It’s not easy being green…

Shirt: £149, Thoreau. Jeans: M.i.h (old). Photographs: Christopher O’Donnell.

Writing a blog about affordable fashion doesn’t always sit well with me.

Obviously my site is about finding the best items on the High Street, but the nature of ‘fast’ fashion is not always sustainable. I try my best in promoting the resale of clothes and I never throw anything away…but the very nature of constantly needing new items is a problem which isn’t shifting.

Which is why you’ll rarely see a post where I wear everything new all the time. I try and re-use my wardrobe and get the most wear out of my clothes but still, I work in fashion and love fashion and always swayed by the ‘new’.

I’ve been thinking of doing a post on ‘Eco’ brands for a while, but also feel the pressure of responsibility that comes with it. To talk sensibly on this subject, you need to know your stuff.

And, let’s face it, Eco brands are often more expensive (although everyone would argue you get what you pay for). It’s all very well seeing Livia Firth and Emma Watson donning eco brands on their ‘Green Carpet’ which are custom made exclusively for them, and good on them, but I’m pretty sure their Carbon footprint isn’t exactly minimal.

It’s a world full of hypocrisies and even I, who promotes buying ‘stuff’ am guilty. SO, instead of preaching at you to shop slower, shop sustainably and be ‘Eco’, I’ll just highlight a few brands that are doing their bit, in a cool modern way.

I always love Yael from Reformation’s approach: “The prevailing sustainable platform—‘Buy less, use less’—isn’t a scalable strategy. You buy clothes because you really want them. The sustainability part is for us to figure out” (in an article for US Vogue here).

1. THOREAU

Shirt: £149, Thoreau. Jeans: M.i.h (old).

This is one of the brands which started my thoughts on this post. I was emailed from a brand which I loved on first look, and then found out it was eco. Back in my early days on fashion, you knew which brands were Eco, and it wasn’t a good thing. This brand seems to have bridged the gap between eco and cool (they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, these days). All of their clothing is manufactured in the UK from sustainable and reclaimed fabric and you can read more about the brand (and their ethics) here. 

2. EILEEN FISHER

Eileen Fisher

There is very little about the brand Eileen Fisher that I don’t respect: its core values, ideas concerning sustainability and of course, good clothes. You can get a basic overview here, but basically they pay fairtrade wages in their factories, they use organic and sustainable fibres in their clothing (and recycled fibres where they can), and everything is dyed without using hazardous chemicals.

3. CLEAN BEAUTY CO

‘Babe Balm’: £28, Clean Beauty Co

Clean Beauty’s debut product – the Babe Balm – is my go-to product that I’m rarely without on my desk at home. A multi-use balm which serves as a moisturiser, highlighter, lip balm and cleanser – it smells like holiday and is, of course, also 100% natural.

4. EVERLANE

Everlane

I came across this brand recently and thought I’d share. They don’t usually ship to the UK but when I contacted them they let me know that from the 10th April 2017 they are offering International Shipping (from the US) for one week. Exciting! Everlane sells amazing, quality basics with a philosophy of ‘Radical Transparency’ so their customer knows the markups and where their clothes are made. They have personal relationships with all their factories and want the consumer to care about where their clothes are made as much as they care about where their food comes from. Expect big things…

5. REVE EN VERT

Reve en Vert

The High-end online store who only stock brands who care about ‘people and the planet’ – from brands such as Christopher Raeburn (who recycles British military fabrics) to The Grown Alchemist (a beautiful natural skincare brand). The curation is also heavily thought about, so you are buying something that will last for years.

 

6. HERBIVORE BOTANICALS

Calm dead sea bath salts: £20, Herbivore at Wood/Grey. Coconut bath milk: £20, Herbivore Botanicals at Wood/Grey

Founded by husband and wife duo Alex and Julia’s Seattle kitchen, this is a PETA approved, non toxic, safe and natural beauty brand with active ingredients. It also helps that Herbivore products look amazing, too (I’m a packaging freak, after all), all carefully considered – but once you try the Coco Rose body scrub you’ll understand it’s so much more than that.

7. REFORMATION

Reformation

Self proclaimed as ‘making killer clothes that don’t kill the environment’, Reformation, for me, was one of the first brands where finding out it was environmentally aware was a happy coincidence, not their USP. The clothes are cool in their own right and loved by cool girls the world over (Lucy Williams from and Pandora Sykes are both fans). The brand makes their clothes in their own factories using sustainable fabrics and methods. We all stopped off in their Howard Street store in New York, and they’ve just opened stores in Miami and San Francisco, as well as stocking on Net A Porter in the UK.

This is obviously a quick and concise round-up, other brands doing sustainable ‘well’ (in my opinion) include:

Jumper 1234 (creating naturally sustainable, machine washable cashmere).

Matt and Nat (vegan bags with linings made from 100% recycled plastic bottles).

Veja (using organic fabrics with a range of vegan trainers).

I think the conversation about sustainable brands is a lot more open than it used to be and even major High Street brands are addressing these issues. Instead of asking you to boycott these chain stores, I would rather try and change things from within – always asking about their ethics and code of conduct in meetings etc. And think more about my spending habits.

Do you have any brands that you recommend/ respect for their brand ethos and sustainability? It’s definitely something I’m learning about as I go…

23 Comments

  1. “…but the very nature of constantly needing new items is a problem which isn’t shifting.” We actually don’t “need” new items constantly, we “want” new items.

    Apart from issues of sustainability, the constant desire for new items can be not so good for the bank account (to, er, state the obvious).

    I’m not sure if this will help others out there, but I did try this little trick that worked for me: I would go to the shops to window shop/browse/try outfits on but wouldn’t buy. Strangely, it satiated my appetite for seeing the latest fashions, it would also sometimes relieve a stressful day/week, but happily kept my wallet in the black. And with fashions changing so fast, within a few months when the sales dropped and I looked back at the outfit I tried a few months back, it often felt dated and I realised I didn’t want it.

    That’s not to say I don’t like clothes and fashion – I love reading fashion magazines and blogs (yours is one of my favourites, Alex!). But I developed this habit and outlook as a young investment manager doing mergers and acquisitions – an industry which is very male-dominated and where there sadly exists a gender pay gap. I noticed that, in general, while men often earned more, they didn’t shop so frequently but would buy better quality stuff that lasts. I also read a report on how women were often the ones struggling with issues of consumer debt / credit card debt (which charges the highest interest rates), on top of earning less! So to make sure that my personal finances could match my male colleagues, and also to keep a nice nest egg for any of the proverbial rainy days (especially as a single millennial living in an expensive city), I decided to learn to buy less but buy better, and to hardly ever buy any clothes unless there was some sort of discount. All money saved can then go towards investments 😀

    That’s not to say that I never ever shop – most of my wardrobe is from COS, with some Zara and some Massimo Dutti as well. COS is great because it doesn’t date, and their clothes can LAST – I have pieces from 2013 which I still wear frequently.

    I think women sometimes shop a lot because we are bored, or as a form of relaxation (shopping as therapy). But there are other ways of overcoming boredom and stress that are better for the wallet. Sorry – I hope I don’t sound preachy, but I just want to help other women manage their finances better.

    1. Not preachy at all – this is great. So good to hear from different perspectives. For me though, I love fashion and that’s my pleasure as well as my job, so it’s very hard to live minimally if it’s what you enjoy spending your money on…I do love Cos though and their clothes do last – still love my wool trousers from there from years back xxx

      1. Thank you for being open to me sharing my experience and you are so accurate about how different careers can affect our lifestyle habits! I think my outlook might be different say if I were an artist versus a doctor versus a entrepreneur etc. It might also be that being in a male dominated industry where men don’t vary much in terms of what they wear to work has also rubbed off on me!

        On a final note, I really admire how you ventured out to start your own business with this blog and how you put an effort to stay authentic, including your meticulous highlighting of which posts are sponsored or not. It must have taken a lot of courage to venture out of full-time employment to be an entrepreneur through your blog and you were so brave to try! I really admire women who dare to start their own businesses and you put in so much effort while not losing your own voice. Keep up the great work, Alex!

  2. This is great, I’ve been really thinking about my own influence as a customer and choosing to spend my money with brands that care about the workers and the environment. Please keep creating this content its great to see the brands that are doing their bit. I’d love to know more on the work ethics and ethos of the high street brands too. xx

    1. Yes, this is something I’m really hoping to work towards as well as think it’s so important for big conglomerates to be onboard. So I’m going to be asking questions in my meetings and appointments more. The problem is that even if brands like H&M are quite advanced in terms of factories and workers’ rights and recycling etc, a lot of people just won’t believe it, and say it’s all lip service and the very idea of fast fashion is not sustainable. But at least it’s better that they’re caring than not…?

  3. Have you watched the documentary The True Cost? It’s available on Netflix. I think you will find it very interesting if you want to learn more about this whole area x

  4. Nobody’s Child is an ethical brand with very very low prices for the clothes, they call it “fast fashion with a conscience” – nobodyschild.com/about-us

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