The fashion industry has been going through a major change, shifting towards sustainability in recent years. As people become more conscious of the environmental and social impacts of their clothing choices, the demand for sustainable fashion has been on the rise.
But here’s a common concern: Can these eco-friendly options actually be affordable for the average consumer?
Sustainable fashion is all about reducing the industry’s negative impacts on the environment, human rights, animal welfare. Some of the practices it encompasses involves using organic materials, implementing fair labour standards, and embracing circular economy principles.
But, it’s worth noting that these practices can sometimes lead to higher production costs, which are then passed onto us consumers in the form of higher prices.
This raises the question: can you get sustainable options without the higher price tag? Unfortunately, the answer is not definitive, as it depends on various factors such as the brand’s approach to sustainability, the materials used, and the supply chain transparency.
However, more and more affordable sustainable brands and retailers are popping up and they all have the same thing in common – they’re striving to offer ethically-made and environmentally-conscious clothing at more accessible price points, which is a sign that sustainable fashion can indeed become more affordable for all.
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Why The Rise Of Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion emerged as a response to the harmful practices of fast fashion, which focuses on mass production and low prices at the expense of our planet and workers.
More and more shoppers these days are looking for eco-friendly and ethical clothing. That’s why sustainable fashion is gaining popularity. Unlike the fast fashion scene, slow fashion focuses on timeless pieces, quality materials, and low environmental impact. It’s a responsible alternative that we all need to consider.
As consumers become more educated about the fashion industry’s role in climate change, pollution, and poor labour conditions, they’re actively seeking out ethical fashion brands. Brands that focus on sustainability and fair wages throughout their supply chains earn higher levels of consumer trust, as transparency plays a vital role in many shoppers’ decision-making.
With the increasing demand for sustainability, some traditional fast fashion brands have actually introduced eco-friendly lines or initiatives. However, the problem of greenwashing – when products or policies are promoted as eco-friendly but may not be – is also on consumers’ radar. That’s why there’s a renewed focus on genuine sustainable fashion.
Sustainable fashion isn’t only positive for the environment and workers. It also contributes to long-lasting wardrobe staples, reducing the vast amount of waste generated by throw-away culture. In a world where resources are limited and natural habitats are under threat, sustainable fashion is incredibly important for saving our planet for future generations.
The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion has become a popular trend in recent years, offering consumers trendy and affordable clothing. However, it has also been increasingly scrutinised for its detrimental effects on the environment.
One of the most concerning things about fast fashion is the sheer amount of textile waste it generates. As clothes and accessories become more disposable and rapidly go out of style, countless garments end up in landfills, contributing to pollution and taking up valuable space. Also, synthetic materials like polyester and nylon take ages to decompose, making the issue even worse.
The production of clothing materials also plays a huge role in fast fashion’s environmental impact. Cotton, a popular fabric for clothing, demands substantial water and pesticides for cultivation. In fact, it has been estimated that it takes roughly 2,700 litres of water to produce just one cotton t-shirt!
The use of toxic pesticides also causes harm to ecosystems and poses significant health risks to farmers and nearby communities.
Apart from water consumption, the fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions. This is due to the energy-intensive processes in textile production, such as spinning, weaving, dyeing, and finishing.
There’s also the transportation and distribution of clothing items from factories to retail stores, which emits large quantities of greenhouse gases into the environment.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon also create environmental damage. Both materials come from non-renewable, fossil-based resources and need huge amounts of energy to produce. The production process of these materials also releases harmful substances like nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds into the air.
To mitigate these issues, some fashion companies have started to incorporate organic cotton, which relies on far fewer synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. GMO-free variants of cotton have been proposed as another alternative to make the production process more sustainable. However, these solutions remain limited in their ability to truly address the scale of the problem given the ongoing prominence of fast fashion.
Benefits of Sustainable Fashion
By supporting sustainable fashion, you’re helping to drive the demand for ethically made garments, which comes with some notable benefits.
One major advantage of sustainable fashion is its support for fair wages and better working conditions for garment workers. These employees are often subjected to long hours, poor conditions, and very low pay. Sustainable fashion brands prioritise paying a living wage, which ensures the garment workers can afford basic living expenses. In turn, this creates a positive ripple effect within communities, improving overall quality of life and creating economic benefits.
Sustainable fashion also encourages the use of environmentally friendly materials and production methods. This has a great impact on the environment by reducing pollution, conserving resources, and promoting biodiversity. When we choose sustainable fashion, we’re not only making an ethical decision for the people involved in the production process, but also helping to protect the planet for future generations.
Another benefit of sustainable fashion is that it often leads to higher quality garments. Sustainable brands typically invest in durable materials and craftsmanship, resulting in products that are built to last. This reduces the need for frequent replacements and, consequently, reduces waste and saves you money in the long run.
30 Sustainable Fashion Brands
Here are 30 sustainable fashion brands offering environmentally friendly clothing options at affordable prices.
Baiia Swimwear is a renowned Australian brand known for crafting stunning and versatile swimwear pieces that leave a lasting impression. And it happens to be one of my favourite affordable brands!
Their collection effortlessly combines style with a strong commitment to quality and sustainability. Each swimwear piece is carefully designed using regenerated materials – such as plastic bottles, carpet and even fishnets – making them not just fashionable but also eco-friendly.
Baiia (pronounced Bai-ah) ensures their manufacturers are paid above minimum wage (often above median wage), have safe working conditions, are paid sick leave, are gender diverse and are all over the age of 18.
One of the best things about Baiia are that they’re constantly adding new pieces to their collection and, because their suits are reversible, you can mix and match with other pieces to create even more looks. I have two of the 4-piece bikinis and I can make over 20 looks with them. Read my full Baiia Swimwear review (not sponsored – I really do just love them!).
This ethical brand produces unique handmade, ethically made timeless clothing, using a combination of block prints and hand woven ikat. They use organic and natural materials, which can be biodegraded at end of life. They also use natural dyes, where possible, to minimize environmental impact.
Passion Lillie is a member of the Fair Trade Federation and is committed to supporting artisans and preserving traditional crafts. They take on a number of trainees and upskill them to become highly skilled tailors who receive a salary increase in future roles because of their specialised training.
3. LA Relaxed
Another favourite of mine, LA Relaxed creates stylish clothing using eco-friendly and sustainable materials such as organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled polyester. One of their slogans is ‘No GMOs. No Toxins. No problem‘.
Their garments are ethically made in Los Angeles, therefore reducing their carbon footprint. The US is also a medium risk country for labour violations, so you can feel confident that their workers are treated well.
And better yet, their entire clothing line is vegan friendly.
“We believe the planet, and the people on it, should always come first in fashion.”
PACT stands out as one of the best affordable sustainable fashion brands in the market. Rooted in ethical practices and environmental responsibility, every piece in their collection mirrors a commitment to the earth and its people.
As a Fair Trade company, PACT ensures that each individual involved in the production process is treated with dignity and paid fairly, promoting social equity.
PACT’s commitment to the planet is reflected in their use of responsible packaging and their ‘Give back, wear forward’ program epitomises their dedication to community and sustainability, creating a cycle of giving that enriches lives.
Their dedication to transparency, ethical sourcing, and the use of organic materials elevates them in the realm of sustainable fashion, making PACT a preferred choice for conscious consumers.
Flax and Loom offers sustainable linen, denim and cord clothing with a focus on minimal designs. Perfect for minimalists! Their products are designed to be both stylish and sustainable, while being ethically produced. Flax and Loom use environmentally friendly materials such as flax, hemp and recycled denim, ensuring a consistent quality standard for their clothing. The cotton they use is 100% organic, as is the linen.
What I really like about Flax and Loom, other than their clothing, is that they are committed to keeping their customers up to date on their sustainable efforts. On their website, they list what they’re proud of accomplishing in 2022 and their plans for 2023.
This environmentally conscious brand uses organic and recycled materials to create stylish, vegan clothing. Wawwa is committed to transparency and ethical production. What makes them special is their pre-order program.
By carefully controlling production runs, Wawwa thoughtfully curates each piece, avoiding any excess or waste. They even cut fabric in bulk, not only being super efficient but also making a big difference in reducing waste.
They also have a 1:1 collection, which sees that for every one piece purchased from this collection, they donate an item to someone less fortunate.
Ethletic produces eco-friendly and fair-trade sneakers made from organic cotton and natural rubber. They’re a member of the Fair Rubber Association, ensuring sustainable and ethical practices.
Ethletic are one of the rising stars on this list, as they are committed to their shoes being 100% biodegradable in the future, and offering a return of old sneakers to be composted professionally. The brand are also vegan friendly, as listed by PETA.
Losano is a sustainable knitwear brand offering spectacularly beautiful everyday pieces. If you plan on creating a capsule wardrobe anytime soon and want to purchase some classic staple items, I highly recommend Losano.
They use eco-friendly materials like EcoVero (made from wood and pulp), SculptLux (made from recycled polyester) and Recharge (made with organic cotton), and they work closely with artisans and emphasise fair wages.
Losano’s clothing is also designed and made in LA, so they cut down on their carbon footprint by focusing on local production.
9. Toad & Co
Toad & Co offers sustainably made men’s and women’s clothing with a focus on casual, comfortable designs. They use materials like organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester, and Tencel and are one of the favourites amongst vegans for clothing.
Toad & Co are committed to becoming even more sustainable in the coming years and have pledged to use 100% responsible wool by 2024, 100% recycled synthetics by 2025 and save 100,000 litres of water by 2025.
So they’re definitely one to watch as you build your sustainable wardrobe.
Wolven creates sustainable activewear using recycled materials, including plastic bottles. In fact, one Wolven legging is made from a whopping 27 bottles!
Their patterns pay homage to nature with vibrant colours and prints. They are truly beautiful pieces and live up to their slogan – ‘We want to make sustainable sexy’.
Wolven are fully transparent about their sustainability efforts, and even publish their yearly impact reports to their website.
One of my favourite things about Wolven is their pre-loved shop. If you want to sell them back an item, you’ll receive 110% brand credit. And as someone who has committed to only buying second hand clothing in the coming year, this makes me very happy!
Puma, a well-known sportswear brand, is focusing on sustainability, employing recycled materials, and aiming for transparency in their supply chain.
12. Terra Thread
Terra Thread produces affordable and eco-friendly bags made from organic cotton. They are committed to fair labour and carbon-neutral practices.
13. Fair Indigo
Fair Indigo creates timeless, ethically-made clothing using organic materials like Peruvian Pima cotton. They also support a cooperative of female artisans in rural Peru.
14. Mud Jeans
Mud Jeans encourages a circular fashion model by offering a leasing option for their organic, ethically-produced denim. Returned jeans are recycled and used in new products.
Stanley/Stella provides sustainable, high-quality blank clothing made from organic cotton and recycled materials. They emphasise ethical production and transparent supply chains.
SKFK offers sustainably-produced clothing with bold, artistic designs. They utilise eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled polyester.
Sealand creates durable bags and accessories from upcycled materials like yacht sails and advertising billboards. They emphasise quality and eco-friendly production.
18. Ética Denim
Focused on ethical and sustainable denim production, Ética Denim uses eco-friendly materials and water-saving techniques. They reduce waste throughout the production process.
19. The Standard Stitch
Selling simple, sustainably-made loungewear, The Standard Stitch emphasises ethical practices, using organic materials, and offering transparency in their supply chain. They partner with Retold to upcycle your garments at end of life.
Nube offers affordable and sustainable activewear made from recycled materials, such as recycled polyester. They are committed to transparent, ethical, and environmentally responsible practices, and use plastic free packaging.
Offering minimalist and sustainable children’s clothing, Orbasics uses eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton. They focus on timeless designs and ethical production.
22. Nomadic State of Mind
Nomadic State of Mind creates handmade rope sandals with an emphasis on simplicity and sustainability. They use eco-friendly materials and provide fair wages to artisans.
23. Goddess Gear
Goddess Gear produces sustainable women’s clothing made from organic cotton and hemp. Their designs promote comfort and quality while being eco-friendly.
24. Earth Divas
Earth Divas offers handmade and fair-trade bags, scarves, and accessories. They are committed to sustainable, ethically-produced products and supporting women artisans.
Mayamiko crafts ethical and sustainable women’s clothing using locally-sourced materials from Malawi. They are dedicated to preserving traditional techniques and artisan skills.
Patagonia is a leading sustainable outdoor brand, using eco-friendly materials and promoting durable, long-lasting products. They are committed to environmental preservation.
27. Sustain by Kat
Sustain by Kat offers sustainable clothing made from plant-dyed organic materials that are kind to your skin. They emphasise comfort, durability, and environmentally responsible practices.
28. Sorella Organics
Sorella Organics creates organic cotton sleepwear and loungewear, prioritising comfort and sustainability. Their products are ethically produced with transparency in their supply chain.
29. Good For Sunday
Good For Sunday produces eco-friendly and affordable clothing using organic materials. They promote simple, comfortable designs with an emphasis on sustainability.
Armedangels offers a range of sustainable and ethically-produced clothing, using materials like organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled polyester. They aim for transparency and fair working conditions.
How To Find Out If A Brand Is Sustainable
One way to find out a brand’s sustainability is by looking at their commitment to ethical labour practices, environmentally friendly production processes, and transparency in their supply chain. You can begin by researching the brand’s website for their sustainability policies and goals.
Another useful resource to consult would be Good on You. This is a reliable platform that rates brands based on their sustainability performance and provides consumers with valuable information on their practices. By browsing through the app or website, you can easily identify the most sustainable brands in the fashion industry.
Looking at certifications can also provide evidence of a brand’s dedication to sustainability. Standards such as Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), OEKO-TEX, and Cradle to Cradle are examples of credible certifications that indicate a genuine commitment to responsible practices.
To help you further, here are a few questions to consider when evaluating a brand’s sustainability:
- Do they have a well-defined sustainability strategy?
- What are their long-term goals for environmental and social impact?
- Are the materials used in their products responsibly sourced?
- Do they have a transparent supply chain, enabling traceability of their products?
- Are they actively working to reduce their carbon footprint and waste?
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Future Directions and Conclusion
As the fashion industry moves forward, the idea of a sustainable future becomes crucial in deciding how affordable eco-conscious clothing can be. By investing in innovative technologies and supporting circular business models, we can promote sustainable practices and, in turn, lower the price of eco-friendly fashion.
The idea of a circular economy is all about minimising waste and preserving the value of resources for as long as possible. It means conserving natural resources and reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. An exciting approach is through redress recycling, upcycling, and repurposing of materials. This doesn’t just turn waste into valuable resources but it also promotes more responsible consumption practices among consumers.
The use of blockchain technology can also play a role in making sustainable fashion more affordable. By securely and transparently tracking items, blockchain helps pinpoint inefficiencies in the supply chain, leading to significant cost reductions. Plus, this digital ledger system gives consumers the power to make informed choices, boosting the demand for sustainable and budget-friendly fashion.
In conclusion, while sustainable fashion may be seen as a luxury item, it’s clear that there are in fact brands that offer clothing at an affordable price point while still promoting sustainability. By using the latest technologies such as blockchain, sustainable fashion can be made more accessible to all. With these solutions in place, we can look forward to a greener fashion industry that benefits us all.