So I’m riding the wave of my latest identity crisis towards the goal of Bettering Myself As A Human to try and combat all the negative voices in my head telling me I’m a piece of shit. I found this documentary on Netflix called The True Cost, and spent the rest of the evening learning about all of the reasons why stores like H&M and Forever 21 are horrible. Honestly I knew this like in the back of my mind but had never made it a priority to do in-depth research. Kind of like the time I watched Forks over Knives and went vegan for like a week but then comfort food won out and I sort of forgot the images I had seen a week before (still working on going fully vegan…more on that later).
Eating, like shopping, is something that I do a bit compulsively (as I described in the first part of this post), and when my anxiety is high. So if I’m going to have this habit, I want to at least do it in a way that’s ethical and not serving a broken system that doesn’t give a shit about human lives.
On the website for the movie (which you can also watch on Netflix) is a list of brands that they deem ethically sound in their production practices. I was like “awesome!” And looked through a bunch of these websites, but the problem with all of them was…. I wouldn’t actually wear these clothes. Not only are they not my style (can you say yuppie bo-bo white guilt any louder?), there’s no way I could afford a lot of them. I think this is kind of a problem with a lot of “save the world, eat organic” trends. They are super elitist and marketed towards an upper class white demographic. If you do a basic google search for “cute ethical brands,” a lot of these will pop up : Everlane, People Tree,
So I went deeper and deeper into the internet trying to find a solution to this, a brand that could (is it possible?) be cute, and ethical, and (somewhat) affordable all at the same time. The thing is ethical production just costs more and so even the least expensive brands are nothing like getting 7$ t shirts at h&m. The solution to that is thrift shopping and/or recycling clothes you already have, holding clothing swaps, etc. DIY!
But I did stumble on some brands that I feel would fit into a college-student budget, especially if (this is the hard part for me) you buy a few items at a time and make them last forever.
In order for me to hang on to an item that long, through all my emotional ups and downs and wanting to get all the stuff and get rid of all the stuff and get all the stuff again, that piece of clothing has to be super cute and high quality. I’m adding to that concerns about the company’s practice, so here is my new list of requirements for buying clothes :
1. Cute as hell. Clothes with personality.
2. Affordable. A fair relationship between quality and price.
3. Clean production line (cotton and other fibers grown without destroying the environment, made by people who are earning a fair wage and working in good conditions, no cruelty to animals)
4. Bonus if the brand promotes healthy self-image or supports some other cause.
As you’ll see, it’s reeeeeally hard to satisfy all these things at once, but I tried my best. These are some of the best ethical clothing brands I found after skulking around fashions blogs for a couple days. Seriously, I am crushing really hard on some of these clothes, especially from this first brand:
This is basically an artist that takes all those boring ho-hum basics from other fair trade and eco-friendly retailers, and makes them really cute and personal by hand painting them! Each piece is unique, and she also holds “Warrior Workshops” and other events, to improve girls’ self-esteem, show them how they can be powerful and creative and beautiful AND hairy! She invites anyone to apply to model for her, and doesn’t photo-shop anyone, and they all look so beautiful ! I really did feel like I had been through a therapy session after looking through the website.
“Clothes for deadbeat, lowlife weirdos.” *Raises hand* So this is like an online vintage shop, it’s ethical in that it’s reused clothing. That’s always good, why make new stuff when there is so much stuff already in the world? Their selection is amazing. You can shop by size — they have tons of options for every size. The models look like real women. I just freaking love this website, I could browse it for hours.
Vegan platform shoes — and other clubbing gear — that looks like they’ve come from another planet. Need I say more.
They aren’t specific about their production from start to finish, so keep that in mind. I’m not sure where these clothes are produced.
Animal cruelty-free *check*
Human cruelty-free *??*
This is one of the brands I stumbled upon on Birdsong – an online retailer that sells from various ethical brands. I’m trying to write about brands here and not retailers, but check out Birdsong as well while you’re at it. They have all these cute t-shirts with avocados on the boobs and things. Their business is based on a model of micro entreprise, meaning they work to support local small businesses and artisans, and to offer sustainable solutions that help the economy instead of harm it. The site offers a few basic patterns of clothing and accessories for, which you can customize by picking out your fabric — you’re likely to get a unique combination of pattern and print. They have bomb-ass bomber jackets ! And lots of bags.
Another brand from Birdsong with a similar idea — they utilize the expertise skills of already-trained seamstresses in Ghana, using materials that are produced there, and that are already common to Ghanaian fashion. The workers are able to make a fair wage and save up for other enterprises. They also offer a few patterns for women and men with rotating fabric choices.
I don’t know, I’m having a hard time believing how sustainable this brand really is given their prices (nothing above 20$ it seems). If anyone can give me more info that’d be great. In the meantime, it seems like a better alternative to H&M. This brand is sold at Topshop and other large retailers, but I think it’s always best to go to the source, because otherwise you are spending money at a store that might have more dirty practices elsewhere. The “eco-conscious” line at H&M, for example, is still supporting H&M, even if that specific line is made ethically.
For me these clothes are verging on too plain, but maybe this is the Gap of the conscious fashion world. I don’t know if I would wear them, but I’m sure I have some friends who would, and the prices are reasonable.
Kind of ditto to the last post. I’m not sure I would wear these clothes, but I do agree they are cute, and there were one or two dresses that I really liked, so I’ll include it. They all remind me of summer barbecues or studying on college greens and in libraries. If that’s your thing, maybe you’ll really like these clothes.
One of the only brands from the “True Cost” list that made it into my bookmarks page. Vegan footwear.
Okay, so it’s a bit ridiculous because if you want a recycled leather jacket, you could just go to a thrift shop and probably find one for less there. But these jackets are just so well-made, with current styles in mind, and I was kind of salivating, so I had to include it. The prices are way out of my range, but a leather jacket should kind of be an investment, right? I’ve never bought one (since I always spend my money quickly and in small amounts), but if I really wanted one, I might start here.
Ethical lingerie sold on Etsy. Undieeeees. They are all really adorable and made to order in Britain. I’m not sure about where the fabrics come from though, I’d have to do a little more research.
Other brands :
This brand feels a bit like the “cool mom” from the bougie part of town who wants to be eco-conscious and dress like her kids do. It’s like forever 21 style at designer prices. But in a pinch for a cute dress or pant suit to wear to a wedding or something, I guess I’d go here. They also have graphic tees, but for me the slogans walked the line between spot-on sarcasm and things the mom from Mean Girls would say to her friends. Idk, you decide. I’m too dizzy from looking at all the red.
I don’t have to write much here, you all know what it is. Some people have their qualms about the ex-CEO, but I guess he’s fired now, and otherwise, their production is clean (fact-check me on that please? I’m a bit tired).
I guess this is a new project coming out of the UK, based on an existing chain of thrift shops there? Cool, and not yet available. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.
Do you have any other suggestions? Or more info on the brands I’ve talked about here? Comment below !