We’ve all heard that slow and steady wins the race. Let’s throw another S into the mix and make it even more relevant and fitting- it’s sustainability.
Affordable sustainable clothing is the new green revolution in fashion. You must be well aware of the havoc the fast fashion industry is wreaking on the planet. If you’re still clueless how, let us sum it up. Rapidly changing trends and use and throw fashion cause mass clothing manufacture. It leads to an increase in global textile waste. There is a term for this- it is called fast fashion.
Cheaply made pieces that are rapidly produced at demand and are specifically targeted at consumption constitute fast fashion.
Fast fashion companies end up making mass profits, they do so at a huge cost. The enormous amount of chemicals used in these unsustainable fabrics release toxic chemicals in the soil and amount to a huge stockpile of waste.
These extremely affordable trends have costly repercussions. With about 100 billion pieces of clothing come a ton of microplastics and an even bigger carbon footprint.
On the contrary, sustainable affordable fashion encourages consumers to adopt ethical clothing that is also durable. In a way, adopting sustainable fashion is fashion activism at its best.
As we continue to push the fashion industry to embrace more eco-friendly production processes, the goal of affordable, sustainable clothing is also to discourage consumers from adopting harmful and unethical fashion. Sustainable fashion tries to reverse the effects of fast fashion by directing consumers towards conscious consumerism.
If you have want to embrace fashion that is versatile and would help you make a compact, capsule wardrobe, you would love to take a look at our list of 10 affordable, sustainable clothing brands.
Before we skip to the good part, let’s learn about what is sustainable fashion all about. We will try to answer every question you might have about sustainable clothing that is affordable. We assure you- this isn’t another vortex of false promises.
Going Beyond the Hashtag: What is Sustainable Clothing?
Sustainable fashion is when apparel (which includes clothes, innerwear, shoes and even accessories like bags, hats and belts) is manufactured, designed, distributed and used in ways that are environmentally ethical. It is here that sustainable might assume the tag of being organic, but it is much more than that in reality.
Sustainable fashion is not just organic, but a tad above it. It goes beyond the hashtag accompanying clothing in earthy tones you see on social media feeds.
Such ethical clothing isn’t limited to hula outfits (we’d say it creates some ripples, but we know that you can’t wear it on daily basis.) or fabrics the color of oatmeal, like how fashion great Stella McCartney puts it. You do not have to compromise on being fashionable just because it is labelled as sustainable. Good news- you can be both. It is not rocket science.
Going slow does not hinder the elevated fashion experience. If you still doubt what is sustainable, or what you see being marketed with the label, we will break it down for you. It’s quite easy to understand things without a complicated jargon. Sustainable and affordable apparel is not out of your league, nor it will ever be.
Slow, eco-friendly and sustainable fashion is a movement in itself. Conversations on sustainability have multiple dimensions that engage discussions around conservation of resources, carbon footprint, worker rights, corporate social responsibility, labor laws, supporting biodiversity and addressing the evils of overproduction.
Issues that constitute sustainability are extremely complex and brands should engage with these issues beyond a mere superficial commitment.
A few factors that constitute the meaning and essence of sustainable fashion are-
Quality over Quantity
The first and the foremost aspect of dressing yourself the sustainable way is to swear by the quality of one article of clothing that is durable in terms of quality. It is no secret that fast fashion brands are notorious for producing clothes that are worn for approximately 7 times. This is a drastic change from the standard 120 wears and the number of tims we wear a garment before discarding it is quickly decreasing.
Harriet Vocking of EcoAge recommends asking yourself the following questions before you head out for a shopping spree-
- What are you buying?
- Why are you buying it?
- Do you really need what you are buying?
- If you buy it, will you wear it at least 30 times?
Thinking about these questions can help you take a better call on what you really need for your closet. Remember, the motivating principle of a less congested wardrobe is thoughtful shopping that takes into account every aspect- eco-friendliness, cost, and the life of the clothing article.
Sustainability and Ethical Labour in Fashion Industry
No talk of sustainable and eco-friendly apparel is complete without discussing ethical labour and worker rights. With the kind of money fast-fashion companies are minting, we expect that most of it goes towards feeding the families of the workers that make them. But unfortunately, this is a huge deception that people fall for.
Even if they know about the way people in third world countries slog to manufacture clothes that will most probably be discarded when the next trend hits, they choose to prefer convenience over consciousness. The dark side of the fashion industry is that most production facilities have poor working conditions and subject workers to hours of back-breaking work that is not fairly compensates.
Several fashion supply chains are also guilty of encouraging child labor. From the processes of picking to handling toxic dyes and chemicals, the garment industry has a dark, shadow side that is extremely exploitative for the workers. Since the fashion industry requires low-skilled labor that is relatively less expensive, most brands do not consider the prospect of paying these workers even the minimum wage.
Many laborers languish in the industry and have to bear the brunt of accidents that happen in dingy textile production factories and cloth mills. One of the most poignant memories of such a disaster that exposed worker exploitation in the garment industry was the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that claimed the lives of over 1134 workers.
This is why, it is important to choose apparel that is manufactured in ethical facilities. The workers should also be fairly compensated beyond just the bare minimum in order for a clothing article to be truly sustainable. Ensuring the presence of ethics in what you wear is an attitude that uplifts communities that are directly or indirectly related to how clothing is processed and sold. Be it the farmers who have toiled to grow the cotton, or the worker who sews buttons into your newest shirt made from 100% organic cotton– sustainable fashion is about making lives better.
Ensure that your clothes are coming from a facility where workers aren’t subjected to draconian conditions and are paid fair wages for their hard work. Opt for brands that are upfront about their policies. If possible, try visiting a facility and interact with the people there. Or if you are running short on time and do not know where to begin- look for the Fair Trade certification on your garments to ascertain that your garments are sustainable and ethical.
Is it Certified?
Certifications are a main factor that can help you decide how sustainable are your garments.
Look out for the targets the brands have set for themselves- this can include minimizing their carbon footprint, constantly switching to more ethical and cruelty-free facilities, sourcing their materials from craftsmen that receive a fair compensation, if the products used are non-GMO or not.
Sustainability certifications such as B-Corp, ECA, Fairtrade, BLUESIGN is a good indication that a brand is following practices that comply with international standards to ensure environmental safety.
We have elaborated a few of these certifications that denote the different aspects of sustainable clothing. Make sure you check these out before heading for a purchase-
Is It Toxic Chemical-Free?
Even though clothes seem like the most innocuous item out there, the shadow of an ugly truth looms large over them.
Hidden chemicals like AZO dyes, Formaldehyde, PFCs, Phthalates, anti-wrinkling agents, caustic soda and surfactants are used indiscriminately by the fast fashion industry. When washed out, these chemicals pollute our water bodies, can cause safety hazards for workers who work with these chemicals while manufacturing clothes. These agents also pose as significant health hazards and can disrupt and weaken our endocrine system, affect reproduction and can also be cancerous.
This is why, it is important to choose fashion which is safe to carry, even though the impact of such toxic chemicals on the skin isn’t direct, according to Greenpeace scientists Dr. Kevin Brigden.
However, certain dyes can be allergens and cause skin diseases and rashes.
Speaking of this impact, imagine what could happen to the biodiversity thriving in the oceans and around us, if they come into direct contact with these harmful chemicals.
In all seriousness, chemical pollution tends to damage the ‘fabric of life’, if we go by environmentalist Rachel Carson’s words. This is why it is important that your fabric is free of these notorious pollutants, so that you are able to preserve the threads that connect you to the goodness of nature.
Are Sustainable Clothes More Expensive? Is the Cost Worth It?
Conversations surrounding the concept of sustainable apparel say that it is quite expensive and is a luxury good. The price factor drives several people away from embracing sustainable clothing. Yet, the key to dismantle this belief system around sustainable fashion is to understand its effect on the planet.
Sustainable clothing can be affordable, but they are slightly expensive than fast fashion garments. While a piece of sustainable and eco-friendly clothing can cost more than a mass produced clothing article- it is still comparatively cost effective, especially when we consider the ecological cost and harms inflicted by the latter.
If we calculate the amount we spend on fast fashion frequently, a one-time investment in sustainable articles is more fruitful.
Think about this- what’s better- spending a few extra bucks on a garment that can be styled in at least 4-5 ways, has come from a safe production facility, has less ecological costs or spending a lot of money over a year on fashion trends that you won’t even consider wearing after a new one enters the market?
This is because firstly, sustainable and ethical fashion lasts longer. Investing in pieces that are skin-friendly, durable and versatile is better. The key here is to avoid engaging in excessive shopping patterns.
While the likes of Rebecca Bloomwood would disagree, maybe researching and knowing about the actual expense of fast fashion will make her reform her ways. And in doing so, our inner shopaholic might find the cure for their addiction to shop any and everything they see once it is on social media.
Textile waste is a real thing. Fast fashion means discarding gently used clothes and articles regularly without giving them a second life. Our excess fashion cravings often end up in a landfill where they are promptly incinerated. Since a lot of clothes are synthetically manufactures, these cute looking garments can emit a significant amount of toxic gases and fumes, thereby polluting the atmosphere.
Frequently buying clothing that is made from organic fabric is like splurging on fast fashion. Quality over quantity is the go to maxim when you are searching for fashion that is good for you and the Earth.
A minor degree of extra costs you incur while buying something durable is worth it. Moreover, if you are curious about the maths behind why ecological fashion is expensive, it is boils down to the following factors-
- Labour, as everyone has a right to be paid well above the bare minimum to lead a respectable, good life
- Material sourced according to organic farming standards
- For certifications and the enormous amount of paperwork that goes behind earning the marker of a sustainable brand
- Marketing and retail costs. However, this has become debatable as many brands prefer a Direct to Consumer model of selling their apparel, especially in the times of COVID-19. But there are several things that demand attention and expenses which go beyond paying store rent. The investment can be used by ethical clothing brands to improve other aspects of the supply chain- like using environment friendly technology or sourcing more ethical materials.
Why Choose Sustainable Fashion?
About 97% of resources that go into producing clothes are new or virginal resources. The textile industry is reported to use about 93 billion cubic metres of water in a year. This astonishing amount is enough to fill at 37 Olympic sized swimming pools. As you must have guessed, fashion might feel cute, but its long-run impacts aren’t what you can delete later.
Unfortunately for us, the fashion industry is guilty in more ways than one. It commits a cardinal sin of massive overproduction. Not all overproduced garments are sold, many of them lie unused as seasons and trends continue to change.
As a result, since these excess garments are unproductive- they go into the landfills where they never decompose or they are burned. This is the reason why the fashion industry is guilty as charged for exacerbating the problem of global carbon emissions and is the second biggest contributor in terms of water and plastic pollution.
Sustainable fashion seeks to address these very problems by replacing synthetics with eco-friendly fibers that are biodegradable and recyclable.
The point of using these eco-friendly articles is to make your clothes last for a longer time without making you feel guilty about the moolah you had splurged on them.
Invest in a few, quality articles which you can carry effortlessly and wear frequently. While we understand that all of us want to own a closet full of swanky and the most fashionable clothes, we should also try going for a minimalist wardrobe that contributes to less textile waste.
There are several pros of clothing made with sustainable practices that outweigh the various cons of your latest fast fashion hauls. Read below to see why you should take a step towards embracing eco-friendly fashion:-
Reduces Water Footprint
Affordable sustainable clothing saves a ton of virginal natural resources by using recyclable fabrics and other materials. Even though fabrics like cotton demand a lot of water to process it into usable cloth, they tend to be better than synthetic materials like nylon and polyester as they are grown in areas with little moisture. Moreover, the dyes used in sustainable apparel use less water, which reduces the water footprint considerably.
Reduces CO2 Emissions
Since several articles and accessories produced by the garment industry are petroleum-based and made from fossil fuels, they generate immense amounts of greenhouse gases, thus contributing to global warming and climate change. Chemical processing is another factor that leads to significant CO2 emissions and a larger carbon footprint.
On the other hand, sustainable fashion uses fabrics and other materials that is recycled or do not require chemical processing. With little water, less energy and biodegradable properties, ethical fabrics like hemp, cotton, and more recently the TENCEL Modal are environmentally sound options that limit CO2 emissions.
Sustainable Clothing is Cruelty-Free!
Sustainability also means extending empathy instead of blatantly exploiting other life forms. An example can be the leather industry, that thrives on killing about 430 million animals annually.
On the other hand, vegan alternatives like vegan leather and Mylo, which is used by Stella McCartney or new innovations like compostable sneakers and a leather alternative made from the leaves of the pineapple like Pinatex are more ethical and minimize animal cruelty. Thus, going the sustainable and slow fashion route also means being cruelty-free in a way- by limiting yourself to options that are ethically derived without harming animals or any other biodiversity, you can choose to be more eco-friendly and considerate.
Best 10 Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands for Eco-Friendly Fashion
Now that we have dwelled upon the various reasons you should opt for clothing which is good for you, we have made a list of the 10 best brands which have taken sustainability to a new level. These brands are known as pioneers and changemakers in the fashion industry and are famous for their high quality and affordability.
If you’re on a tight budget and yet wish to make a difference with whatever you have, Pact should be your go-to for sustainable, affordable clothing. With their diverse range of clothing articles made from sunshine friendly fabrics that is super-soft to touch, Pact partners with Fair Trade Certified factories. The brand even gives consumers an option to offset the carbon cost of the shipment. You can choose from a wide range of clothing- all of which is safe and organic!
Shop Pact, here.
Speaking of affordable sustainable clothing, Boden is making ripples for all the right reasons. The British brand is pretty upfront about their stance on sustainability and ethics. Boden never favors fast fashion and uses as many recycled materials and fabrics as possible to manufacture an ensemble that is genuinely good and eco-friendly. Attention to detail is the brand’s forte, which is apparent in its range of apparel that is available in various prints and sizes.
Shop from Boden, here.
‘Let’s change our clothes, for good’ is the brand’s tagline and it shows on their teeming catalogue which is full of goods made from organic PIMA cotton that will last you forever and is ethically made. The company also gives consumers an alternative to directly donate to schools in Peru that serves impoverished kids and supports their education.
Shop Fair Indigo, here.
More tortoise than hare, Mata Traders are trying to shake things up on the block with their commitment. Mata’s motto is to engage in intentional, slow and responsible clothing. A Fair Trade federation member, the brand is an advocate of gender-equality and favors people over profits. That is why we love this brand. Moreover, they use handlooms instead of commercially knit fabrics and the effort shows!
Shop from Mata Traders, here.
Capsule wardrobe enthusiasts alert! VETTA offers customers the option to create their own 5-piece capsule wardrobe. However, they also sell stand-alone items on a budget. Select your pick from their range of classic essentials, new arrivals and their best selling T-shirt dresses, sweaters and more. The brand uses TENCEL, organic cotton and deadstock fabric to manufacture pieces that are timeless and made to last in your wardrobe without giving way after a few wears.
Shop VETTA, here!
We love fashion that lasts for days, and for this brand, creating such fashion is its passion. According to the brand’s website, it is fixing ‘broken’ fashion by eliminating clothing waste through their novel concept of circular fashion. All the products from For Days are 100% recyclable. The brand prides itself on selling ‘Take Back Bags’ where customers get an instant credit for buying a bag that they can fill with old clothes from any brand. The contents of the bag are then upcycled or downcycled into materials for carpeting, depending on the material they are made from.
Shop For Days, here.
We should never underestimate intimate wear that is soft, breathable and doesn’t irritate your most delicate parts. Thankfully, Knickey’s range of elevated cotton basics are compromise-free. All Knickey intimates are made with care and are plus-size friendly. You can check out their starter sets that are made from 95% GOTS cotton and are Climate Neutral certified. Machine washable and super soft, we don’t see why you shouldn’t get yourself a pair of Knickey’s!
Shop Knickey, here.
Girlfriend Collective has made it their mission to make clothing more eco-friendly with their transparent policies and activewear made from recycled fishing nets and polyester. All their products are subjected to the SA8000 social accountability standard and are made from recycled plastic wastes. The products are made from LITE fabric, ECONYL yarn, and BPA free recycled polyester.
Shop Girlfriend Collective, here.
If you are Boho fan and love some brilliant tie and dye fits, cotton leggings that scream comfort and cool headbands, Soul Flower is your go-to for all this and more. Made from organic cotton, recycled polyester and low-impact dyes, all Soul Flower products are Fair Trade certified and are handmade with love. Each soul flower piece is unique, so don’t wait to get yourself something nice and affordable from their trendy store.
Shop from Soul Flower, here.
Tentree prides itself on its Earth-first essentials that are made with the materials that have the smallest environmental footprint. These clothing articles are ethically manufactured and are FT, FWF, WRAP and SA8000 certified. With other glowing certifications such as B Corp and Climate Neutral, Tentree is creating an impact by planting trees for every purchase you make. Tentree products are made from TENCEL, hemp, recycled polyester and organic cotton.
Shop Tentree, here.
How Can We Help You Find Trendy Eco-Friendly Fits?
With BeZen, building your very own capsule wardrobe and shopping for eco-friendly clothing is a breeze. Our motto is to promote sustainability, the real way. Our curated product recommendations make us your personal shopping assistant wherever you go. We believe that customers should always have access to healthier and more affordable alternatives, be it in food, lifestyle or fashion. Look at the video below to know how our Be Zen Chrome Extension works!
Coupled with extensive research which takes in account valid certifications, we wish to bring convenience at a click with our Chrome Extension.
After downloading it, Zen the monk will help you make a better choice while shopping. The extension is active on Amazon, Walmart, Target and Best Buy. We will redirect you to our ethical partner’s website via our extension whenever you surf these shopping platforms. Once you check out, some exclusive coupons will be waiting for you- consider it a little gift from us for being a sensitive, conscious consumer.
As far as privacy is concerned, we never compromise your details. We only use your queries about what you wish to buy on search engines and e-commerce portals to recommend you the greenest alternatives out there. We do not sell user data and are committed to protecting your privacy, which is as dear to us as is shopping responsibly.
The Be Zen Take on Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands
We swear by sustainable and eco-friendly fashion. Besides telling you about brands that are already making a change with their methodology, process and vision, it is great to extend the life of your clothes and use them as much as you can. This move will address the burgeoning problem of increasing global textile waste.
Since about 85% of our clothes end up in landfills, we should think about the best way to recycle them and minimize the harmful impact of the garment industry.
Ethical and affordable fashion does not compromise your budget and helps you live guilt-free. Wearing fabrics that are good for the planet will make you feel good about yourself as well. Fashion does not have to be expensive to become hip. We think that fashion is when you wear it. And don’t forget to download our Chrome Extension to shop from our qualified partners that are trying to make it better.
Your journey as a conscious consumer will not stop at merely opting for greener apparel.
You must demand corporations to consider the needs of the planet, indigenous communities and life forms- fashion activism is on the rise, after all. Go beyond the hashtag and explore these eco-friendly fabrics to craft your own style.
It doesn’t have to be only external. Sustainable fashion is an attitude of empathy, humility and transparency. Aside from saving quite a few bucks, you are creating an impact through ethical clothing. Keep checking back for such updates on our blog to know more about sustainable fashion and which brands are doing it in the best way.