How we shop for clothing is changing, with many fashion-conscious shoppers choosing to only buy garments that have been produced sustainably and ethically.
According to research, the clothing industry accounts for almost 20% of wastewater and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. In recent years many clothing brands have turned their back on fast fashion – where unsustainable clothing is manufactured and sold at low prices – in a response to shoppers who are demanding a more ethical approach to what they wear.
If you’d like to shop more sustainably and look as good as you feel, we’ve rounded up our top ethical fashion tips and shared our favourite sustainable clothing brands with you.
Opt for timeless, not trendy clothes
Fashion changes quickly, but you can still stay bang on trend without changing your wardrobe every season if you buy the right garments. Choose classic clothing that will never go out of style, such as these tailored trousers by Thought. Made using organic cotton, they can be worn with a smart shirt for the office and dressed down with a tunic for weekends.
A classic pair of straight leg jeans are a wardrobe staple for many of us – and Nudie Jeans offer a wide choice of sustainable denim for men and women. We love these high-waisted mid-wash jeans made from 80% organic cotton and 20% recycled cotton.
Blazers never go out of style and this timeless black jacket from ethical clothing brand People Tree is an ethical must-have that can be worn year after year.
Shop for sustainable materials
To make your wardrobe eco-friendlier, opt for clothing made from sustainable materials:
- Organic cotton: This is one of the most commonly used fabrics in sustainable clothing. Organic cotton growers aim to remove pesticides and chemicals from the growing process – check your clothing labels to see if they are GOTS-Certified to ensure the highest standards in ethical production.
- Recycled cotton: A more sustainable alternative to organic cotton, this material uses less water and energy to produce, making it one of the most sustainable fashion materials for clothes.
- Organic hemp: Hemp keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer – and the plants require very little water – making it better for the planet than many alternative materials. The fibres have been used for centuries as a fabric and are now making a big comeback as part of the slow-fashion movement.
- Tencel: This popular material is fast becoming the go-to fabric for ethical brands. It’s light and breathable – making it a great choice for activewear – and is produced from dissolving wood pulp and spinning it to produce the threads to make garments. Because it is a plant-based fibre, it is biodegradable, so when you do need to dispose of the item, it has less of an impact on the planet.
Choose pre-loved clothing
Shopping for pre-loved fashion items is not only more sustainable – but often much more affordable too. Hunting for clothes in local thrift shops can sometimes unearth a real fashion gem, while there are also a plethora of second-hand clothing shops online to choose from.
Depop is a popular online platform for pre-loved garments – think of it like eBay but purely for clothing – where a community of sellers and buyers aim to make fashion more ethical. Many of the items are one-offs – and ethically-minded brides should check out the wedding dress section for a range of unique gowns for their big day.
Beyond Retro is an online vintage clothing store that has seen growing popularity with students, thanks to a 20% student discount scheme. Shoppers can choose from a range of pre-loved clothing from big name brands such as Adidas, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and Ralph Lauren to pick up vintage bargains.
Of course, the beauty of pre-loved fashion sites is that you don’t just have to buy – they are also a great place to sell your unwanted items to give them a new lease of life, prevent them from ending up in landfill and making yourself a bit of cash into the bargain.
Swap with friends
Holding a clothing-swap party with your friends is another sustainable way to recycle clothes you no longer wear. Simply get together with your pals – and all those items you want to exchange – and swap away.
Your unwanted garments could become someone’s new favourite outfit – and if your pal has a dress you’ve always coveted, a swap party provides a chance to get your hands on it!
Top sustainable fashion brands
- Beaumont Organic: This UK-based label offers contemporary, ethical clothing, accessories and items for the home. Their linen clothing is produced using traditional methods for a sustainable and hardwearing fabric.
- Madia & Matilda: Proving that ethical fashion shouldn’t cost the earth, this fashion brand offer a range of affordable clothing and pre-loved brands. The reason we love Madia & Matilda is that they also offer a clothing rental service, so you can wear a different outfit for every special occasion without impacting the environment.
- Noctu: For truly comfortable loungewear, Noctu is hard to beat. Their range of organic cotton nightshirts, PJs and onesies are perfect for snuggling up in. They use only GOTS-approved cotton, which ensures that strict fair-trade guidelines were met for those working in the cotton fields.
- Kit & Kin: If you’d like to shop sustainably for your little ones, head over to the Kit & Kin website, where you’ll find a range of all-in-ones, cardigans, and blankets for babies and young children. One of their best-sellers is this cute 100% organic cotton bear cardigan with a soft hood.
- Lucy & Yak: This brand is on a mission to show that ethical clothing is affordable. All the items are vibrant and colourful and feature big, bold prints. They rose to popularity on Instagram for their organic dungaree collection – and prices start from just £45 for this striking pair!