15 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Madewell

Madewell has an aesthetic that artfully combines American classics with an offbeat, vintage vibe. Though they’re popular, most of their production isn’t ethical. Here are 15 ethical alternatives to Madewell.

The Merly Jacket by ABLE | This post contains affiliate links

Is Madewell Ethical?

Out of all of the contemporary brands at a mid-level price range, Madewell stands out as most representative of what women want to be wearing right now. And somewhere along the line, people have decided that Madewell is ethical, despite any claims of the sort.

It’s a vintage Americana-meets-minimalist aesthetic that captures that aspirational need to feel polished and perfectly laid back at the same time. We could delve into the ways clothing acts as a sort of costume for living into our aspirations, but that would take awhile.

For now, I’ll just say this: while Madewell and its parent company, J Crew, have a standard corporate social responsibility document in place, there is no evidence that the brand enforces these policies. In fact, a cursory search on Google will render multiple results for evidence of sweatshop labor.

This doesn’t mean that the J Crew-Madewell conglomerate is worse than most conventional brands, but it does mean they’re not prioritizing sustainable practices in their supply chain (though, according to this recent Fashionista article, the new CEO is working to get sustainability and fair trade certifications for J Crew brands).

So you have a couple options:

  • If you’re a Madewell super fan, email them and let them know that you’d like greater transparency and attention to ethics in their supply chain. Your voice matters.
  • If you’re ready to find some ethical alternatives, use the list I’ve compiled to shop.

Update: Madewell just released a fair trade certified denim line produced at Saitex.

Shop Madewell fair trade denim here.

11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com

Levi’s Waterless | Everlane | Ace & Jig

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11 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Madewell


1 | Levi’s Waterless

Madewell is best known for their denim, but their denim manufacturing processes are opaque. Levi’s produces a lot of their denim products with very low water waste and other responsible practices. You can still get that American heritage look without the wasteful manufacturing processes.

Featured item. SHOP HERE

2 | Entireword

With audited factories and a preference for sustainable materials, Entireworld offers some of that tomboy Americana aesthetic, with striped tees, rib knits, and cozy sweatshirts, all in unexpected colors.


3 | Made Trade

Made Trade is a curated marketplace for ethical fashion and home goods. The aesthetic has a kind of clean clarity I associate with Madewell and they carry a good range of items, including some plus sizes.


4 | Tonle

Tonle is a zero waste clothing brand that does amazing things with factory remnants. Shop screenprinted and woven clothing with casual, cool vibes.


5 | Only Child

Made in California, Only Child captures the California-cool aesthetic in wide leg pants, cropped blouses, and more, most made out of high quality linen.


 Made Trade
Made Trade
11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com

Liz Alig | MATTER Prints

6 | Liz Alig

Mentioned here because their new recycled denim line totally captures Madewell’s 2018 look, with casual stripes and streamlined, vintage inspired looks.

Featured item. SHOP HERE

7 | Ace & Jig

With an emphasis on hand loomed, artisan fabric, Ace & Jig is undoubtedly an inspiration for Madewell’s own line. In fact, Madewell partnered with them on a custom textile. The price point is higher, but the pieces are true works of art.

Featured item. SHOP HERE

8 | Synergy Organic Clothing

Cotton spandex separates with laid-back, feminine silhouettes, Synergy uses organic fabrics and produces in a fair trade facility.


9 | MATTER Prints

While MATTER may be a little out there compared to Madewell, some of their separates and jumpsuits fall right in line with the overall aesthetic, plus they’re made ethically using traditional artisan textile designs and techniques.

Featured item. SHOP HERE

10 | ABLE

Made fairly with full employee wage transparency (!), ABLE’s entire line of clothing, shoes, and bags closely aligns with the Madewell aesthetic.


11 | Tradlands

Responsibly made, menswear-inspired classics for women like button downs, work jackets, and t-shirts.


11 ethical alternatives to madewell stylewise-blog.com

Everlane | Nisolo


12 | Nisolo

A minimalist blogger favorite, Nisolo makes mules, sandals, huaraches, and boots with a fashion-forward meets timeless aesthetic.

Featured item. SHOP HERE

13 | Fortress of Inca

A luxurious collection of leather slides, boots, sandals and more made ethically in South America.


14 | Po-Zu

European made leather AND VEGAN shoes with a vintage-meets-modern aesthetic



15 | Etsy

Last but not least, don’t forget the vintage option! So much of Madewell’s designs, colors, and patterns have been pulled directly from vintage pieces. Their look as of late is very early 80s with a dash of the 70s mixed in. Look for specific products through an etsy search.


More from the Ethical Alternatives series here.

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