Recently, the news and blogs have been filled with the terms ‘sustainable fashion’, ‘fast-fashion’ and ‘ethical brands’ and you may have been wondering, what does all of this mean?
Before you run to your wardrobe and start tossing things into black bags, or emptying all of your online wish lists, I did some research to find out if I should be changing the way I shop for clothes, or if I just need more balance in my wardrobe?
|| What is sustainable fashion? ||
Sustainable fashion is clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in a sustainable way.
Sustainability considers the environmental and socio-economical aspects of the things you do i.e. ensuring that the entire life cycle of a garment does not have a negative impact on the environment or that the process of making the garment uses fair and ethical working conditions/pay.
This includes the materials, design, production process, storage, marketing and sale of the items and even the ability to reuse or recycle the garment and its components.
Sustainable fashion, in some cases, is slightly more expensive than the fast-fashion options that we have become accustomed to such as Missguided and Boohoo.
This is simply because more money has been invested into making each item of clothing rather than them being mass-produced in factories where workers are underpaid. It also results in you getting more wear out of the clothing; thereby, increasing their lifespan and making your investment go further.
However, charity/thrift shops can be considered as sustainable fashion options to an extent as you are purchasing used items rather than buying brand new and, in this case, it usually works out even more affordable than your favourite online fashion boutique.
|| Sustainable fashion v fast-fashion ||
Fast-fashion has become increasingly popularised over the last five years thanks to the sharp growth in influencer and social media marketing.
It has allowed for smaller, start-up brands to invest a bulk of their money into Youtuber collaborations and ambassador promotions and become an overnight success thanks to their affordability and capability of jumping on trends as soon as possible.
Their turnover for new products is extraordinary with many of these sites churning out brand new designs and pieces every other day.
Fashionova would be one of the biggest global examples of a fast-fashion brand that has sky-rocketed since its launch in 2006.
In fact, they are the definition and, for many, the gold standard for how to do fast-fashion well. They work with influencers and celebrities, create trend pieces in less than 24 hours and use social media as their sole means of marketing.
As great as it is that they enable the working-class to access on-trend and celebrity-endorsed fashion pieces for affordable rates, these brands are doing a lot of unseen harm.
Over the years, fast-fashion brands have been slammed for their brutal working conditions and low pay of factory workers. As the demand for product increases so does the pressure for factory workers who are often harassed and even assaulted in their place of work.
There have also been accusations of child labour taking place in many of these fast-fashion factories.
Not to mention, the sheer volume of products that these brands are producing is churning out tonnes of dangerous chemicals and greenhouse emissions into the environment making it the second most polluting industry after oil.
One of the biggest arguments against investing in fast-fashion is the quality of the products that you will receive.
Sustainable fashion promises better quality and longer lasting pieces where fast-fashion can only promise that you get an on-trend piece at a low cost on your doorstep as soon as you need it.
For the most part, these items will only last a few wears/washes and you’ll find yourself with a rotating wardrobe door with things being thrown out because they’re torn, shrunk, washed out etc. every month or two.
These items cannot be passed on to a friend or left at a charity shop because they’re, more often than not, unwearable so end up being thrown out and, being that many of these items are made up of non-recyclable materials, continue to damage the environment long after they have been owned.
|| Great sustainable fashion brands ||
Sustainable fashion probably brings to mind bland clothing with little originality or personality and for ridiculous prices.
Yes, you will have to pay more for sustainable clothing simply because you are paying for the factory workers to receive fair pay and you are paying for high quality clothing that is supposed to last you far longer than what you would buy from a fast-fashion company.
But how or why these other preconceived notions became established – I don’t know, but it certainly does not ring true with these amazing sustainable brands that I have found:
What I love most about this brand is that they are solely based in London which you get the feel of in the style of their clothing.
They also promise ‘no sweatshops, no photoshop’ which is a concept that I think more fashion brands should be embracing at the very least.
They don’t have a massive range of products to choose from, and some of the pieces are not what I would choose to wear; however, their t-shirts and knitwear are brilliant.
Learn more about the story behind this brand here
This brand is not like any other sustainable brand that I have seen before. It uses bold prints with an African essence that make it cool, fun and unique and they are priced very reasonably considering that they are a sustainable brand.
They source their fabrics and get all of their garments made in Malawi – which explains the prints and colours – ensuring that they stick to a zero waste policy and partner with One Tree Planted. You can read all about their ethics here.
P.i.C is, in my opinion, one of the sustainable brands that creates pieces that most resemble what you would find in any fast fashion brand.
Their pieces are on trend and super stylish, though a little more expensive than what you find on ASOS (having said that, their jeans are a reasonable cost).
They also stock some stunning accessories and even venture into shoes so there are plenty of options to browse and I am certain you will fall in love with something on their site.
If you prefer more of a high-end look and can afford to spend a little more money, then this is the brand for you.
They have a very small catalogue (less than 40 pieces) but you can instantly see that a lot of time and care has gone into each one.
There is an elegance and chicness throughout the range that makes the price tag understandable.
The garments are made in London and caters to a wide range of shapes and sizes. Learn more about the wonderful brand here
Plus, even some of your favourite high street stores are taking steps to embrace the sustainable culture.
Zara’s Join Life Collection aims to “help you to easily extend the lifespan of your clothes” by embracing a sustainable approach to the manufacturing and marketing of their clothing.
The pricing and style remains in the realm of the Zara brand so its a great way to dip your toe out of fast-fashion and into more ethical fashion.
H&M released their Conscious Collection last year which uses recycled and organic materials that are ethically sourced. The products are very much in keeping with the H&M brand even down to the price points which does leave the question, ‘just how ethical is this range’.
Given that it is still cheap and they are encouraging customers to recycle by offering vouchers, they are still relying on the fast-fashion model.
However, they can still be praised for at least attempting to move in a better direction.
Which fashion brands would you recommend?