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One of the biggest complaints about sustainable fashion (at least if you ever go onto Reddit) is that the higher price tags make it feel exclusive. While 70% of consumers in North America value sustainability, only 35% are willing to pay more for sustainable products. That means that there are still a portion of customers out there who would love to support non fast fashion brands, but the price tag makes these products exclusive.
Unfortunately, sustainable fashions is more expensive because these brands aren’t about cutting costs and corners. Workers wages are higher. Factories are carefully vetted and more expensive to work with because of initiatives like water recycling and health benefits for garment workers. Some brands might even give away a portion of profits to nonprofits to benefit local communities. The end result is a dress whose price is higher and goes against what we’re used to seeing with fast fashion. As a society we’ve been conditioned to expect sales, deals and clothing at prices that rival a morning cappuccino. And, when budgets make purchasing a $200+ dress seem more like a far fetched dream, the fast fashion copycat that’s less than $5 is closer to reality.
Fortunately for fashion lovers everywhere, there are non fast fashion brands whose price tags are closer to budget-friendly fast fashion brands. While you won’t necessarily score a $5 dress, what you will find are well-made pieces that will last longer and give you more wears than that $5 dress ever will. And, you’ll feel good knowing that the brands pay fair wages and use materials and production methods that are better for the environment in the long run.
Sustainable fashion for the whole family is one of the taglines for this organic cotton and Fair Trade brand. With a mission to become the world’s favorite clothing company, Pact makes packs of socks, underwear and everyday clothing pieces for everyone in your household to wear and love.
Environmental Impact: When you buy organic cotton, you can save 33.3 gallons of water. Pact carefully chooses the farms they partner with to ensure that all of their products are Certified Organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The other seal on their closing is Fair Trade Certified to represent that their factories are improving lives instead of exploiting them and protecting the soil and waterways around them.
Price Range: $14 for briefs, $120 for a sweater dress
Tonle is more of a collective of artisans, designers and weavers than simply a sole designer-led brand. The pattern makers, weavers and embroiders behind the beautiful designs are put front and center. In Phnom Penh 30 people are employed to make the collection of colorful wrap dresses. In northern Cambodia 20 artisans from a weaving cooperative craft the exclusive textile designs.
Environmental Impact: Zero waste initiatives are at the forefront of this fashion brand. Reclaimed fabrics are used to make the handmade garments. Any waste that is left over is mixed with paper to create exclusive paper designs. Each Tonle piece is also made by small collectives that ensure fair wages and working towards bettering the community and environment.
Price Range: $54 for shorts, $75 wrar
London is home to one of the best non fast fashion brands, Boden. Offering a wide array of styles for men, women and children, this brand also focuses on making pieces that last so that you can get more joy out of them.
Environmental Impact:By 2025 Boden pledges that materials like cotton and viscose will be from sustainable, renewable resources. In the meantime, items like their swimwear range use Econyl regenerated fabric- a polyester fiber made from recycled plastic. When it comes to the 151 factories worldwide that make the clothing for one of the best non fast fashion brands, each is listed on their website and vetted for their ethical standards.
Price Range: $75 for chinos, $340 for a wool coat
Kotn is one of those non fast fashion brands that is on a social mission. Since the launch of their cotton essentials like ribbed tops and polos, Kotn has partnered with organizations that improve the communities where Kotn cotton is sourced from. That means that they partner with a loca NGO based in Egypt to ensure that children of cotton farmers have the opportunity to go to school.
Environmental Impact: Family-run farms in the Nile Delta directly provide the cotton for Kotn’s cozy essentials. Wages are set by the workers and are above fair pay allowing the workers to build careers. Cotton from this region is known for being softer and stronger than elsewhere throughout the world.
Price Range: $35 for shorts, $82 for a dress
It was the classic founder story- two friends, chatting over a bottle of wine about an idea. Not long after that late night chat, Anna Bronowski and Juliana Holtzheimer found the sustainable fashion brand Jan n’ June. Simple and stylish. Cool and elegant. The design duo has been designing sustainable timeless pieces for your wardrobe since 2013.
Environmental impact: All materials used are certified at their factory in Wroclaw. Recycled materials include plastic fishing nets recycled and transformed into yarn. They are also transparent with their Eco ID’s which you can find in every piece from Jan ‘n June. These tags give customers information such as the garment’s designer, the origin of the materials, when it was produced and which resources were recycled.
Price range: $42 for a t-shirt, $142 for a kimono dress and $176 for a jacket
Epoque Evolution (Epoque means “the emergence of a new beautiful era” in French) was brought to life in 2018 by two friends who traveled together to Morocco. This trip inspired them to create a sustainable collection of versatile tops, sweaters, skirts, dresses, jackets, and trousers that could fit in a single backpack and be worn at all hours of the day.
Environmental Impact: Epoque Evolution’s collections are made from organic, upcycled, deadstock and post-consumer waste recycled fibers and they are low-maintenance (no dry cleaning and no toxic chemicals). For example, its best-selling legging are made from ECONYL which is an 100% regenerated nylon fiber from fishnets and other nylon waste. It also works with mills that manufacture consciously. In fact, one of the mills it works with in Italy recovers 30 million liters of water each year, which are then reused, and 47,000 kilos of selvage (waste) are repurposed.
Price Range: $68 to $228 for a knit cardigan
This U.S-based sustainable fashion brand is on a mission to eradicating poverty through providing economic opportunities for women. The company works with entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil to manufacture effortless, feminine and timeless leather bags, clothes, shoes and jewelry. ABLE represents all styles, the bold, the chic, and the elegant, bringing something for everyone.
Environmental Impact: ABLE makes its products by hand to reduce its climate impact. Its jewelry is made in Nashville, TN. Some of the materials it uses for its apparel include cotton, viscose, silk, lyocell and much more. However, there is no evidence it minimizes waste and it tries to reduce its use of hazardous chemicals.
Price Range: $34 for a ring, $188 for a bag
Comfy basics like crop hoodies and joggers are made with minimal environmental impact. That means that water use, CO2 emissions and textile waste are taken into account. An item like TenTree’s fleece might be made with a combination of organic cotton and recycled polyester to reduce its environmental impact.
Environmental Impact: As the name suggests, with every purchase 10 trees are planted. To date the brand has planted 52 million+ trees. Broken down by region you can see the species of trees planted and the nonprofit that they collaborate with on reforestation proejcts. For instance in Sengal they’ve partner with Trees for the Future to plant 3,500,000 million trees. As a certified B Corporation TenTree has also been honored for their dedication to improving communities.
Price Range: $35 for a t-shirt, $88 for a jumpsuit