Long lunches by the beach, barbecues with friends, picnicking under a tree, summer dresses are meant to be enjoyed outdoors. They’re floating, fun, floral and above all comfortable. These days we’re a little more demanding though – the dress needs to be sustainably and ethically produced. Not too much to ask for a carefree summer’s day, is it?

From bold bright prints to minimalist black linen, here’s our round up of the best sustainable Australian or New Zealand clothing brands to shop for the ultimate summer dress.

1. Bird + Kite

Bird & Kite dress

Bird and Kite’s dreamy collection is as close as you can get to the Mediterranean coastline without getting on a plane. Think big ruffles, big sleeves, big skirts in white, red check and mustard stripe. The resort-ready dresses are made in small batches in Bali and the label donates to Baliwise, a charity that supports and educates marginalised Balinese women.

2. Marle

Marle

New Zealand-based label Marle aims to create timeless, feminine essentials with a low environmental impact. Each garment blends natural fibres such as silk, linen and cotton with neutral tones to create items that will stand the test of time.

3. Ukiyo Boutique

Ukiyo

This Brisbane-based label uses natural fibres such as Lithuanian linen in neutral, natural tones or gingham. It’s range of dresses are mostly floaty, flowy perfect for the hottest days of summer and easily dressed up with heels or down with sneakers. They’re all ethically made in small batches in Brisbane.

4. Obus

Obus clothing summer dresses bold prints

Ethical fashion and fun prints meet at Obus. The fittingly named, fun and floral New Beginnings dress (and matching bucket hat) might be the antidote to what’s been a shocking year. Even better, you’ll be supporting a Melbourne-made label.

5. Kuwaii

Kuwaii dress

This summer’s beautiful lightweight crinkle Cotton check is the bright, fun piece we didn’t know we needed. This Melbourne-based, Melbourne-made label sticks to mostly basic shapes and block colours, but the fun summer print has certainly caught our eye.

6. Variety Hour

Variety Hour sketchbook floral dresses

Summer is the time to go big and go bold with your prints. If you find yourself eyeing up the cute dresses in Gorman’s windows, make the effort to check out this ethically made Australian label. This summer you could be wearing a cotton jersey shift dress with big illustrated crocodiles or wrapping yourself in a patch of wildflowers. Every Variety Hour piece is made in Melbourne, with sizing up to XXL or 18-20.

7. Wild Horses

Gingham lovers beware. Wild Horses’ new range of full-skirted, smock-style cotton summer dresses come in a range of various checks and colours with ruffles and big sleeves galore. The West Australian label produces garments onshore and in Indonesia with a focus on small batches and quality.

8. Kowtow

Kowtow Pink Marta Dress

Loose, comfy, stretchy dresses in block-coloured 100% organic cotton jersey and poplin. Sounds like heaven, right? These minimal pieces by New Zealand label Kowtow will make for easy, no-fuss summer road tripping or even just a touch of extra style while you’re catching up on Schitt’s Creek.

9. Tara Whalley

Tara Whalley

If you love art, patterns and colour, take a look at Tara Whalley. The textile designer turns her artwork into prints for her collections of bright, fun clothing handmade in Melbourne in sizes “XS to 4XLovely”.

10. Little Tienda

Little Tienda jugo de lima

Australian label Little Tienda is home to whimsical, romantic dresses in soft hues and bright tones. It’s perfect for lounging around, taking on the world or having a picnic at Hanging Rock. Each piece is handmade in India in small batches using traditional techniques.

11. Read & Bell

Read and bell

Designed in Sydney and made in Jaipur and Kolkata, Read & Bell makes a range of feminine dresses, inspired by the unique nature of the handmade. Fusing the colours of a vibrant Pink City spice market with the muted hues of the Australian landscape, Read & Bell’s dresses are designed for effortless living and everyday adventures. The brand prints on organic cotton to ensure sustainable and ethical production in its fabric supply chain.

12. Daughters of India

DAughters of India

Born out of Byron Bay, Daughters of India is a slow fashion label that supports and celebrates artisans and showcases the traditional form of Indian hand block print making. The brand works with Fair trade manufacturers in India to produce its small batch garments which include a range of feminine print-focus pieces printed on natural fibres. Shop for quality made, relaxed tops and dresses. 

13. Rove 

Rove byron bay strapless linen dress in powder blue

Whether you’re going on a holiday or you just want to feel like you are, Rove’s beautiful, floaty summer attire will take you there. Designed in Byron Bay, the relaxed summer label makes luxurious pieces in natural and breathable fibres such as linen, environmentally friendly viscose and cotton.  Rove works with a small, female-run production house in Bali to produce its limited runs and has agreements in place to ensure safe working relationships and benefits for employees. 

14. Terra the Label

Terra the Label Hemp Dress

Sisters Kel and Em, who say they’re environmentalists first and foremost, make all pieces to order in their Grampians studio. After discovering the benefits of hemp, they’re transforming the label to work with 100 per cent hemp fabrics. The environmental impact of each piece is important to the duo, so every element of each Terra garment is designed to be composted (yep, no zippers here).

15. YEVU

YEVU clothing

Social good fashion label YEVU makes vibrant, high quality and ethical garments for shoppers globally. Founded in 2012, YEVU has spent more than a decade creating fair and sustainable jobs in Ghana with, and for, women. Jobs at YEVU pay a livable wage, provide full-time and dignified work, guarantee health care and social security.  Shop for stunning prints made from traditional methods.

Wolf and Mishka

Wolf & 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.  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. 

Photo by @ryanwheatley