We all know that ‘fast fashion’ isn’t great for the planet. Not only does it have an impact on the environment, but it also has an impact on the people who make those clothes that we wear once or twice and then toss. While we all know that we need to do more – buy less, buy more ethical fashion – a recent survey shows that only 37% of us actually buy sustainable clothing.
Ethical fashion – fashion that tries to avoid harsh working conditions (such as low wages or child labour) and a major impact on the environment – is often a bit on the pricey side as they avoid cheap factory labour and use organic materials, however, things are changing.
From major high street brands offering sustainable collections to online boutiques that reuse old stock materials, there’s a new offering out there that is stylish, environmentally friendly and affordable. Here are some of our favourites.
H&M, one of our high street favourites, has a super stylish eco-range. All the products in the Conscious range contain 50% recycled, organic or Tencel Lyocell material. Tencel is made from plant materials but requires less energy and water than cotton to make. It’s also biodegradable. H&M also encourage their shoppers to recycle their unwanted clothing at their stores. Even if it’s unwearable, they make sure the clothes are used for something else and don’t end up as landfill.
ASOS have a curated selection of ethical clothing on their website. Launched in 2010 as The Green Room, the Eco Edit has grown with a target to reach £30 million by 2020. All products featured in the curated collection have to tick certain boxes such as developing fair trade, alleviating poverty, preserving craftsmanship and natural resources, removing waste or addressing climate change challenges.
The founder of Vildnis, Ulla Vitting Richards, grew up in Denmark where she was influenced by her outdoor life and her country’s commitment to sustainability. Her online boutique aims to make sustainability the norm. She works towards social and environmental goals as well as regularly auditing the factories Vildnis works with, including implementing a strict code of conduct. While the products may be a little more pricey, the design and production mean you know you’ll be wearing a super stylish piece of sustainable fashion every time you place an order!
Touting themselves as ‘fast fashion with a conscience’ this relatively new online brand proves you can provide affordable clothing with minimal impact on the environment. Nobody’s Child produces small collections, mostly by using deadstock – leftover fabric from past seasons – to help reduce textile waste. The organic cotton they use is a great sustainable alternative and doesn’t use chemicals.
But it doesn’t stop there! They’re also committed to ensuring their international workers have fair wages, good working conditions and sustainable livelihoods – all of which impacts on those local communities. Best of all they do all this while managing to keep the prices extremely purse friendly – and because their collections are small, you’ve got to be quick to snap up must-have prints like their star print.
Whether it’s recycling old denim or polyester blends, producing items using lyocell or working with organic cotton farmers, Zara is doing its bit to help save the planet.
The downside is that they don’t readily mark their products, so you have to do a bit of searching – any eco-friendly products are marked with Join Life on the listing pages. As well as a great collection of clothing, Zara also produce eco-friendly footwear that uses leather tanned using more sustainable practices.
House of Sunny
If you’re after fashion-forward eco-friendly fashion, House Of Sunny is the brand for you. They only produce small collections each season, which allows them time to research and source the best sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods. They also aim to design clothes that will out-last fashion trends, meaning you’ll wear them time and time again. They also don’t use fur, leather or silk, and use leftover materials to create accessories and label tags to reduce wastage.
You can’t get more environmentally friendly than buying second-hand clothing. It used to be the domain of students but thanks to sites like eBay and Debop, that old musty-smelling second hand feeling has definitely gone. If you struggle to find things you like on eBay, try searching for your favourite brands first. You can also save your searches and be alerted every time there’s a new listing.
After you’ve shopped…
It’s not just where you buy your clothes from that impacts on the planet, how you care for your clothes can also make a difference. Designer Stella McCartney recently said that we shouldn’t wash our clothes as much and just brush off the dirt. While this might not work for those of us that don’t live a clean A-list life, there are small things you can do to ensure that you’re not contributing to environmental impact.
Ensure you’re always doing a full wash, after all half-loads use just as much energy as full loads
Wash at cooler temperatures to help reduce microplastic fibre release and CO2 emissions
Choose shorter washing cycles – longer cycles cause more friction, releasing microplastic fibres
Wash everything less. Take a leaf out of Stella’s book and only wash things when you really, really need to. Get some stain remover wipes for small stains and a brush to help remove dry stains
Avoid dry cleaning. The chemicals they use are really toxic for the environment.