Sustainable Fashion Brands That Don’t Break The Bank

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The main reason some people reject the idea of switching from fast fashion to shopping at brands based on sustainable production is the widely spread belief that eco-friendly clothes are unaffordable. To be fair, it is true that, for example, a t-shirt made from organic cotton, sold by a sustainable brand, costs $40 comparedto the one that comes from a mass-market brand and costs $10. Besides that, fast fashion is a convenient way to refresh wardrobe season after season. However, the question is at what cost.

Firstly, fast-fashion from cheap materials last only a short period, and if thrown out later, pollute the environment. Secondly, fast-fashion production contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, human rights abuse and water pollution. Finally, to bring a line between sustainably produced clothes and mass-market brands, a true cost of a pair of pants includes such factors as fair-trade, ecologically sourced fabric, and as little footprint on the environment as possible. Thus, we have a dilemma here, you can either buy a cheap t-shirt from a fast-fashion brand, wash it a few times and replace it as soon as it loses its shape, or you can spend more, but own and buy fewer items knowing that those pieces were made to last.

While some brands that have a ‘sustainably produced’ status cost way more than affordable fast-fashion, some offer basic clothes at a reasonable price (and considering that ethically produced pieces last longer, you would not have to buy them over and over again). If you are looking for a way to switch from fast fashion to shopping more sustainably, here is the list of some affordable brands:  

Our favourite sustainable fashion brands

1. PACT

Quality basics are the most important part of any wardrobe. That is what the Pact brand focuses on. They produce all pieces from soft organic cotton that lasts through many washes and feels gentle against the skin. The brand says that growing cotton organically saves a huge amount of water, uses no toxic chemicals, which means it does not affect farmers’ health. More than that, the Pact has a variety of clothing categories for women, men and kids. You can find tops, bottoms, coats, underwear, maternity wear and bedding sheets.

As for price point, on average, a simple woman’s t-shirt costs $53, a pair of leggings $68, and a parka costs around $168. For example, if we open a current Zara collection, we will find trench coats for $119, t-shirts for $25: the difference is not as dramatic as it seems at the first glance.  

2. Boden   

Boden is a UK-based brand that sells clothes that are ethically produced and affordable. However, unlike the Pact, this brand has more prints, a variety of styles, and categories to pick from. You can find plenty of colourful dresses for summer, a wide range of outerwear, clothes for kids, babies, and men. As the brand says, they create clothes with fabrics that do not shrink, buttons that stay buttoned and threads that stay threaded. As proof of exceptional quality, Boden offers a 365-day guarantee.  

To bring up a few examples of average prices, summer dresses cost around $110 (new H&M collection dresses cost nearly $70), coats come for $150-200 and basic leggings around $42.  

3. Kotn    

Kotn is a Canadian label that makes perfectly minimalistic, sharp, slick basics that were created from Egyptian cotton and produced in a fair and safe environment. The brand assures you that they work directly with farmers and pay fair wages to those who are involved in the clothing creation process. Overall, Kotn is more of a reflection on a minimalist lifestyle where quality essentials matter and less is more is a genuine mantra. (You can even purchase a few books from their library section that indicates that.)  

Kotn offers clothes for women, men and home textile. You can find loungewear, underwear, tops, bottoms and dresses. To bring up a few prices for a general idea, essential white crew-neck t-shirts cost around $35, dresses $95, and bottoms $78. Thus, comparing to the first two brands, Kotn is more affordable.   

4. tentree  

tentree is another Canadian clothing brand that plants ten trees for every item you purchase. (They are committed to planting one billion trees by 2030.)   

The brand is known for innovative fabrics, a simple comfortable design and a variety of offered collections for everyday living. You can pretty much dress your whole family there; tentree offers loungewear, activewear, tops, and bottoms for both men and women, as well as kids’ wear and accessories like bags, scarfs, socks and masks. All essentials are made from sustainably sourced materials where the whole process of production left the smallest environmental footprint. The brand also promises that all factories that create tentree collections have fair, safe working conditions.   

Prices are fairly similar to other presented brands; for example, t-shirts cost around $40, bottoms and hoodies $80 and sweaters close to $90.   

5. Everlane   

Everlane has an ethical approach to everything they do: they invest a lot of time finding factories that offer fair wages, reasonable hours, and a safe work environment. All clothing pieces are made from organically sourced fabrics like Grade-A cashmere and Peruvian Pima cotton. Everlane clothes are made to last; thus, even though the cost might seem a bit higher, you can be sure that the basics you buy would not have to be replaced for a long time.

Another useful thing you can find on the Everlane website is transparency about their prices that include labour cost, material, transportation and duties. Showing those numbers, they make it easy to understand the difference between fast-fashion and ethically produced clothes.

Everlane offers clothes for both women and men and includes basics and trendy pieces. You can find t-shirts for $50, dresses for $86, outerwear for $120 and denim for around $90.  

Other ways to build a more sustainable wardrobe:  

While shopping for new pieces might be the easiest, and most exciting way, it is not the only method to turn your wardrobe into a more sustainable one. The very first step you can start with is reorganizing your wardrobe, putting aside clothes for donation and experimenting with left pieces by putting them into a variety of outfits. The second step is working out a system where you create a list of missing garments to make your wardrobe complete: after that, you start browsing sustainable brands and purchasing and crossing items off the list.

Another way is to shop second-hand and do not hesitate to bring your clothes to a tailor. The reason why consignment stores  have been gaining popularity, and many people have been looking for unique designer pieces at vintage stores, is in how the fashion industry became in the last few decades. Thus, to prevent over-production, it only makes sense to wear what was already created. The same attitude comes to finding and appreciating a tailor’s work. If you buy a piece or found it in your wardrobe during revision, that does not fit you perfectly, see, perhaps a few little adjustments can bring it back to being one of the most favourite and wearable ones.

The main idea behind switching towards a more sustainable style resides in the right mindset. As we compared, fast-fashion prices get closer and closer to ethically produced clothes, while the criteria of production do not experience drastic change. Knowing and understanding those facts is all that is necessary to implement a new habit into your life. Because, well, after all, where and how one shops also can be considered a habit, and whether that habit has a destructive impact on the environment is solely a consumer’s choice. 

Updated date

July 15th, 2021

About the author

Maria Kossman

Maria Kossman is an essayist, and content specialist at Rant-it.ca. Her writing appeared in a variety of fashion magazines. When she is not focused on reviewing and writing, she spends time exploring coffee shops, English literature and antique malls.
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