There are a few things to consider when purchasing knitwear from an ethical and sustainable standpoint. In the first instance, you should be looking for natural fibres. It’s surprising how well polyester can pass off as wool. Always check the labels to avoid buying items that are made from synthetic fibres as they’ll easily lose shape, are often poor quality, and won’t break down in landfill at the end of their life. Most of the genuine knitwear on the market will be made from lovely natural fibres such as wool or recycled wool or cotton or organic cotton.

If you are buying wool, it’s good to consider animal welfare as well. Most ethical brands will be transparent about where they source their wool and ideally will disclose if they only work with farmers who treat their animals well and specifically don’t engage in mulesing.

Finally, like all products we purchase, we should know that the people assembling or knitting the garments are treated with respect and have a safe working environment. These are my picks for ethically made, sustainable knitwear.

1. Kowtow

Kowtow Winter 2024 Knitwear

New Zealand’s favourite ethical clothing essentials brand has a range of beautiful knitwear to boost your wardrobe. From the classic pull over to beautiful button ups, the range includes new and old styles in primary colours red, navy and yellow. Kowtow’s knitwear range is made from 100% fair trade certified organic cotton, and has a soft textured hand feel. It is individually knitted to eliminate yarn waste. The brand’s garments are made in a transparent supply chain, which works with fair trade certified farmers and manufacturers from seed to garment.

2. Revel Knitwear

Revel Knitwear

Revel Knitwear makes quality knitwear with a focus on sustainability from design to delivery. The range of bright and bold garments are made-to-order to reduce excess stock and waste, and are hand-knitted in Australia by a group of local home knitters. Revel Knitwear opts for natural fibres such as locally sourced pure wool and alpaca wool and cotton, to ensure there’s something for everyone. Shop for classic and oversized cuts, plus a sweater for bub!

3. La Sierra

Le Sierra knitwear

Melbourne-based brand Le Sierra works with artisan communities in South America to produce its luxurious and sustainable alpaca hair knitwear.  The brand says it follows fair trade principles, enabling artisan communities to make a sustainable living for their families.  The small batch garments are hand crafted by artisans they work with directly in Ecuador and Peru. The La Sierra collection includes basics, scarfs and super soft jumpers.

4. Standard Issue 

Standard Issue New Zealand knitwear

New Zealand-based brand Standard Issue is challenging the norm with its small batch, consciously made knitwear. The brand was founded on a desire to create timeless garments defined by nature and cherished for a lifetime. As such, every garment bears consideration for the environment with the brand choosing natural or recycled fibres and using innovative production technologies and partnerships to eliminate textile waste.  Shop for stunning New Zealand made knitwear in cashmere, merino, alpaca, possum merino and cotton-cashmere blends. 

5. Nancybird

Nancybird knitwear

Melbourne-based ethical fashion house Nancybird designs art to be worn, collected and admired. The brand’s womenswear collection features its seasonal prints across a range of styles including an extensive knitwear range (think pullovers, button ups and vests) in natural fibres including cotton, wool and mohair. Nancybird says its garments and accessories are mindfully made, and the brand publishes detailed information about its manufacturers on its website. You can see how the brand’s knitwear is made by its Chinese manufacturing partner here. Shop for timeless and well made designs.

6. Loris Knitwear

Loris Knitwear

Photos by: Nella Fullard

Loris Knitwear blends old and new with super funky 90s-inspired jumpers, scarfs, button ups and beanies (think patchwork and polka dots). The brand’s small operation produces one-of-a-kind designs made by one woman’s hands from her home in Ballarat, Victoria. Taught to knit by her mother Loris, designer, knitter and all-round creative powerhouse Lisa Kerr spent her early years making clothing for her dolls, then later for herself, her children and her friends. After so many years honing her talents and love of fashion, she decided to try something a little more experimental, and Loris Knitwear was born. Scroll through the Loris Knitwear Instagram to buy or commission a design.

7. LilKnits

Lilknits

Lilknits, big heart. Lilknits knitwear is handmade in Melbourne by a one-woman team with wearers’ comfort and the environment in mind. The brand opts for natural and fully biodegradable or recycled fibres in the garments, and uses a carbon neutral courier for all deliveries. There’s two staple knits (jumper and cardigan) in a range of earthy colours, plus the option to knit your own at home. They’re all made to order.

8. Obus Clothing

Obus Clothing Knitwear AW 2024

This year’s Obus Clothing collection includes a range of knitted turtlenecks, jumpers and dresses, too. While 80% of Obus Clothing’s production is done onshore, the brand’s knitwear is made responsibly in China. The knitwear range is made from merino wool, alpaca and wool-cotton blends. Obus Clothing also uses some semi-synthetic fibres such as viscose. Shop for Obus’s signature prints and pops of colour.

9. Elk

Melbourne-based sustainable fashion brand Elk has been championing ethical and sustainable production since its inception in 2004. Elk’s collection started with bags and accessories, but has grown to include a comprehensive womenswear range including quality knitwear. The range includes sweaters, cardigans, tops and scarves in various blends of wool, cotton and nylon. See the specific make up of each garment under ‘materials’ on the brand’s website. Elk publishes an annual transparency report where it measures and reports on sustainability goals and the brand’s ethics.

10. Country Road

Country Road has a number of policies in place to ensure ethical and sustainable production, and is committed to transparency in a number of ways, including having its factory list published on its website. The brand says it is striving for innovation and unlocking the value of existing resources when sourcing its fabrics. For this reason, Country Road opts for natural and recycled fibres, like its verified merino wool which can be traced back to Australian farms.

11. Tuckshop Knits

Tuckshop Knits

Tuckshop Knits are hard to miss. The colourful collection is a range of knits including vests, pull over jumpers, scarfs, beanies and button ups. The garments are made from 100% Australian merino wool sourced from New South Wales and spun and dyed in Victoria. Everything is then handmade in Melbourne with special knitting machines. Tuckshop Knits are ethically made in Melbourne in limited quantities to reduce waste.

12. Oneiric

Oneiric

Melbourne-based brand Oneiric creates tailored and handmade garments, with a mission to evoke emotion, mood and attitude within everyday wear. The brand’s knitwear is a mixture of seasonless garments and items that are made in small runs with deadstock knit fabric. Oneiric makes the majority of its items in Melbourne, with the knitwear being made to order to reduce waste. The brand works with a local family run manufacturer and also has an in-house team creating handmade pieces. The knitwear is made with natural fibres such as mohair and merino.

13. Wolf and Mishka

Melbourne-based slow fashion label Wolf and Mishka has been making its collections in Australia since 2014. With a focus on colour and quality, the brand is known for its unique, hand illustrated prints which are featured across a range of clothing and accessories – including a range of colourful knitwear.  In an effort to reduce the brand’s impact, Wolf & Mishka also produces a collection made with 100% recycled textiles using left over fabric from past ranges.