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. Yes, I’ve known about the sweatshops and the human rights issues, the animal cruelty, the waste and pollution etc, but until recently I never really thought there was much my small actions could do about it. I was also thinking about my own financial capabilities (i.e. zilch).
All the “good stuff” is Really expensive, right?
I always thought, if you want good, ethical, conscientiously made products then you have to be willing to spend a small fortune. Then when you compare the prices on the high street, why would you ever want to spend more than a few quid on a top and jeans if you didn’t have to?
Yet, there is no denying that consumerism on the high street has gone wildly out of control, trying to make our clothes cheaper and cheaper at the expense of quality, livelihoods and the environment.
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 searched for accessible brands and stores that sell sustainable, recycled, ethical, vegan and eco-conscience products that don’t break the bank. 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 by merely changing our day to day habits. These decisions will ultimately help pave the way to a better future for fashion.
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 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.
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. Watch this video to discover what good you can do by recycling your textiles in H&M stores across the UK:
Hopefully, that video has inspired you a little?! If you are planning to have a clean out 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 their website, People Tree developed the first integrated supply chain for organic cotton from farm to 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 in Primark – 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.
By using virtual credits, Swishing is a fun and cost-effective way to refresh your wardrobe by swapping items you no longer wear for new-to-you ones you’ll love. Swishing.co.uk takes the traditional clothes swapping party online and makes it accessible for all. You don’t even need to swap anything, you can buy anything you see on the site straight away.
By swapping your clothes or buying other people’s want-nots you are massively reducing the excess materials going into landfill and the resources needed to make new products. Their top picks start from £6! Bargain!
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 29 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.
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.
Launched in 2007, these guys didn’t think that anything or anyone should be treated badly in the pursuit of a bargain. They wanted a brand that would combine the use of organically grown, recycled and reclaimed fabrics. Their products are coded with icons to identify their eco-credentials, whether that is certified organic cotton, ethically made in line with ETI or made in England.
One key aim of Annie Greenabelle is to support British manufacturing, so now all of their cotton jersey-wear and knitwear is designed, knitted, dyed, printed, manufactured and distributed in Leicestershire with the added benefit of keeping their carbon footprint low too.
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 of 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 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.
Good luck on your sustainable and ethical journey on #theroadtowild!
Thanks for reading!