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Ethical Alternatives to Free People: 12 Better Brands

woman at a flower field - Ethical Alternatives to Free People
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on

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.

Learn more about appropriation here.

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 and I may make commission on sales generated from this post.

12 Ethical Alternatives to Free People

woman wears a yellow wrap dress - 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.


woman in madras plaid blouse - Ethical Alternatives to Free People

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.


5 | Hackwith Design House

Woman-owned, designed, and made, Hackwith Design features beautiful garments made with linen, cotton, and tencel. 


ethically made ruched ribbed tee - Ethical Alternatives to Free People

6 | LA Relaxed

Like its name implies, LA Relaxed makes casual clothing with southern California vibes. Made in USA. 


7 | Virechic

Dresses, shawls, and accessories handwoven in Brazil.


8 | Valani

Handmade with ethical, organic, and nontoxic processes in Chicago and a GOTS-certified factory in India, Valani makes carefree garments with a tailored twist.


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.


Shoes & Accessories

black boots with tatreez embroidery - Ethical Alternatives to Free People

10 | Darzah

Leather shoes with traditional Palestinian embroidered insets. Darzah supports programs for women in the region.


birkenstock clogs - Ethical Alternatives to Free People

11 | Birkenstock

Free People carries a huge selection of Birkenstock sandals, which just so happen to be ethically and responsibly made. 


gemstone jewelry made in pakistan - Ethical Alternatives to Free People

12 | Daria Day

Gemstone jewelry made ethically by artisans in Pakistan. Each gem has a specific meaning, making them a meaningful heirloom.


More Ethical Alternatives to your favorite brands.

See all recommended brands in my Sustainable Brands Directory

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Milla from Sukhi

Monday 14th of September 2020

Oh, this is super interesting! As we are a social company, we love to learn about other brands who share the same vision and values. Thanks for the informative post!

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