Did you know that on average an item of fast fashion clothing is worn just 5 times? Here at Leafy Souls, we think that's crazy. Fast fashion is a big problem, with the fashion industry producing around 10% of carbon emissions globally according to the UN. People are becoming more aware of this, with several sustainable fashion brands rising to the challenge, but it's a hard world to navigate.
We're here to make ethical and vegan fashion simple, so we'll show how to know what are the genuinely good brands and what’s just greenwashing. Then there’s the added issue of the price too. Ethical fashion often isn’t cheap - which makes our mission even more important.
There’s a lot to learn, but we are here to help you figure it out with a list of the best affordable ethical fashion brands of 2021.
Consumers have become aware in recent years of the environmental impact of fashion. Carbon emissions aren't the only problem either. For example, cotton uses 10% of all pesticides globally. Woah. While denim uses a huge amount of water.
What about the animals involved? Many fabrics use animal products in some way, like leather, wool, silk, cashmere, and others (none of which you'll find on Leafy Souls - we're strictly vegan). There is no need to go into detail on the questionable practices of some of these industries.
There’s the social impact too with reports of appalling conditions of factories in developing countries, specifically in India and Bangladesh. There are concerns over poor working conditions, use of child labor, low pay, and human rights abuses, to name a few.
One of the biggest issues is fast fashion, which is cheap clothing produced in large quantities that follow the latest trends. Like we said earlier, the majority of these items are used a few times and are likely to be found in a landfill soon after.
Although now people are moving towards slow fashion; high-quality pieces that stand the test of time. Shoes that don't fall apart after a few months, high-quality fabrics, and clothes that can actually be repaired. That's exactly why we work so hard to find high-quality items that you can trust. The future of fashion is looking brighter!
Ethical clothing encompasses the ways in which clothing is made, while eco-friendly (aka sustainable) fashion ensures the best practices to limit the carbon footprint that manufacturing clothing requires.
There's been great progress in eco-friendly clothing, such as organic cotton, recycled polyesters, along with greater social benefits with the use of certification programs like Fair Trade.
But what do we mean by “eco” or “sustainable” or “ethical” clothing? There are so many things to think about when it comes to this stuff. Ethical clothing generally aims to have a minimal negative impact on people, animals, and the planet. What does this include? Here are a few of the things considered:
If you're just starting out with sustainable clothing, here are a few tips to get you started:
There is the added issue of the price too. Many sustainable clothing brands are, sadly, expensive. When you are using sustainable materials, working with fair trade standards, trying to be zero waste and cruelty-free, things can get expensive.
We're proud to find those affordable ethical fashion gems however. It's vital to spreading vegan fashion outside of wealthy countries like the US and around the world - we're a hugely global community with happy customers in Russia, South America, South Africa and more.
However, there are now lots of other brands now leading the way in affordable, sustainable fashion. They're doing their best to make ethically made clothing more accessible and we've done some research to bring you this list of the 25 best affordable sustainable fashion brands.
First, here is a list of jargon you should know:
We believe in ethical brands supporting each other, so here are a few of our personal favorites.
This clothing brand is a good place to start, providing all the basics you need for men and women. They use all sustainable fabrics, such as GOTS-certified cotton. They also work with Honest Agency in India and Bangladesh, to help them ensure that the factories their clothes are ethically made. They're also the cheapest on our list!
If you're vegan and proud, this is another brand that's good for you. They make a great range of streetwear designed to be conversation starters. All their clothes are ethically made and cruelty-free. They also plant a tree for every item you buy! These trees are planted around the world, including Kenya, Nepal, and Indonesia.
‘Amour Vert’ meaning 'love green' in French, are a Californian brand that plants a tree every time you buy a t-shirt. So far they’ve planted over 300,000 trees in North America. All their products are made in California where fabrics are created using the best raw products available, including ethical wool and organic cotton. They also use compostable packing!
ABLE’s focus is on empowering women as a way to end poverty. They work with communities around the world to provide opportunities and support sustainable economic development. Some of their sustainability highlights include making jewelry out of scrap metal, using entirely natural fibers, and making jumpers out of organic cotton.
These guys are a pioneer in ethically made clothing. They started back in 1991 and they've been committed to high ethical and environmental standards ever since. Highlights include:
An ethical brand started by three friends traveling in India, who were inspired by beautiful artisan clothes. They decided to create an ethical fashion brand that supports local families in economically disadvantaged communities in India and Nepal. They have beautiful artisan clothes, profits from which provide stable income to families.
This brand has a great range of clothing, especially their workout gear. Where they put the focus of their sustainability efforts in their fabrics. They have a fabric made from beech tree bark, which doesn’t harm the trees in the process, and the resulting fabric is completely biodegradable and compostable. As well, their polyester is made from recycled plastic bottles, they use GOTS certified organic cotton and they're a B-corp!
This brand promises “Radical Transparency”, meaning they’re open and honest about their production processes. So far, they’ve committed to:
We mustn't forget eco-friendly footwear either. This b-corp brand believes in bringing people closer to nature with shoes that replicate all the benefits of going barefoot. These guys are leading the way with their use of eco-friendly and recycled materials, such as naturally sourced yarn and cork, along with recycled PET and rubber. They also have a service where you can return your used shoes to them, which they then repurpose to make new shoes.
This brand has men's, women's, and kids' clothes, along with bed and bath items too. Eco-friendly highlights include:
This sustainable fashion brand is always looking to improve its eco-friendly clothing. Their most recent line Alternative Eco, promises more eco-friendly fabrics than any of their previous lines. Ethical fashion highlights include:
This is a creative ethical fashion brand making some wonderful headwear and accessories. They empower people in both Peru and Uganda by teaching them to crochet great affordable ethical clothing. They're committed to paying fair wages and ensuring excellent working conditions for their employees.
Their goal is well-made, perfectly designed essentials that will last a lifetime. Their ethical brand highlights include:
This Australian brand believes in putting thought into all of its clothing. Eco-friendly and ethical highlights include:
Their goal is to create products that combine quality with a positive impact. They work with family-run farms in Portugal and Egypt, where they select the best quality natural fibers. With their profits, they have invested in several community development projects, including building schools and supporting farms in Egypt.
While admittedly not the most affordable, they are leading the way amongst sustainable fashion brands. Highlights include:
An on-the-rise UK brand with a weirdly wonderful range of high-quality colorful clothing, they're most well-known for their dungarees. Started by two friends who loved traveling, they wanted to create good quality ethical clothing. They work closely with their team in India, where they've built a factory, complete with air conditioning and solar panels. You can even find out exactly who made your clothes!
They believe in "fewer, better", with well-made pieces designed to last. They have an initiative called "Lean Closet", in partnership with ThredUp, where with every purchase you're given a bag so you can send your pre-loved items to ThredUp. As well, Cuyana donates a percentage of your profits to H.E.A.R.T, an NGO which supports victims of domestic violence.
This Fair Trade Certified company joins together a network of artisanal businesses to bring you an amazing selection of clothes, accessories, and even homeware too! You can see the story of each item, and what cause you'll be supporting with your purchase.
You can't forget your swimwear either. Swoon make all their swimwear in the USA, with a guarantee of ethical working conditions. They design high-quality items, to make sure you can keep using their bikinis and one-pieces season after season.
As we said, denim is a big issue environmentally, especially for its water usage. This is one of the eco-friendly clothing brands that are making jeans sustainable. Highlights include:
Bamboo is big in the sustainable materials world. A few of bamboo's benefits are:
Boody is making sustainable clothing from this incredible natural fiber. This brand makes a range of base layer clothes and underwear for men, women, and children.
These guys are leading the way in eco-friendly footwear with shoes made of recycled plastic water bottles and eco-friendly materials like rubber and vegan leather. They're a US clothing brand that makes a range of flats and bags. As an added bonus, their packing is biodegradable too.
This online shop is based in Oregon and brings together a collection of ethical clothing brands. They focus on eco-friendly fabrics, such as Tencel and recycled materials. They have beautiful homeware items too!
This clothing brand is committed to creating a purposeful future for fashion. Part of that is being completely zero waste during the production process. They make a beautiful range of clothing, accessories, and homeware from reclaimed materials.
Yes, we can't forget about us! Everything on our site is 100% vegan, and this year we're going even further to lower our footprint. We're creating regional collections so customers can shop local, and our trusted clothing supplier Gildan is recognized as an industry leader in sustainability (the only apparel manufacturer to be included on the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index). And because each message wear piece is printed to order, storage space and energy is minimized too.
Not to be forgotten, second-hand clothing is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to buy ethical and eco-friendly clothing. By buying second-hand you don't support fast fashion and all of its negative consequences, and it's cheap! Threadup is an excellent online thrift store, where you can find your favorite brands.
If you're already eating vegan, then moving towards a cruelty-free wardrobe is an excellent next step towards a more sustainable and cruelty-free lifestyle. Like we said earlier, the fashion world can be a grim one, but we hope we've shown you that there are some amazing clothing brands out there leading the way to enact change. You as a consumer have the power to support these brands and drive change in the fashion industry.
If this article helped you navigate the world of sustainable fashion and find some affordable ethical clothing, share it with your friends!
A vegan freelance web designer and blog writer based out of Austin, Texas USA.
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In this guide you can see the detailed sizing charts to all our products
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