I spend a lot of time talking to friends about ethical fashion. From these conversations, I’ve gleaned that one of the biggest impediments to shopping ethically is the idea that these products are simply too expensive to buy. From what I can tell, most of us would like to buy eco-friendly or Fair Trade items, but fear we can’t ultimately afford them. That’s where I come in! The truth is that ethically produced products can fit into your budget. Read on to discover five ethical or eco brands that won’t break the bank.
1 | Everlane
I’ve blogged about Everlane before, but they definitely deserve to be in this list. This up-and-coming San Francisco based company was founded in 2010 by 25-year-old venture capitalist Michael Preysman. Everlane focuses on creating simple and innovative basics made of high quality materials. Their ethos of radical transparency is what makes the company unique. In each product description, you’ll find an infographic including information about sourcing and production costs, as well as their markup compared to conventional retail stores. The result? Luxe, yet affordable products that you feel good investing in…and even better wearing.
2 | Reformation
This Los Angeles based company fuses fashion and sustainability, while remaining within a reasonable price point. They create most products at their own sustainable sewing factory, thus eliminating the middle man and traditional retail markups. Reformation incorporates eco practices into their entire supply chain in an effort to limit their environmental impact and raise awareness about the impact of fast fashion. As a result, they’ve achieved B Corp certification, meaning they’ve met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
“From our heat-reflecting roof and use of renewable energy, to the recycled hangers in our stores and 100% recycled packaging for every order shipped, sustainability is core to our business at every level.”
Reformation provides effortless, feminine silhouettes that are equally contemporary and eye-catching. Consider them the ethical Nasty Gal. I’ve just gone ahead and ordered myself their Austin Tee ($28), so stay tuned for my review once it arrives. Oh, and online shoppers beware…they offer free standard shipping.
3 | ASOS Green Room
For the budget-conscious, ASOS Green Room is the place to be. While the majority of the products you’ll find on ASOS aren’t exactly eco-friendly, Green Room is their platform dedicated to collections with an ethical or eco-conscious story to tell. Here, they include their own ASOS Africa collection which is designed and produced in Kenya, as well as locally made UK labels and other cutting-edge brands with a sustainable of Fair Trade angle. You can use their helpful glossary of terms to delineate between them all. Be sure to check out impressive UK brand People Tree and the ASOS Reclaimed Vintage line, which features up-cycled items with a throwback vibe.
4 | Ethica
Ethica is an online retailer that carries carefully curated brands that meet their own rigorous and comprehensive ethical fashion standards. While many of us (myself included) often use “ethical fashion” interchangeably with other terms like sustainable fashion or eco fashion, Ethica defines their own specific ethical criteria.
“No matter how eco-friendly a product is, or how much a company gives to charity, we believe a brand cannot be considered ethical if it has not made a demonstrable commitment to protecting human rights.”
As a result of this relentless commitment, they carry many brands who produce items domestically or in Fair Trade conditions where workers are paid above the minimum wage. The labels you’ll find at Ethica’s online shop range from sustainable and made in the USA to handcrafted and vegan. The brands they represent are diverse, but they all share one thing in common: a steadfast dedication to reforming the fashion industry from the inside out.
So, what about the price point? I’ll admit that the prices of most items on Ethica are somewhat higher than the first three companies I’ve included here. That being said, you can use their ‘Under $100’ filter to check out more affordable options and they offer some pretty solid sales. Be sure to join via email so you can capitalize on their $20 off of $50 or more coupon they offer for subscribers, too. If you’re looking for high quality items that will stand the test of time in terms of durability and style, this is your spot.
I wavered between including H&M’s Conscious Collection in this list or not. There’s a lot of debate about whether H&M’s efforts to streamline sustainability are simply too antithetical to the nature of fast fashion to matter. Let’s be clear about this. H&M is a fast fashion company. They depend on selling trend-driven, mass produced clothing at price points so low they make the best of us wonder. That being said, I respect their commitment to incorporating more sustainable practices into their global supply chain. No company is perfect, but H&M is one fashion giant that’s had the initiative to reform much of what they’re doing to fit a more ethical model.
Their latest Conscious Collection features items made from more sustainable materials; among them recycled wool and plastic, and organic leather and linen. The prices of these pieces are still extremely low, while being stylish and easy to wear. If you don’t want to veer too far away from your usual shopping habits, investing in the Conscious Collection is a great route to take.
I once heard a designer say, “Every item you buy is a vote you’re casting for the kind of world you want to live in.”
If you haven’t shopped ethically in the past, start now. You’ll be surprised by how addictive it is to put your money behind brands you love and want to support. It actually feels kind of amazing to frequent trustworthy labels who who want more than to meet a quota. Fashion can be a force of positive change in the world, but you have to be part of that for it to happen. Regardless of where you shop, there is a story woven (literally) into each garment you buy. In most cases, dozens of hands have touched the final product you see in its hanger, and it’s probably traveled thousands miles to get there. Make sure you’re buying into a story you’re proud to be part of.