11 Ethical Knitwear Brands We Love to Keep You Warm This Winter
The Green Hub
Updated for 2021
Whether you’re wanting to maintain hibernation when winter rolls around or look great outdoors after months of wearing pajamas, knitwear is a wardrobe staple. Considering knitwear is as much a long-service investment piece, it’s worth buying quality pieces made to last.
The following sustainable brands are some of the best in the business in Australia and New Zealand for well-made, environmentally friendly and ethically produced knitwear.
Kowtow – For Style & Ethics
This innovative NZ brand ‘Kowtow’, which means the act of deep respect in Mandarin Chinese, is an all-round ethical and environmentally positive fashion powerhouse.
They really need no introduction; however, they are most well known for their clean-cut minimal garments all aimed at circular design.
Kowtow’s knitwear range is made from vegan-friendly 100% fair trade certified organic cotton and dyed with Global Organic Textile Standard approved (GOTS) inks, in a range of classic colours and stylish clean-cut designs.
McIntyre Merino – For Pops of Bright Colour
Merino wool is one of the most sought-after materials for clothing from the Merino sheep, known for its softness, breathability, and fineness.
Merino wool is perfect for winter and surprisingly also warmer months as it reacts to the body’s temperature. It is also odour and crease-resistant, perfect for hiking or just sitting around on the sofa.
McIntyre Merino is an Australian brand based in the Victorian Grampians, with the family growing merino wool on their property for 150 years. The brand has apparel for everyone, from jumpers to socks (and even Luxe Loungewear) and all made in Australia.
The best part about McIntyre Merino is the beautiful colour range not normally found in merino wool items, from soft lavender to bright lime green (and all the classic colours in-between).
Country Road – For Affordable and Well Made
Full disclosure, Australian brand (based in Melbourne) Country Road is not an ethical and sustainable apparel brand – but they are making strides (Good On You rates them Good).
They have outlined practices for ethical trade, sustainable farming and sourcing of raw materials, energy efficiency, scarce water resources, reducing waste and social development priorities.
In terms of knitwear, they have a wide range of classics from roll necks to knit dresses in a range of materials from alpaca, cotton to merino blend.
You can trust that Country Road will always have stylish and tailored knitwear designs that will be a staple in a wardrobe.
Untouched World – For Luxury Knits
Yep, we are still banging on about merino wool. This time, it is made by New Zealand brand Untouched World.
This sustainable apparel brand uses natural materials such as merino, possum (an introduced pest in NZ), and organic cotton, to produce unique and luxury pieces. There is a large range of beautiful pieces from capes to comfort coats, in rich winter tones.
Every piece is made in New Zealand and uses the finest fibres spun together for weightless warmth, softness, and durability (for example, the Relax Boatneck Sweater is made from possum, cashmere, and silk for a luxurious, non-itch garment).
Arnsdorf – For Modern Knits
Arnsdorf is a women-led Australian brand known for its trendy and tailored pieces, whilst also being a B Corp and accredited from Ethical Clothing Australia.
All pieces are made in Melbourne and based on the foundation of transparency, ethical manufacturing, and sustainability. Most pieces are limited, along with permanent collections of modern, structured, and beautiful pieces. T
here is a range of knitwear from turtleneck tees to oversized jumpers. Every item online is also broken down by price in terms of where the money from the garment. For those in Melbourne, you can get personally measured instore for a tailored approach.
Oh also, they donate 2% of every purchase to an organization called Kiva, which provides loans for women in developing countries to start their own businesses.
Icebreaker – For Performance Wear
New Zealand based brand Icebreaker is a trusted sustainable brand for outdoor and adventure gear.
They are well known for their use of merino wool from New Zealand merino sheep, which as mentioned above is an innovative natural material that is soft and durable for all temperatures.
Icebreaker is for all knitwear performance essentials that will last a lifetime for example for camping outdoors, hiking, running in winter etc rather than tailored high fashion.
Patagonia – For Wearing Your Values
Just in case anyone has magically forgotten the holy grail of outdoor apparel– American based brand Patagonia also sells knitwear (whilst fighting for global social and environmental justice).
If you are after knitwear that speaks to your values and uses environmentally friendly fabrics, Patagonia is for you. They are simple, durable, and practical pieces that can be used for day to day comfort or activities outdoors.
If not made from organic cotton, the fleeces are fair trade and made with 100% recycled polyester and dyed in a low-impact process. These are the kind of pieces you buy to last a lifetime, literally.
ELK – For “oh my god where did you get that from?” Knits
ELK is a family Melbourne based ethical brand, that is designed in Australia and handmade globally using ethical and environmental practices (their reports are available on their website).
Besides their ethics, they have not compromised on style and their knitwear collection is my personal favourite. The styles are in beautiful unique colours and styles that you will not find from any other brand, from classic knit jumpers to patterned coats and knit dresses.
It must be highlighted with this brand however that they still use unnatural materials such as Nylon spun in their garments, yet they do support circular economy design and are aiming for all products to be made with recycled or certified sustainable materials.
Citizen Wolf – For Custom-Fit Layers
Sydney based ‘t-shirt’ brand is an ethical, carbon negative, innovative powerhouse that uses ethical sourcing, laser cutting to avoid waste, and provides free repairs forever (yes FOREVER!)
They even won a Gold Good Design Award for their contribution to sustainable innovative fashion. Now, there is a limited range in terms of ‘knitwear’, however if you are after the ultimate fitted turtleneck as a base layer, this is for you.
You customize the style online, select from a range of colours, add the fabric (merino wool, hemp, or cotton), and ‘add magic fit’ if you are after a custom-made fit. That is magic.
CABLE MELBOURNE – For Premium Knits
This ‘word of mouth’ brand is an Australian knitwear label focusing on natural merino wool, local Australian knitters, and sustainable manufacturing.
Their knitwear range is generally made from soft wool blends, all-natural and biodegradable materials.
There is pretty much every style to choose from, each having a luxurious and premium look to it which can be dressed up or down.
Outerknown – For Casual Cool Knits
“Outerknown is proving that you don’t have to compromise on sustainability or style” – Kelly Slater
American 11 x world champion surfer Kelly Slater decided to finish all his sponsorships and create his own sustainable label with John Moore in 2015 – meet Outerknown.
The brand’s 2030 plan includes embracing circular models, champion fair labor, and lead innovation, with Good on You giving them an overall rating of Good. They have accreditation by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), were the first to launch ECONYL clothing, and use apparel for advocacy.
There is a range of casual knits for men and women available, in breezy California colours and styles made from 100% organic cotton, which are perfect for the beach.
Mia Frantino – For Luxury Cashmere & Knitwear
“We don’t just pay lip service to the notion of ethical production, sustainable fibres and slow fashion. We live and breath these values in every step of our design, production and making process. It is our promise to deliver honest, sustainably sourced and ethically made knitwear.”
They have an impressive collection of luxurious knitwear made using 100% natural Mongolian cashmere in an array of styles in neutrals, pastels and some gorgeous bright pops of colour. Every piece is made in their own factory in Sri Lanka certified to global SMETA, GOTS & Oekotex standards.
They are priced on the higher side, these pieces are an investment, but ones you will love and wear for a lifetime.