One of the most common complaints when it comes to ethical fashion is the price. Unfortunately, high street brands are built on cheap labour and hazardous factory working conditions, which is why they can charge so little, as Lucy Siegle succinctly put it:
Fast fashion isn't free. Someone, somewhere is paying
The real problem isn’t that ethical fashion brands overcharge, it’s that fast fashion brands undercharge. However, knowing that doesn’t change the fact that many of us don’t have an endless fashion budget. Here are my top tips for shopping ethically on a small budget.
Change your shopping habits
Have a look at how much you’re already spending on fashion. I had a complete shock when I sat down with all my bank statements and added up all the money I had spent on clothes in one year. A little here and there really adds up, and seeing it as one big, ugly sum really brings the message home. Instead of splitting that sum on many fast fashion pieces, you could probably afford a few higher quality pieces. To really break the habit, I suggest a spending ban (one/two months should do it) and every time you think you have nothing to wear, pop a fiver in a jar and see how much you have to spend at the end of it.
Find the affordable brands
Sustainable fashion is occasionally featured in fashion magazines but it’s usually the luxury brands, and normal people don't have the cash for that. Without physical shops on the high street it can be difficult to figure out where to start looking. Luckily there are plenty of ethical fashion directories, like mine, to get you started.
Shop the sales
Sales are brilliant for a bargain (as we all know), the trouble is keeping your eye on the prize and not be distracted by that one cute top. To combat this, I keep a track of the pieces I’m lusting after during a season (I split them into summer and winter), then if I still want them by the time the sales roll around and they’re not too trend-focused, I’ll try and nab them. With season sales now happening earlier and earlier, you'll probably still have time to wear them straight away. Similarly – check to see if brands host sample sales, these are really great for budget pieces but are a total lucky dip for availability.
I never check-out without checking for a discount code first. Some brands run regular discounts so I’ll pop the things I want on my wish list and wait for the next one. Often signing up to a newsletter gets you a discount for your first purchase, these are all little things that add up. There are websites out there that compile coupons and deals, such as Ethos Deal who specialise in coupons for ethical brands.
Second-hand and vintage
To me, second-hand is the best source of clothing. It doesn’t require new resources, it's cheap, and it saves a piece of clothing from landfill. However, second-hand isn’t going to change the face of the fashion industry and it currently thrives on the back of our over-consumption of new clothing. For now though, it’s a fantastic option to get quality clothing for very little. If there aren’t any good charity shops in your area, try Depop, eBay, or online vintage boutiques.
Take care of your clothes
When clothes are cheap it can mean that we don’t treat them with as much care and respect as our more expensive clothes. Imagine if we all treated our clothes are well as people treat their designer handbags! Washing clothes less often and with more care will mean they stay nicer for longer. There are plenty of small changes that you can make that will help.