A person wearing a green dress from Stella McCartney leaning on green round bushes.
08 Jun
A person wearing a green dress from Stella McCartney leaning on green round bushes.

How Ethical Is Maison Margiela?

Avant-garde label Maison Margiela is known for its deconstructed and unconventional designs. But how ethical is Maison Margiela? Sadly, we rate the brand “We avoid” due to its lack of transparency and concrete initiatives. This article is based on the Maison Margiela rating published in September 2021.

Avant-garde is great, but sustainability is better

Maison Margiela, formerly known as Maison Martin Margiela, is an avant-garde haute couture brand, founded in 1988 by Belgian designer Martin Margiela. The brand is known for its inventive, deconstructed, and unconventional designs and shows. You might have already heard about the Tabi boot, a split-toe shoe taking inspiration from the traditional Japanese socks bearing the same name. Like many luxury fashion labels, Maison Margiela even collaborated with H&M to launch a limited edition collection in 2012.

But how is Maison Margiela impacting people, the planet, and animals? In short, how ethical is Maison Margiela?

Environmental impact

We couldn’t find evidence that Maison Margiela is actively working to reduce its impact on the environment. For this reason, we rate Maison Margiela “Very Poor” for the planet. The brand uses few eco-friendly materials and there is no evidence it minimises textile waste, reduces its carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain, or has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals. With a climate crisis afoot, brands need to take responsibility for their impact on the planet or risk getting left behind.

Labour conditions

Maison Margiela also rates “Very Poor” for people. Despite most of its final stage of production being undertaken in Italy, a medium risk country for labour abuse, the brand isn’t transparent enough: Maison Margiela received a score of 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index. The brand publishes limited information about its supplier policies and audits. It also doesn’t disclose any information about forced labour, gender equality or freedom of association, or any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

More importantly, we found no evidence Maison Margiela ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain. A living wage is the bare minimum wage required for workers to live a decent life. It’s different from the legal minimum wage, which is usually far below the living wage. Garment workers need to be protected and treated fairly.

Animal welfare

Maison Margiela rates “Very Poor” for animals, too. The brand has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but no formal animal welfare policy. Maison Margiela doesn’t use fur and exotic animal skin, but it still uses leather, wool, angora, down, and exotic animal hair. For these animal-derived materials, we found no evidence they were traced even to the first stage of production. There is no way to know how the animals are treated along the supply chain without transparency here.

Overall rating: We Avoid

Maison Margiela rates “Very Poor” for the three key areas of people, planet, and animals.

The brand is clearly not doing enough to reduce its impact on the planet and its inhabitants. It needs to be more transparent about its practices, use more eco-friendly materials, ditch the harmful animal-based ones, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make sure its workers are paid a living wage and treated fairly.

Until Maison Margiela improves its rating, “We Avoid” the brand and we recommend you do too.

Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

Good swaps

“Good” and “Great” alternatives to Maison Margiela

Parker Clay

Rated: Good
Someone unfolding a striped cotton towel on a beach, wearing a light leather backpack by Parker Clay.

A bag that saves lives? You got it. Parker Clay is an American based brand looking to create a future without exploitation by bettering lives and communities in Ethiopia. The brand has partnered with Ellilta Women at Risk program, fighting to bring women out of prostitution by providing a more stable income and safe working environment. Parker Clay also helps preserve traditional Ethiopian techniques, materials, and styles, ensuring that this fast growing country is able to remain close to its beautiful roots.

See the rating.

Shop Parker Clay.

Womsh

Rated: Good

Fashion and sustainability can go together and Womsh is the brand that proves it. Its shoes are entirely designed and manufactured in Italy, and its clothing range is made from eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton. Find most shoes in EU sizes 35-42, and clothes in XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Womsh.

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great
A man wears navy jeans and a blue top

Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans is all about sustainability. Not only does it offer a repair service, but it also provides a rental service where you can lease a pair of jeans for up to a year. MUD Jeans uses a combination of GOTS certified organic cotton and post-consumer recycled cotton. MUD Jeans are available in a range of sizes, usually from W25 L30-W33 L32 for women and W28 L34-W36 L34 for men.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

Mashu

Rated: Good
Peach mashu mini tote

Mashu is a British sustainable and vegan accessories label specialising in handbags. Mashu’s environmental rating is "Good", crafting its exterior with vegan leather alternatives while its interiors feature vegan suede made from recycled polyester, ensuring you never have to sacrifice your morals for style again.

See the rating.

Shop Mashu.

NAE

Rated: Good

NAE is a Portuguese footwear, bags, and accessories brand using innovative materials to create goods with “No Animal Exploitation”. Its sustainable materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic, and even pineapple leaf fibre. Find most of the shoes in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop NAE.

Shop NAE @ Staiy.

Shop NAE @ Urbankissed.

NOAH

Rated: Good

NOAH creates cruelty-free and 100% vegan shoes and accessories. This German brand's high-quality and long-lasting shoes are hand-crafted in Italy, using a small proportion of eco-friendly material. Find them in EU sizes 35-42.

See the rating.

Shop NOAH.

Shop NOAH @ Immaculate Vegan.

Elk

Rated: Good

A pioneer of independent Australian design, Elk was founded in Melbourne in 2004. Elk creates bi-annual collections that are informed by a design ethos where simplicity and sustainability meet innovation. Find most items in AU sizes 6-18.

See the rating.

Shop Elk.

Stella McCartney

Rated: Good

A member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Stella McCartney has set some excellent environmental standards across the luxury fashion industry. Stella uses some eco-friendly materials, including recycled polyester and organic cotton, and has a strategy in place to reduce waste across its entire supply chain. It has also adopted the ETI Code of Conduct that includes a living wage definition.

See the rating.

Shop Stella McCartney @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Stella McCartney Kids Pre-Owned @ Retykle.

Shop Stella McCartney Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Shop Stella McCartney.

Teatum Jones

Rated: Good

Teatum Jones is the luxury London-based label of Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones.  Teatum Jones is known for its bold colours and textures with beautiful knitwear and flowing dresses.  They're also a favourite of Good On You supporter Emma Watson, who wore a stunning blue suit by the label to the recent G7 summit.

See the rating.

Shop Teatum Jones.

Editor's note

Feature image via Stella McCartney, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands. We may earn a commission on sales with top-rated partners made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

Ethical brand ratings. There’s an app for that.

Wear the change you want to see. Download our app to discover ethical brands and see how your favourites measure up.