Affordable ethical clothing from sustainable fashion brands is THE new fashion trend that we believe is here to stay. At the moment it has a bit of a cult following, but fingers crossed that it will become the norm over the next few years.
We like the idea of slow fashion and buying classic, ethical clothing that you can wear for several seasons. It makes me feel like I’m channelling Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly somehow. In all honesty, we’ve never been a super fan of shopping and have had a few staples that spent time in the wardrobe for 10+ year stints. Perhaps it’s because, with long legs, you come to appreciate finding extra-long trousers and holding on to them for dear life as most pairs come up short – quite literally.
We all have our own body quirks that we have to shop around right? Mass-produced fashion for stereotype shapes isn’t the best way to a great, flattering fit. I’m definitely a fan of less is more – it sounds like less work, don’t you agree?
Now that fast fashion is taking notice of a change in our purchasing preferences, ethical clothing is starting to trickle into the mainstream. Pressure from shoppers and sustainable values from both employees and customers are taking hold throughout the industry. But, I don’t believe that any fast-fashion brand can be part of this movement unless they fundamentally change their business model by reducing excessive sales and growth targets. Pushing customers to buy more stuff made out of more sustainable fabrics isn’t a sustainable model.
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Our List of Affordable Ethical Clothing and Accessory Brand Favourites
BAM is an activewear/sustainable athleisure brand made from bamboo fabric, which some people debate for its sustainability because it’s a hard wood-like material to work with. They also make beautiful ethical underwear from bamboo. BAM tracks their material from a sustainably managed forest right through to the production and manufacturing of the garments.
They were founded in owner David’s garage back in 2006 and believe in creating a viable and environmentally sustainable business – which really is all that we’re asking for right?
If you’re an active lifestyle enthusiast, do yourself a favour and follow these guys on Instagram they tend to post fun adventures and some epic outdoor activity pics. Their handle is @bamboo_clothing.
David’s personal goal is to find the best that the human spirit has to offer. It’s at the heart of BAM.
Elvis & Kresse have been rescuing raw materials and turning them into luxury lifestyle accessories in the UK since 2005. They also donate 50% of their profits to charitable causes.
The bags, homeware and accessories produced by Elvis & Kresse are mainly made from decommissioned fire hoses. Saved from landfills this company makes beautiful products from an unusual material that will last season after season.
The company has been saving London’s fire-hoses for over a decade now, rescuing roughly 200 tons of material from landfills. More recently in 2017, they partnered with the Burberry Foundation to tackle an even bigger global leather waste issue which helped save at least 120 tonnes of Burberry’s leather off-cuts from landfills. So if you’d like accessories that are sustainable and made of decommissioned firehose and Burberry quality leather in a sustainable way Elvis & Kresse is the place to be!
Elvis & Kresse is a luxury brand on the higher end of the price bracket, but their items are absolutely beautifully crafted!
Founded back in 1991 People Tree is a pioneer in ethical clothing as they’ve been going since before sustainable fashion and ethical clothing was even a thing people worried about. People Tree is one of those companies that consider sustainability practices throughout their supply chain from start to finish. Some of their collections use TENCEL Lyocell which is made from natural sustainable fibres, they also use organic cotton and responsible wool.
They are a contemporary and playful brand and feature exclusive prints that are inspired by the V&A archives. People Tree support the “who made my clothes” movement by providing information about the makers of their items online.
All their clothes are dyed using low environmental impact dyes, free from harmful azo chemicals. As far as possible People Tree uses natural materials, avoid plastic and toxic substances.
They have worked with small groups of producers in Bangladesh and Nepal for over 15 years. These highly skilled teams produce hand-woven, hand-dyed, hand-embroidered and hand-knitting products. This ensures the quality of items and significantly reduces the carbon footprint of each product as no machinery is used.
Based in the UK and founded in the UK, Nomads is inspired by Indian culture and design. Products are made from natural fibres using fair trade practices.
Owners Dunkan and Vicky met in Pushkar, Rajasthan where they fell in love with Indian culture. After spending some time travelling they used their last bit of travel money to invest in a selection of fair trade items from Nepal. These were sold at a market stall in Camden, London and that’s where it all started.
Since their humble beginnings, they continue to create affordable ethical clothing that celebrates traditional artisan craftsmanship and natural fibres. Nomads are now available in over 350 shops around the world.
Nomads is GOTS certified which is the gold standard for sustainable textile processing. They have strict guidelines. Fabrics must be made from 70% organic fibres and a thorough verification process is carried out by an independent company. It includes the physical inspection of facilities to ensure standards are met. Being GOTS certified also means that working conditions are safe, fair wages are paid and no child labour is used.
The company also participates in the “who made your clothes” movement so that you can see who made the garments you buy.
Thought was founded in Australia way back in 1995 as Braintree Clothing and originally used sustainable ramie and hemp fabrics. They have since moved their head office to the UK and expanded their range to include other sustainable fibres.
The founders are passionate about using natural and sustainable fabrics throughout the range, however, note that they do use recycled polyester in some products which is a plastic derivative.
Thought’s range focus on a more simplistic silhouette that brings timeless chic and wearability to their pieces. They are a true slow fashion brand in that sense as their collection is practical, yet flattering and their clothing is designed to last.
We’ll always design style that’s effortless and has sustainability in mind. Collections help people make more considered decisions.
As a company, they put thought into everything they do, hence the name, from the sourcing of materials through to giving back programmes. Their supply chain is built from long-term partnerships that support business growth while looking after the environment.
Designs are created with longevity, style and quality in mind. They believe that small changes do matter.
Nancy Dee is a pioneering women’s wear label that takes great care in considering the full lifecycle of their products from the source right through to the end of life. Designs are inspired by vintage lines and garments are made to be beautiful and long-lasting.
Nancy Dee was created in 2008 based on a belief that responsible fashion is possible and is exclusively designed and made in Britain.
Their collection is inspired by contemporary classic designs and they specialise in jersey fabrics from renewable natural sources such as bamboo & organic cotton. They also use Modal, originating from beech wood and some fabrics are from up-cycled material that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Their clothing is exclusively designed and made in Britain. Founder Seraphina Davis has a passionate belief that fashion should be responsible without compromise in design or quality.
They use small factories where they can visit and talk to the people who make the clothing. The same applies when it comes to printing labelling and packaging. This helps to control quality and ensure ethical production processes are followed. As workers are based in the UK strict working conditions and regulations apply within their factories.
Boden is an iconic ethical clothing brand, often worn by the Dutches of Cambridge. The company was started by New Yorker Johnnie who set out to set up a mail-order clothes company. This might sound very ordinary today, but in 1980 it was definitely not considered normal.
The company first launched with a hand-drawn catalogue featuring a small range of menswear. Today, 30 years later, the brand is well-loved by celebrities and royalty alike.
They support the “who made my clothes” movement, which means you can see who the faces are behind the clothing you wear. When buying Boden you’re assured that each item is made with extra care and will last you many years. There is no low quality and cheap fast fashion to be found here.
Fabrics are polyester free or made from recycled polyester and sustainable cotton. And the company is committed to using less water throughout its production process.
Boden also supports a range of charitable projects across the world and you’d be happy to know that they also make beautiful sustainable swimwear as well.
Saint and Sofia are on the grungy side, which we absolutely love. You’ll find a lot of darker colours, and alternative patterns mixed with modern style. They are based in London and believe in challenging the status quo fusing the art of design with the science of efficient production. All items are made in Europe within family-owned factories where they have full control
It’s a relatively new brand that started out in January 2020, but their rapid success is no accident as team members have previously worked at big name brands such as Louis Vuitton, Roland Mouret, Ted Baker and French Connection.
As a brand, they believe in sustainability and being responsible by looking after the planet and its people. Their style is made in the most sustainable way possible and they make their products for good to ensure their environmental impact is as small as possible.
Each part of their supply chain is built around sustainability. Their packaging is bio-degradable and made from recycled materials. Fabrics are all eco fabrics such as Ecovero, Cupro, Tencel, Econyl and GOTS Certified Organic Cotton.
They also use smart logistics to reduce the carbon emissions of their transport operations.
And then of course don’t forget, Saint and Sofia fund conservation research by the Natural History Museum.
Shop Saint & Sofia
Synergy Organic Clothing is based in Santa Cruz California and is committed to the highest quality GOTS certified organic cotton. Products are manufactured in Nepal & India and their commitment to sustainability can be traced throughout the supply chain.
The company believes that it matters how our clothing is made, and we agree. They believe that consumers deserve the choice to buy clothing that can be worn without guilt. Because it was produced from their base in Santa Cruz, California to their handwork seamstresses in Nepal.
All of their fabrics are made with low impact dyes that have a very high absorption rate, decreasing the use of rinse water and producing less waste overall. Rest assured that no harmful chemicals are used so clothing will be gentle on your skin and the planet.
Ethics are a deep part of the company and they are proud to graft garments in a Fair Trade Certified factory in India and they employ fair labour practices in Nepal.
When you purchase a Synergy Organic Clothing garment, the story doesn’t end there. Your garment was made by someone who was paid a living wage, while being protected from unsafe working conditions and toxic chemicals. Through treating our employees well, we believe that the future of these communities will be brighter and more prosperous. With your purchase, you are helping us give back to those communities in Nepal and India that have given so much to us already.
Crafted in California, Amour Vert, address all aspects of their business operations and the full lifecycle of a garment with their sustainability practices. Garments are made from sustainable fabrics in limited quantities to ensure minimum waste and 97% of their products are made in California.
Seeing that close to 69% of a garment’s environmental impact occur during the fibre and manufacturing process. That’s why they purchase pre-made fabric and partner directly with mills to develop more sustainable and soft fabrics that will stand the test of time. The process started with the most sustainable and eco-friendly raw fibres available on the market.
When it comes to the packaging they use compostable protective bags to store and ship their items and are committed to only use packaging made from recycled materials printed with soy-based inks.
Their designs have an earthy and down to nature feel, which makes them stand out. It also ensures their lines are timeless, helping to encourage responsible shopping by customers.
Pact is on a mission to build Earth’s Favorite™ Clothing Company. They use GOTS certified organic cotton throughout their range. They choose organic cotton because it looks after the soil health, ecosystem and the local people.
Pact uses cotton that is made with natural farming processes which means they don’t use toxic chemicals and a whopping 81% less water than non organically farmed cotton. Now that’s kinda impressive, right?
To ensure good working conditions Pact uses Fair Trade Certified™ factories. With the Fair Trade Certified™ seal, Pact helps to improve millions of lives, at the same time protecting waterways and land within more than 45 countries.
When it comes to packaging, you’ll find envelopes and other materials made from recycled material.
What’re our Criteria for Selecting Affordable Ethical Clothing Brands?
To be truly sustainable and ethical it’s important to evaluate the full supply chain and lifecycle of the product from cradle right through to its grave as much as possible. Where does the cotton, rayon or viscose come from, as even though these fabrics are made from natural fibres they might have come from cutting down the rainforest?
Unfortunately, we can’t inspect each brand personally so have to rely on the information they provide, but we do try our best to dig a little deeper into practices.
When it comes to fashion, design and aesthetics are key drivers in making a great brand. Just being sustainable or ethical is not enough to cut through the clutter, great design and more classic lines, that can be fashionable for several seasons are vitally important.
Why are Ethical Clothing Expensive?
It’s easy and super convenient to go to the mall and buy fast fashion, especially if you consider the price of more sustainable clothing. Ethical clothing can not be sold for the same prices as fast fashion that employ low wage workers and sometimes even children. Sustainable clothing are more expensive for good reason, let’s take a look.
Fabrics that are kinder to the planet costs more. Traditionally fabric is made from intensively farmed fibres, sometimes responsible for deforestation and usually pollution. To make fabrics less harmful, for example, to make them without pesticides, minimising wastewater and disposing of the water correctly will be more costly.
To make clothing in a more ethical way it’s important to pay workers fair wages, a living wage, not just minimum wage. This cost will increase the manufacturing cost of each garment of course. Companies that make ethical clothing will also proactively protect workers’ rights and make sure that they have a safe, healthy and happy working environment. Again all these are essentials that add to the cost of production, but for the right reasons of course.
In conclusion Investing in better quality sustainable clothing is an investment in the people who makes the garments and our planet overall.