This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated in September 2020.
Is Free People ethical?
Though ideologically I’m probably more like a hippie than I realize, I’ve never fully embraced boho style.
But I’ve always admired the cool girls and women who pull it off well. Layers, mixed prints, embroidery, and drapey silhouettes feel easy while offering tons of visual interest.
The boho/hippie style is typified by Free People, the aspirational brand that makes you want to spend your life savings on sheer slip dresses and perfectly draped tees just to get a glimpse of what it’s like to live life with no reservations or regrets.
I love the Free People catalogs as much as the next suburbia-raised American, but as I’ve learned more about ethical fashion and cultural appropriation, it’s been necessary to keep my distance.
Not only is a large portion of Free People’s product line produced in factories where wage and safety standards are low or unverified, the overall aesthetic capitalizes on the trendiness of indigenous and cultural craft traditions without giving the original makers the credit they deserve.
I’ve come around to thinking that I really shouldn’t be wearing an intricately woven dress made to look like the work of a Oaxacan artisan if it was actually made by a poorly paid teenager in Bangladesh. Instead, if I want to capture the look of a traditional technique, I should buy directly from the culture that created it.
Fortunately, the fair trade movement is all about restoring and preserving artisan craft tradition. These brands do more than pretend: they work directly with artisans to produce high quality, contemporary pieces any Free People customer would love to wear.
This list contains affiliate links.
9 Ethical Alternatives to Free People
1 | Symbology
Symbology makes feminine silhouettes with artisan details, like block printing by Indian textile artists and embroidery by Pakistani artisans, with a mission to preserve craft tradition and offer stable, living wage employment.
2 | EcoVibe
Swingy shapes with cool details. Made in USA out of environmentally friendly and recycled fabrics.
3 | Kindom
Fair trade and indigenous-made apparel and accessories.
4 | Passion Lilie
Fair trade, block-printed cotton garments and accessories for any gender, made predominantly in India.
Soft, stretchy lounge and yoga gear with California-inspired details
6 | Darzah
Leather shoes with traditional Palestinian embroidered insets. Darzah supports programs for women in the region.
7 | Virechic
Dresses, shawls, and accessories handwoven in Brazil.
8 | Daria Day
Stunning gemstone jewelry made by artisans in Pakistan.
9 | Made Trade
Made Trade carries a curated collection of fair trade, artisan finds with one-of-a-kind details, and the fact that they carry multiple brands in clothing, accessories, homeware, and more makes the shopping experience more similar to Free People.
Suggestions or questions? Leave a comment.
See all recommended brands in my Sustainable Brands Directory