The Weekend Series: five ethical underwear brands to wrap around your birthday suit
Whether you’re a bit of an exhibitionist when it comes to your undergarments, or you like to keep them simple and out of sight, there’s no doubt that comfort, style, sustainability and ethics play a key role in many of our purchase decisions. Fortunately, many Aussie brands are now taking heed and committing to transparency in the manufacturing process, fairer work practices and use of organic materials. We round up five of our favourites.
We have long been admirers of this Brisbane lingerie label, and watched it grow and evolve since it was first launched by creator Lis Harvey in 2012. Collection after collection has offered up an elegant range of minimalist, high-quality basics, while always staying true to its ethical roots. As the underwear brand with the longest-standing accreditation with Ethical Clothing Australia, NICO is committed to transparency in the production process and using organic, recycled materials wherever possible. Socks are cut from an eco-friendly, regenerated yarn, which is made up of 54% recycled cotton, while many of the underwear and basics are produced from sustainably sourced and resource-efficient Lenzing Modal.
Bimby + Roy
This Byron Bay-based brand has its sentimental roots in Fiji, where its co-founders (and sisters) spent their childhood. Now Bimby + Roy has come full circle, being ethically manufactured in the first solar-powered facility in the Fiji islands. With the help of the Australian government, the manufacturing facility also opened an attached childcare centre this year, with fees subsidised by the employer, meaning that workers can be close to their children during the work day. Bimby + Roy aims to create pieces with the smallest environmental impact possible, using sublimation printing to avoid ink dyes ending up in waterways and aiming to recycle all paper used during the production process. Perhaps one of our favourite features of the Bimby + Roy range is that bralettes and bottoms can be mixed and matched, and used for sleep, swim or play – depending on where your day may take you.
Image: Emma Wise Photography / Elle Smith model
Organic, ethical and sustainable – Eco Intimates ticks all the boxes. Launched in 2008 by then-stay-at-home-mum Madonna Bain, the label has evolved into a thriving business offering custom pieces and small production runs of quality lingerie. Madonna still dreams, designs and cuts patterns from her Byron Bay studio, which are then brought to life by the hands of skilled garment makers in Bali and Sydney, before being shipped around the world. Natural fabrics including Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton dyed with low-impact dyes, silk and lace, as well as remnant trims, are cut into long-lasting pieces that are gentle on both your body and the planet. Think eco-luxe bralettes, undies, slips, camis, loungewear and sleepwear.
The search for the perfect pair of undies is over: slip your buns into these flattering undergarments cut from natural, organic fibres and the earth (and your bod) will thank you for it. Founded in 2016 by designer Keisha Dessaix, LÉ BUNS combines eco-friendly materials with minimalist, timeless design to offer a chemical-free, breathable and super soft range of luxe intimates. The Melbourne-based label strives to reduce its footprint by working with small, family-owned facilities that treat its employees fairly and work to conserve water and energy. Pieces are cut from GOTS-certified organic cotton to minimise waste and reduce toxins, while printing and pre-washing is completed by hand and garments are naturally dried by the sun, and all online orders are packed in biodegradable boxes made from recycled paper.
Mighty Good Undies
The brand name says it all, really – these little guys are doing plenty of good indeed. After starting out as a simple way to raise the profile of certified organic and fairtrade cotton, the label has gone from strength to strength and attracted the attention of celebrities, media and bare bottoms far and wide. The Mighty Good Undies supply chain is certified by both GOTS and the Fair-trade Labelling Organization, while its factories carry the SA 8000 social accountability standard certification. Cotton is sourced from Chetna Organics, a collective farmer organisation that invests in community projects, food security, health, education and business infrastructure, before being manufactured by Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills, India’s leader in ethical textile production. The brand has also partnered with South Pole Carbon to offset the production of its goods and supports The Hope Foundation, which provides protection, education, health services and economic training opportunities to women and children living in the slums and streets of Kolkata, India. Just a few reasons to slip on a pair of these soft, toxic-free undies.
The Very Good Bra: Another brand name we can get behind, The Very Good Bra is exactly that. Having previously started a brand specialising in wire-free bras in natural fibres and proper cup sizes, The Very Good Bra founder Stephanie Devine launched a Kickstarter campaign for the world’s first zero-waste bra in 2018 and met an incredible response. The design has been streamlined since the initial launch version, but it’s still crafted from ultra-soft tencel with no underwire. Furthermore, there’s no polyester thread, nylon labels, synthetic elastic or spandex/elasthane to be seen – so feel free to pop it in the compost or your worm farm when it’s reached the end of its life.
Swedish Stockings: Don’t let their demur appearance fool you, stockings are shockers for pollution. Both nylon and elastane are oil products and release harmful gases during production, so not only do they lead to carbon emissions but also increased landfill due to their disposable nature. A leader in sustainably produced nylon stockings, Swedish Stockings produces pantyhose made from environmentally friendly dyes and 100 percent regenerated yarn from salvaged fishnets, recycled nylon waste chips and factory scraps. Beloved eco store Biome recently partnered with the brand to help reduce the impact further with a recycling service for any stockings that have reached the end of their heyday. Simply drop your old pair off at Biome’s Paddington, Balmoral, Indooroopilly or Brisbane City stores, or mail three pairs in to Biome’s Milton head office to receive a 10 percent discount to be used on any Swedish Stockings products at Biome. All donated stockings will be gathered and sent to Swedish Stockings to be ground down and used as a filler material in fibreglass tanks for oil and grease traps.