Shopping for sustainable fashion may seem like it’s easier said than done – after all there’s only so much you can divine about a garment’s origins from looking at the label.
However, if you’re after sustainably-made womenswear, menswear and beauty products, you don’t need to invest in an environmental sociology degree to find them, as thankfully an increasing number of projects are springing up to make sustainable shopping that bit easier.
Here are four sustainable fashion websites you need to bookmark before your next spending spree…
“Showcasing designers that pride themselves on aesthetics as much as their ethics.”
Stevie Organic Cotton Shirt Dress by Seek Collective, £180
All the brands featured on Gather&See adhere to at least one of the following six founding principles:
- Fair trade – ensuring the payment of a higher price to exporters and workers, as well as higher social and environmental standards.
- Organic – made from organic cotton, using production systems that replenish soil fertility and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers.
- Recycled – made from materials that would normally end up in a landfill site.
- Eco-friendly – brands that regulate their water and energy consumption and have zero-waste policies including use of bio-degradable packaging.
- Small scale production – meaning collections are formed of a limited run and never mass produced.
Mini brand bios on the website explain which of the principals each stockist adheres to.
Gather&See was co-founded by Alicia Taylor and Steph Hogg who had their eyes opened to how disconnected we, as shoppers, can be from the production processes behind the clothes we buy, while travelling in their early twenties.
“We both grew up in the generation that came of age as the fast fashion model was established and we all bought into it,” Taylor explains to HuffPost UK Style.
“We were lucky enough to travel to some amazing countries and coming across brilliant artisans producing beautiful clothing in a completely foreign way to what we knew. That got us questioning more and more about the provenance of our clothes.
“Ever since we have educated ourselves on the issues that lie within the fast fashion model and have been researching what was being done from an ethical and sustainable point of view since the mid 2000s.”
Alicia Taylor and Steph Hogg co-founded Gather&See
“For us sustainable fashion is about developing a clothing industry that does not harm people or the planet and beyond that actually harnesses the immense power the fashion industry holds to create a beneficial impact,” adds Hogg.
“Sustainable fashion is also about future proofing this industry and it’s processes so it does not self-implode.
“Fashion is a billion dollar industry that has an enormous power that could be harnessed for good. At the moment it is not doing this enough.”
The pair believe that a love of fashion necessarily goes hand-in-hand with a passion for sustainability.
“Quite simply we love fashion,” Taylor says. “We adore the creativity, the craftsmanship, the fact that you can choose to dress yourself in a way that expresses your identity.
“We feel that if you truly love the fashion industry then you need care about its impact and its future.
“The idea that tragedies like Rana Plaza and so many other social and environmental injustices take place for the sake of fashion is not acceptable and completely contradicts what fashion should be about – empowerment, confidence and freedom of expression.”
Taylor and Hogg felt the fashion world was lacking a curated selection of ethical and sustainable brands for ethically minded fashion lovers to browse – so they set about filling this gap in the market and in June 2014 Gather&See went live.
“We attend fairs and shows around Europe where we are finding more and more interesting ethical brands,” says Hogg.
“Earlier this year we visited Copenhagen and were delighted to find at least three or four brands that we will bring on board for 2016. Now that we are more established we also have the luxury of brands coming to us hoping to stock with Gather&See.”
Taylor and Hogg firmly believe the future of fashion lies in sustainability.
“If we can take a holistic approach – with governments, NGOS, brands and importantly, end consumers, all taking some responsibility, then we can make fashion more sustainable,” says Taylor.
“If enough of us demand this change then the fast fashion model will simply have to evolve into something altogether more sustainable.
“This is the future, the sad thing is it make take yet more disasters and more people being exploited before we get there.”
Zady is a “slow fashion brand” that has gone further than simply producing a sustainable fashion line – it has also created an interactive tool for shoppers who want to know more about fast fashion’s impact on the world.
Charcoal Lightweight Alpaca Sweater by Zady, £129.77.
The Zady website is home to The New Standard platform, the result of a year long research project, which aims to empower consumers by providing them with the knowledge of how and why we should shop sustainably, by presenting the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry.
On the Zady website it states: “The New Standard pulls back the curtain on a historically opaque industry and aims to create an industry standard for sustainable, better production.”
The company have also produced their own Essentials Collection created with the following principals in mind: design for longevity; use the highest quality fibres that also have a low carbon footprint; and work directly with the supply chain to ensure a low impact from farm to final factory.
At it’s beginning the New Standard was never intended to be seen by anyone other than Zady staff, as Maxine Bédat, the company’s CEO and co-founder explains: “The New Standard began as an internal document.
“We started to uncover these shocking facts – apparel contributing to 10% of the world’s global carbon output, apparel being the second biggest contributor to fresh water pollution globally, the hidden subcontracting systems that are putting apparel workers (mainly women) in danger every single day – at first we didn’t know what do about it.
“When global warming is impacting us all, when we take the time to give to charity to alleviate poverty, why were we being sold gas guzzling clothes from a system that hides the conditions of its workers?
“That’s really how we got started.”
Maxine Bédat, CEO and co-founder of Zady
“Every company if you look at their sustainability reports, gives themselves a glowing recommendation, so how it could the situation be so terrible? We were hungry for truth and honesty,” continues Bédat.
“So we decided to make The New Standard official. To collect all the research and from that piece together a system of clothing production and consumption that is good for the world and for us.
“No more being sold poorly made clothing based on false trends.”
The Lost Lanes
Billing itself as “the UK largest ethical marketplace”, The Lost Lanes brings together small, independent brands based in the UK that ethically source their wares.
East Men’s T-shirt, by Print Monkey, £24.95
Everything available to buy on The Lost Lanes is assigned with stamps to clearly flag up to the shopper which ethical standards the product meets.
For instance a stamp with a picture of the world confirms that the item you are considering buying has been ethically produced and/or sourced through the entire manufacturing chain, ensuring fair working practices (ie. fair salaries legal employment and safe working conditions) for those who made the garment.
There is a separate stamp for “fairly made jewellery” as the wensite states that “due to the lack of official certifications and ease for metals and jewels to be split and resold, guaranteeing jewellery is fairly made is essentially impossible.
“Due to this the sellers confirm that they have made every effort to ensure that the jewellery components they use have been sourced from reputable suppliers with strong ethical policies.”
Other stamps alert buyers to whether a product is organic, vegan, handmade, recycled, produced as a by-product of another industry’s manufacturing, made with practices intended to lower its carbon footprint, made without the use of hazardous chemicals or without animal testing.
The Lost Lanes was founded by Raquel Wallace and her husband Michael.
“I believe sustainable fashion has two key areas of importance; one is the focus on the environment and the other is the focus on people,” said Raquel Wallace.
“A perfect system would support both of these aspects without the price tag.
“I don’t think sustainable fashion will ever be sustainable, unless it’s priced fairly and competitively making it a viable alternative to the high street.”
Raquel Wallace co-founder of The Lost Lanes
Wallace said she first came across the term “sustainable fashion” as a student in the nineties.
“That was when I first heard the term “sweatshop”, she said.
“I remember well known high street brands coming in the line of fire and big names targeted in documentaries and media coverage at the time.
“Looking back I think some really well thought out greenwashing by a lot of major brands took place and, as awful as it sounds, I stopped thinking about it and stopped questioning things until the Rana Plaza tragedy and more recently after watching The True Cost movie which was a real game changer for me.
“It was really shocking seeing the images and reading people’s stories. It made me so mad in many respects; firstly, that I had allowed myself to believe the greenwashing that some high street brands were feeding us and secondly, that what we saw in the 90s grew into this devastating fast fashion monster.
“I was so sick of seeing the big chains taking over, with endless amounts of unethically produced fashion that was being stock piled every day.
Wallace felt there was a market for conscious shoppers looking for clothes at affordable prices, and The Lost Lanes went from concept to launch in the space of two months.
“We discuss the manufacturing of every product with each brand that joins us,” she said. “Our mandatory standards outline fair working practices, however we have a large array of voluntary standards including carbon reduced, organic, vegan and so on.
“Products on the site are given ethical stamps so customers are able to make an informed decision.
“Our standards are there so that our sellers start asking the right questions to their manufacturers, which I think should be common practice for any business.
“We recommend alternatives if we think what they’re currently doing isn’t satisfactory, but more importantly we provide them with standards so they can base their decisions on a predefined set of goals.”
Fashion For Change
“Fundraising at the drop of a hat, coat or little black dress.”
This online luxury fashion recycling boutique allows you to pPick up good quality second hand clothes that benefit charity or donate your cast offs to raise money for a cause close to your heart.
According to founder Isla D’Aubigny the recently launched Fashion For Change is set to transform the way style lovers and designers raise funds for their chosen charities, as well as help combat the growing problem of clothes waste.
Speaking about what inspired her to launch the service, D’Aubigny said: “I have always loved fashion and yet have no time to go shopping, so I always shop online, but before Fashion For Change there was no online market place where I could purchase good quality second hand clothes that benefit charity.
“I was also frustrated by the general cumbersome nature of recycling. I would do more if it were made a bit easier.”
Isla D’Aubigny founded Fashion For Change to help combat the problem of clothes waste
“The general process in my home is that I buddle up a bag (normally a few bin bags) items we no longer wear and place them in my car where they sit for weeks, as I never seem to get to a charity shop and when I do I can’t park nearby,” she continued.
“So, I leave it another month and so on.
“What’s more, when I finally drop them off my items will be going to the charity which is most convenient and is closest to my car, as opposed to the cause I want to support.
“I am not proud of this, but I suspect I am not alone.
“So I started to imagine a service that supported ‘would be recyclers’ like myself.
We have thousands of luxury garments in wardrobes across the UK not being worn and I strongly believe this is because there has been no service that maximizes their true value.
“Only a sample of charities have retail outlets and, in these outlets, luxury items are often sold for low prices, without donation transparency.
“I want to change this with a service that makes donating high-end clothing both easy and rewarding.
“In doing so, we will increase the range and accessibility of second-hand luxury and help end fashion waste.”
Simply select the clothes you no longer want then Fashion For Change will pick them up at no cost to you. They’ll photograph and sell the items and 60% of the proceeds will go to a charity of your choosing.
“I believe sustainable fashion is very important as the fashion is the world’s second biggest polluting industry, second only to oil,” explained D’Aubigny.
“We are never going to stop our love of fashion, so we are going to need to find ways to reduce the impact on our planet and the communities in which they are made.
“To wear what we like is an expressive form of who we are. But if the impact of what we are wearing goes against who we are, then the clothes we wear are no longer an expression of us.”