I quite like the research process I'm going through before I make clothing purchases; I'm learning about innovative fabrics, international supply chains and discovering fashion's Next Big Things, but I realise that doesn't work as a shopping strategy for most people.
We all want good quality, wearable clothing at a price we can afford, and I'd like to think that if you're reading my blog you probably want the clothes you buy to do more good than harm. So here are some suggestions to set you on the path towards a more sustainable wardrobe.
Let's get back to basics:
Plain, stretchy vest tops, t-shirts, leggings and tights form an all-important base layer for our wardrobes at this time of year. We want them to keep us cosy, save outer layers like shirts or dresses from constant washing or dry-cleaning, and look good as an outer layer by themselves when summer comes around.
Rapanui sells vests and t-shirts for a great price, and it works out even cheaper if you buy several items at once. They also sell hoodies and sweatshirts, and partner with Teemill, so if you buy from them you know you are still supporting an ethical business!
Thought sell bamboo tops, leggings and tights which make great base layers, as well as a range of organic cotton and bamboo clothing.
People Tree are probably one of the best-known ethical brands, and as well as classic and fashion-forward pieces, they do an Essentials range of multi seasonal clothes in organic cotton.
I couldn't mention Teemills without giving a shout-out to my friends at The Suffragette City who are making the most of their moment of fame (a photo of them dressed as Suffragettes at the Women's March went viral) by selling T shirts and bags, and donating all profits to the charity Abortion Rights!
Ethical Brand Directories: the excellent women who searched the whole of Google so you don't have to!
The Ethical Brand Directory was set up by stylist Roberta Lee because she was tired of the endless Googling it took to find great ethical brands. Some of the businesses she showcases specialise in a specific product, others, like Sheer Apparel and Birdsong London, feature multiple small brands. All the brands do a great job of demonstrating how stylish and exciting the world of sustainable fashion is!
Roberta is running a live event, the Conscious Christmas Showcase, on Wednesday 15th November, so pop along if you want to check out some of the brands from the Ethical Business Directory in person, and hear from some amazing speakers! Tickets available here.
Ethical Fashion blogger Tolly Dolly Posh has compiled her own Ethical Fashion Directory; her list of brands was such a useful resource for me when I first started looking for ethical alternatives to the high street. One of my favourite things (there are a lot of them!) is how supportive and encouraging the online sustainable fashion community is; everyone is happy to share their knowledge. There is an understanding that everyone has a different financial situation, shopping habits and personal style, so the emphasis is on encouraging people to do what they can, rather than criticising for appearing to not do enough.
Conscious Consumerism on the High Street
If it's impossible to find what you are looking for from an ethical brand (sadly that's still possible; a lot of ethical brands are small start-ups that can't produce a vast amount of stock, in every size, for a low price), not all high street brands are equally unethical! Most big companies are much less transparent about their supply chains than smaller ethical brands, but fortunately there are people to do the detective work so you don't have to. If you want to reward good behaviour by high street chains (or avoid financially supporting bad behaviour), these resources will only take minutes to use:
Ethical Consumer Magazine grades brands who produce a range of consumer goods as well as clothes, so you can see at a glance which companies score high (or low) on their chart. You can also subscribe to the magazine which gives you access to more detailed content.
Not My Style is an app developed to rate high-street clothing brands according to their ethics and transparency. Download it for instant access to important ethical info when you're out window-shopping!
The other thing I think we all forget is that we can ask brands to be better! Multinationals might not improve their practices out of the goodness of their hearts, but they will have to if they see a drop in sales, or come under pressure from concerned customers.