Ethical fashion – reconsider your wardrobe
If you are anything like me and are reconsidering the decisions you make as a consumer, then what you wear could be one of the biggest. We often hear about the sweatshops and the human rights issues, the animal cruelty, the waste and pollution, but until recently I never really thought there was much my small actions could do about it, never mind my wallet.
All the “good stuff” is really expensive, right?
Fast fashion stores have taken consumerism to the next level. Offering clothing for prices that are so cheap they can't possibly be producing anything remotely ethical or environmentally friendly. But when we become so swayed by minuscule prices, it makes high quality, conscientiously made products feel even less accessible than they were before because the price gap can be considered too substantial. So, on we go with the mindset of quantity over quality, taking no regard to the livelihoods and environments we are destroying with each and every purchase.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”
Can we make ethical decisions on a budget?
I have done some research into brands and stores that sell sustainable, recycled, ethical, vegan and eco-conscience products that don’t break the bank. I wanted to find brands that leave us not only looking good but also feeling good and doing good, with a clear conscience and a spring in our step. Not to mention some change in our back pocket too (if we’re lucky)!
Hopefully, the recommendations below will make you see that it is easier than you think to make better purchasing decisions. These decisions will ultimately help pave the way to a better future for fashion.
Please note, I am not affiliated with any of these companies!
Well, it’s all in the name really. I stumbled across this store in East Dulwich when visiting my friend in London. Luckily for me, they are also online. However, if you can pop into the store then do – things always look better in the flesh and they have some special collections that aren’t featured on the website. The sole intention of this company is sourcing ethical clothing for stylish women with a conscience. They get their products from across the globe including, SA, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil and the UK of course. Each item has a symbol associated with it to help inform you of the kind of product you are buying, fair trade, organic, vegan, recycled, non-toxic, supports wildlife etc. They cover clothes, shoes, jewellery, gifts and more.
I’m pretty sure you will have heard of or seen this brand during one of your high street shopping trips. They’re a high street giant that doesn’t give in to the mass-market sweatshops. A British brand, they are part of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and have a strict animal welfare policy that they impose on their suppliers. Although they still make their clothes in countries like India, they seem like one of the good guys.
These guys are an international group of young people looking to revolutionise the fashion industry. They have a very different model, as they only produce what is needed, so you order and they make it. All their clothes are made sustainably and from family-run factories in Portugal. I love their designs and styles and I sense that this will become one of my new go-to places to shop!
If you love bags, this is definitely the site to check out. OK, so they aren’t the cheapest, but they are uber eco, 100% vegan in fact. Their name stands for MAT(T)erial and NATure. The concept has been going since 1995, committed to not using leather or any other animal-based materials in their designs, remaining sustainable and eco-friendly. What’s even better, since 2007, they’ve been committed to using linings only made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles. How great is that?! The cheapest bag you will find is about £50, but you know it is going to last you years longer than any Primark bag will. Plus, their instagram account is beautiful!
H&M has long been at the forefront of sustainable, high-street fashion. They have been working hard to improve factory conditions in the textile industry and bring a fair, living wage to workers across the globe. They have also released a specific clothing range called H&M Conscious, aiming to bring more fashion choices that are good for people, the planet and your wallet. Who could say no to that?
Not only can you play your part in buying their H&M Conscious range, but you can also deposit your old, unwanted clothes in their clothes bins in-store and get a voucher to spend on your next purchase - bonza!
Watch this video to discover what good you can do by recycling your textiles in H&M stores across the UK:
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Hopefully, that video has inspired you a little?! If you are planning to have a cleanout of your old or worn clothes in order to replenish your chic stock with some fab items, grab a bag and take your old clothes along with you and deposit them in a bin provided. Otherwise, drop them off at your local charity shop en route to H&M so they can earn much-needed funds from your want-nots.
Running for over twenty years People Tree have been standing up against ‘Fast Fashion’, which has led to exploitation, family separation, slum cities and pollution – all the things that make fast fashion so successful. Empowering what they call ‘Slow Fashion’, People Tree partnered with Fair Trade artisans and farmers throughout the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections.
According to its website, People Tree developed the first integrated supply chain for organic cotton from the farm to the final product. As a result, this meant they were the first organisation anywhere to achieve GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification on a supply chain entirely in the developing world.
They do both men’s and women’s clothing and have a few great bits in their sale too.
If you’re looking for something designed and made in Britain, then Nancy Dee is worth a try. Although it may leave you a little short of breath if you’re used to paying £2.50 for a T-Shirt – one of their’s will set you back at least £29. But you will be safe in the knowledge that they are British made, sustainable and either organic, renewable or even recycled. I recommend keeping an eye on their sale items too, to try to bag yourself a few bargains.
The fabrics used by Nancy Dee are mostly made from renewable natural sources such as soya, bamboo and organic cotton. They also use modal, an eco-friendly man-made material originating from beech wood. On top of that, some items are made using up-cycled material that would otherwise be consigned to landfill.
Thought (was Braintree Clothing)
Their philosophy is ‘thoughtful clothing’. Another brand with a clear focus on slow fashion rather than fast fashion. They have created their own mantra which I absolutely love: ‘Wear Me, Love Me, Mend Me, Pass Me On’, and they have strong policies on the environment and animal welfare.
They use naturally grown bamboo, cotton, wool and hemp, along with Tencel and Modal, all of which are not only free from harmful pesticides and chemicals but also great for their sustainability credentials.
Shoes, shoes and more shoes. Handmade, veggie shoes in fact. They have received many awards and have Natalie Portman as an ambassador for the brand. However, having tried to establish a factory line in London and struggling to keep up with demand, the Beyond Skin team had to move their production to Spain. Their products are made from over 70% recycled products, but they are always on the hunt for more eco-friendly materials.
One of the facts on their website regarding leather production really sends the message home…
On average, one cow hide will provide 18 pairs of leather shoes and each pair of shoes is accountable for the use of over 1.4 million litres of water! This figure includes the water used to rear and slaughter the cow, and to process the hide in to leather. Put simply, each time you purchase a new pair of leather shoes you are responsible for using as much water as having a bath everyday for over 40 years!
Jeez! One to look at I think…
Another popular name, with around 30 stores across the UK, Seasalt work hard to ensure their products are manufactured locally and they follow the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). Around 60% of their cotton collection is organic and they’re always looking for recycled or sustainable alternatives. Seasalt cover clothing, accessories, footwear, gifts and homeware.
After working in the fashion industry for 10 years, producing 4 collections per year, to then churning out new collections every week, Snow realised it was time for a change. Especially when the clothes were cheaper but the quality was worse and there was no consideration for the people producing these clothes. Snow decided to go back to basics and thus Bibico was born.
Bibico uses 100% natural materials to make their garments, recently introducing an organic cotton collection to minimise their impact on the environment. They currently work with two women’s cooperatives that are both fair trade certified by the WFTO. The cooperatives provide women with training, education and work, empowering them to move themselves and their children forward and out of poverty.
Their range isn’t huge, but the variety of cuts in the same pattern is great.
Use your purchasing power for good
There are so many more companies I could have listed, but I hope I’ve managed to provide you with at least a few ideas to get you started. Now you can to use your new-found purchasing power to make positive decisions that will significantly impact the world we live in.
For even more ideas for places to shop visit the ethicalconsumer.org. I stumbled across this just as I was trying to close off this blog! It would’ve made my research a lot easier! They not only cover clothing, but also food, beauty products, technology, energy, travel, household, money and more. You subscribe to get company reviews and ratings, campaigns and gain access to the forum. If you are already part of it do let me know if it’s worth being a member as I am now looking to join myself.
On a final note, it is not always easy when you head out to the shops to know if you are making a good purchase or not. Don’t fret! The lovely Wendy at Moral Fibres has written a blog to help you shop as ethically as possible by putting together four simple questions to ask yourself before purchasing each item to help make the best choices.
Do I really need the item?
Will I wear it for years to come?
Does it look well made, or likely to fall apart quickly?
Does the cost of the item reflect the cost of the materials its made from and the labour gone into making it?
Good luck on your sustainable and ethical journey on #theroadtowild!
Thanks for reading!