My Ethical, Sustainable Capsule Travel Wardrobe

My Capsule Travel Wardrobe from Conscious Brands

In Protected Species’ Citywalker jacket.

Over the years, I’ve managed to pull together what I think is a pretty minimalist travel wardrobe. It allows me to feel like me when I’m working as a photographer and travelling, balancing my love for fashion with the realities of living out of a suitcase.

I sit here on my bedroom floor surrounded by piles of clothing, trying to pack for my annual pilgrimage home to Australia. The long trek from my small town in Italy will be 27 hours on a plane, not to mention the many hours it takes me to even get to Rome airport. These days I try to squeeze as much travel as possible out of a long distance flight; I’ll stay a month in my hometown Brisbane, a month in Bali and a few weeks in Southern India before coming home to Italy. I’ll be away almost three months, working online as I go.

Packing for a long trip like this always feels like a gargantuan task, across three different countries and climates, daily life will be pretty different in each one. But I like to think I’ve got it downpat by now. I’ve figured out the versatile pieces making up my travel capsule wardrobe that can take me from exploring and shooting around cities to hours spent on planes and trains, to the beach and to the yoga studio, to hiking mountains and navigating waterfalls.

I’ve learnt to shop with restraint and intention for the benefit of my bank account and luggage allowance, but also because I believe in buying less but buying well. I’ve built up a list of my go-to ethical, sustainable brands from around the world that I invest in every year or so, pieces that serve multiple purposes and settings, and go with just about everything else I own.

These brands design their pieces and production processes consciously in whatever ways they can to minimize their footprint, designing trendproof, quality things that are made to last, produced in small quantities by ethically-run factories.

This is my travel uniform, mixing and matching a small number of key items that make me happy and are well and consciously made.

Waterproof Jackets – Protected Species


In Protected Species in the Aosta Valley, Northern Italy.

This lightweight waterproof jacket from new UK brand Protected Species is a recent and treasured addition to my travel wardrobe, resolving the always-difficult packing dilemna of which one jacket I’ll take with me when I go away.

I wore my City Walker jacket trekking in the Italian alps at the tail end of September as the weather was cooling down, but can already see myself donning this travelling to the UK to visit friends in London where the foldaway hood will come in handy, or covering up on a scooter in Bali during the rainy season. It’s the perfect “to and from the airport” layering coat too when escaping the Nothern Hemisphere winter for warmer weather, when I don’t want to cart a big winter jacket around with me.

Produced in limited quantities, the designer, Rebecca, works closely with a small, ethical factory who adhere to stringent air, water and pollution control, and using fabrics which are Oeko Tex-certified.

With neutral colours that blend in with nature as much as a cityscape, anything that does double duty as my outer protective layer as well as a stylish yet very waterproof raincoat, makes this the only jacket I’ll need to pack travelling in the warmer and in-between months. It weighs nothing and folds away into my carry-on or suitcase for the flight there and back. I know I’ll always be prepared for anything with this seriously versatile yet beautiful women’s waterproof coat.

Visit Protected Species & check out the Citywalker jacket.

Travel & Trekking Sandals — Le Frattesi


In Fuerteventura, Canary Islands.

These hiking sandals in beige go with every colour and outfit in my wardrobe, meaning I can wear them in transit, to the beach, out for a casual meal, or even hiking with a pair of socks on too (I’ve even worn them on the plane with thick socks).

This made-to-order hiking shoe brand, Le Frattesi, (co-founded by my partner, Filippo) works in collaboration with a small 150-year-old shoemaking factory in the town where I live in central Italy to handmake beautiful yet functional hiking boots and sandals.

The biggest plus of these sandals is that I can bring one pair of shoes with me in my suitcase when take my annual big trip to Australia and Asia to escape the Nothern Hemisphere winter, maybe with a pair of running shoes thrown in too, drastically cutting down on the space and weight normally reserved for shoes in my luggage.

The hiking-grade grip on the soles means I can hike in them, walk for miles with my backpack or suitcase, but also feel like I have a beautiful pair of shoes to put on.

Plane Plants & Yogawear — Studio K.


In the Aosta Valley, Italy.

These dark chocolate flared yoga pants by Studio K. are without a doubt my most comfortable pants, I also feel pretty cool and put-together wearing them. They started out as the perfect pants to wear on plane trips and to yoga, their remit slowly expanding until they became my never-taking-them-off pants I now wear almost every day in my small town in Italy. I have two pairs now on rotation and I even wear them hiking.

Started by an earth-loving Swedish couple living in Bali, Studio K. use only organic fabrics—mostly bamboo and hemp—and dyes in their handcrafted, eco-friendly yoga and loungewear produced by a small, ethical, woman-owned local factory in Bali. Everything is designed to be functional, sophisticated and timeless enough to be worn anywhere, inspired by 70s leisurewear.

If you find yourself in Ubud or Canggu in Bali, drop in to one of their beautiful stores or visit their online shop.

Organic Cotton Underwear & Tees — NICO


These plant-dyed, organic cotton underwire bras and underpants from NICO are the only underwear I own and wear. The bras are designed by specialist lingerie designers, offering a mix of support and comfort whilst also being something special I love to wear with the matching pants. Most importantly, there’s no padding in the bras, just structured cotton which is surprisingly hard to find, especially in Italy where the push-up bra reigns supreme. The bras and undies (as we call them in Australia) dry pretty quickly if I have to do a last-minute handwash in my hotel bathroom sink, and the all-natural material means they’re breathable and light in hot climates.

The muted pastels reflect nature—lavender purple, rose pink, sky blue, plant green and sunlight yellow (this is my neutral)—and are repeated in the perfect crew neck t-shirts I also find great for travel. Light as well as kind to my skin, the tees tuck perfectly into a pair of denim shorts or jeans or sit well over yoga pants.

This Australian brand works in close collaboration with their GOTS-certified ethical, sustainable factory in India who specialise in the production of underwear, helping to create safe and fair employment opportunities within the industry in India that is the livelihood of so many.

Backpacks — Millican


In Varkala, India.

I’ve travelled with this Millican bag as my carry-on backpack for 10 years now without the need to replace it yet. It saved me from a band of pickpockets on the Paris metro with its tricky hidden pockets and I always feel safe carrying my laptop, camera and passport around in this, it’s truly an impenetrable fortress. There are so many inner and secret outer compartments that help me keep my things safe and organized. The roll-top means it expands and contracts easily according to how much or little stuff I need on the trip too.

The backpacks and shoulder bags come in muted, earthy colours like dark green, soft orange-yellow, beige and black, very understated and stylish. They make many different sizes and styles of backpacks too so my next goal is to invest in one of their larger backpacks (28-32 litres) for shorter trips.

Working with a small, considered network of specialist makers both in the UK and further abroad, they’re committed to fair pay and working conditions, and sustainability. They build their products to last a lifetime, which I can attest to personally, using natural or recycled materials, and they also offer repair support.

Natural Fibre Tees, Skivvies & Yogawear — Vegethreads


I started off buying Vege Threads’ yoga gear and slowly started to fill my wardrobe with their organic, natural fibre basics—merino wool, cotton and hemp—in planty-dyed earthy shades.

From yoga pants and tops to cotton tees and silky merino wool turtlenecks, to the stylish yet functional gaucho pants, to the bright “sun socks” adding a pop of colour to neutral travel outfits, all of my Vege Threads pieces work hard in my travel wardrobe. What’s more, they continue to look beautiful through many, many washes and wears in my personal experience and the beautiful yet simple designs mean they stand the test of time on every level.

All of their garments are made onshore and local to the brand in Melbourne, Australia, meaning they work closely with their makers, from knitting mills to dye houses, using organic and eco-friendly materials and dyes and producing in limited numbers. 

Wear Everywhere Swimwear — Pale Swimwear


All my swimwear is from Barcelona-based, independent swimwear brand Pale Swimwear, from one-pieces I can wear with shorts and a light button up to and from the beach to cute retro high-waisted bikinis, always in cool, unique prints in subtle colours. I love that many of the designs feature underwire support, taking cues from lingerie design, without the bulbous thick padding that never seems to dry.

In Nusa Penida, Lombok.

The quality, thick stretch fabric offers extra structure that holds you in and up in all the right places and it lasts a long time; in my experience these swimsuits will stay looking beautiful and substantial for many seasons and wears. With a strong focus on both technical production and quality, Pale collections are entirely designed and made in Barcelona using premium, locally-sourced materials.

Crochet Dresses & Shirts — All That Remains


In All That Remains & Le Frattesi in Uluwatu, Bali.

OK this last one is maybe a bit of an indulgence in that a rainbow crochet dress will obviously never go with everything. But I figure I’m allowed one item for going out that I’ll always feel special in and this is it.

Australian brand All That Remains create forever pieces—dresses, button ups and pants in crochet, delicate lace and batik prints—in limited numbers, with a non-mass produced, low impact philosophy. Since the brand's inception, they’ve worked with a local, family-run, ethically certified factory in Indonesia, the makers’ skilled craftsmanship evident in every handmade piece.

They make the kind of special, quality statement pieces I can imagine handing down to someone decades from now.

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I hope this list has introduced you to some independent, conscious, cool brands you may not have heard of yet, and that it might help you to buy quality pieces you can travel with that you’ll love and wear and wear for years to come.

Thank you to Protected Species for supporting The Travelling Light and sponsoring this article.

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