight women doing great things. See their blog for some examples.
WHY BUY ECO FRIENDLY LINGERIE
The most scandalous part of traditional lingerie isn’t what it leads to. The naughtiest part is its terrible impact on the planet.
Unfortunately, many components of eco-friendly lingerie can’t be made with natural fibers. Silk is about the only traditional option, and that’s riddled with sustainability issues itself. Watch this video to learn more about the problem with silk farming.
So instead of natural fibers, we’re left with petroleum-based synthetics to contribute to the massive amount of plastic fiber waste that will never fully break down. Let’s not even get into the fact that they are likely soaked in toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process. We don’t know about you, but we’d rather keep plastic and phthalates far away from our privates.
HOW WE FOUND THESE ECO FRIENDLY LINGERIE BRANDS
We recommend you to read our article on sustainable fashion criteria, if you haven’t yet. It’s the core of how we vet the most sustainable fashion brands and products. Here’s a quick reminder of some of the things we consider:
The biggest sustainability factor we look for is material. Natural materials are best because they biodegrade at the end of their life. Most are even compostable! Fabrics on this list include organic cotton and TENCEL (both Lyocell made from eucalyptus pulp, and Modal, made from beech tree pulp).
We look for fabrics that are grown and processed organically (which is to say without the use of chemicals). For this, third-party certifications come in mighty handy, particularly the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). To earn this certification, the fabric must be produced seed-to-shelf across all entities involved without pesticides, fertilizers, or even machine harvesting.
Unfortunately, asking for lingerie to be totally natural is pretty unrealistic due to necessary components (like lace, straps, and waistbands) that just can’t be made out of organic fabrics. In that case, we look to recycled synthetics sourced from deadstock fabric waste, production trimmings, and vintage clothing. By using upcycled materials for these things, we are making use of fabrics already in existence, therefore giving them a better use than going to landfill..
The higher the recycled content, the better, so we look for those certified by the Global Recycle Standard (GRS), which requires a minimum of 20% recycled content to be called “recycled”. Obviously, we look for higher percentages than that, and generally, those with this certification are considerably better than 20%.
For all fabrics, organic or synthetic, we want to make sure they are non-toxic. The OEKO-Tex 100 Standard ensures both fabrics and devices used to process them are free of harmful chemicals like heavy metals (i.e., nickel and cadmium), colorants, and formaldehyde.
Supply Chain & Labor Practices
Transparency of the supply chain is very important. We want to know #WhoMadeMyClothes and that they were made in Fair Trade working environments. The actual Fair Trade certification is the primary one we seek, but there are plenty of other comparable certifications you can read more about here.
Fortunately, most of these lingerie companies have super small supply chains, and many have operations totally based in their home country.
Green Business Practices
We also consider the sustainability of a brand’s operations. Do they use renewable energy and offset their carbon footprint? What are their shipping methods and packaging materials? Do they aim for low or zero waste operations by employing handmade production methods or making things to order, so there isn’t any deadstock waste?
The fashion industry is fickle, and too often, if you’re not skinny enough or haven’t learned the secret to getting a thigh gap (P.S., there isn’t one… the thigh gap is a dangerous myth!), you’re left out.
That’s why we love to see brands that make clothing for ALL body types and sizes. No woman deserves to be excluded just because of the way she is built. This is especially important for lingerie since we bare more than our skin when we show ourselves in our skivvies. We bare our hearts and self-confidence, too! It’s crucial lingerie companies build women up rather than tear down their self-esteem.
Community & Charitable Giving
A nice bonus is when companies go beyond their own profit and staff to give to others through charitable endeavors and partnerships. Alternatively, companies don’t necessarily need to donate money to give back; they can create outreach initiatives that cultivate a more learned, motivated, and empowered community.
Lots of lingerie companies on this list are doing this by highlighting real women and their achievements.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE LINGERIE
Everyone deserves to feel beautiful and sexy, and with these sustainable and ethical brands, you won’t have to feel guilty about what that confidence is costing the earth!
As always, we would love to hear about your experience with any of these brands, or if you have any favorites that didn’t make the list. Touch base in the comments below! If you know someone who’s looking to spice up their love life (or just has a serious love affair with sustainable lacy things), share this article with them.
Together, we can help beautify the ugly world of fast fashion, one butt at a time.