THE demand for sustainable fashion is bigger than ever: but where are the best places to shop and what should you look out for?
If you've become aware of the impact your shopping choices make on the environment, you're not alone: a recent study by ecommerce platform Nosto found that 52 per cent of consumers want the fashion industry to become more sustainable, and a massive 75 per cent want brands to reduce the amount of packaging they use.
When you consider that 26 billion pounds-worth of textiles ends up in landfill each year, it's easy to see why more of us are falling out of love with fast fashion—and it seems more brands are taking note too, with many big high street names finally sitting up and taking responsibility of their impact on the environment.
The best sustainable fashion aims to protect agriculture by using organic fabrics which don't require pesticides, avoids the use of toxic chemicals, minimises waste (both water and materials) and uses recycled, recyclable or biodegradable packaging to reduce single-use plastic.
However, with so many brands releasing sustainable collections while still operating on high bulk business models (see: criticism of ASOS' Circular collection), it can be challenging to know where to shop more consciously—especially when also looking to ethical factors such as fair wages and cruelty to humans and animals.
To get you started on your journey to shopping more sustainably, we've put together a selection of beautiful garments from some brands doing great work to minimise their impact on the planet. Shop them below and be sure to invest in pieces you know you'll get lots of wear from.
This article and featured products have been independently chosen by Sun journalists. It contains links which are ads, and if you click a link and buy a product we will earn revenue.
1. Best fair-trade fashion pioneer: People Tree
- (AD) People Tree Women's Good To Be Green T-Shirt, from £10.13 from Amazon – buy here
Founded in Tokyo in 1991, People Tree was the first organisation in the world to achieve a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification for a supply chain located in the developing world—and was flying the flag for sustainable fashion way before it was trending.
It's also focused on fairness towards its farmers, artisans and producers too, working 'with people in developing countries to build viable businesses that can sustain communities.'
This cute 'Good To Be Green' slogan tee is the perfect reminder to shop quality rather than quantity.
Crafted from 100 per cent organic Fairtrade certified cotton, it's vegan too, and is a great staple piece for any wardrobe. Wear it to the gym, with a pair of denims or dressed up with a faux leather skirt.
Talk about versatile!
2.Best for sustainable basics: Boody
- (AD) Boody Body EcoWear Men's Crew Neck T-Shirt – Cooling Athletic Short Sleeve Tee, from £29.95 from Amazon – buy here
Bamboo is a sustainable crop that's become a popular alternative to cotton, as it requires little water and doesn't rely on fertilisers.
It's a super-soft fabric too, which makes it a dream to wear. Boody's clothing is made from up to 95 per cent organic bamboo for a soft feel and breathable experience: you'll find everything from ladies underwear and leggings to onesies for newborns and basic staples for men.
It's also WRAP certified (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) which ensures that sewn products are produced under lawful, humane and ethical conditions.
This men's crew neck t-shirt has a cooling effect that makes it great to wear as a base layer beneath a shirt or jumper.
It's received plenty of five star reviews too, with one reviewer noting it's, "made with bamboo, so feels soft and keeps me cool."
3. We tried: BAM's Get Fresh Challenge
- High Waist 7/8 Enduro Bamboo Leggings, £39.20 from BAM – buy here
Another brand big on bamboo, BAM describes the crop as "nature's own performance fabric", and has the activewear to back it up. We've tried their leggings before and were super-impressed by the soft and sturdy feel of the fabrication, which feels more supportive than traditional lycra leggings while still being really soft and comfortable.
The brand is currently working on its goal to become impact positive by 2030, and is encouraging customers to take part in its Get Fresh challenge by wearing a BAM t-shirt for a week without washing it—which will in turnlower your carbon emissions.
We tried the challenge ourselves, wearing the same BAM t-shirt on the treadmill for *gulps* a week. While that's not a sentence we ever thought we'd say (let's just say the OCD clean-freak within us was seriously cringing), we stuck with it and definitely found that our BAM tee wasn't as, er, 'drenched' after a brisk hour of walking compared to our usual cotton tees.
Instead, it actually stayed feeling—and smelling—fresher throughout the week than our normal workout tops. As BAM explains, 'because bamboo fibre is so absorbent, moisture doesn’t sit on the surface as it would with synthetic fabrics and so air cannot get to the odour-causing bacteria so easily.'
Would we do another whole week without washing our t-shirt? Perhaps not, but it's certainly made us more conscious of our washing habits: for each single wash, approximately 46 litres of water is used, 600g carbon emissions are generated and up to 700,000 micro-fibres are released.
Investing in items made from sustainable fabrics that require less frequent washing is therefore a no-brainer and something we'll be implementing more in our lives. Thanks BAM!
4. Best 100% Cotton Party Dress: Bombshell
- Liberty Print dress, £249, from Bombshell – buy here
If you like pure fabrics and want to treat yourself to something really special then Bombshell dresses are the ultimate feel-good attire.
The dresses are made solely in London and they do not mass produce, believing that a quality dress made of natural fibres is better than lots of unwanted clothing ended up in a landfill. The result? Quality 100% cotton dresses that celebrate your figure. Owner, Katya Wildman, aims to create forever dresses that people will wear again and again. Clothes used to last for generations. Why not now?
5. Best for Vegan Handbags: JW Pei
- Vegan Handbag, £89 from JW Pei – buy here
Vegan leather has become really popular of late, with handbags, trousers and jackets all being created in this material. Mimicking leather, it is created from artificial or plant products including recycled plastic bottles or containers, leaves and cork. JW Pei has created a line of vegan handbags that look so stylish, including this ice blue croc 'Lilian' bag. Elegant and ethical!
6. We Tried: Bamigo
- Shop Bamigo's range here
Bamigo makes super-soft men's clothing from bamboo and organic cotton, and we've got to say: we're impressed.
We gave some of the underwear a go and found it to be about the comfiest brand we've ever tried.
While we haven't given any of the other clothing a go, if it feels as nice as the boxers, we reckon you'll be well pleased with the t-shirts and hoodies from Bamigo.
Bamigo's range currently includes underwear, socks, t-shirts and loungewear, which we're tempted to buy a bit more of as winter sets in.
7. Best for ethical waste-free fashion: Birdsong
- Red Print Wrap Dress, £165 from Birdsong – buy here
Birdsong is the kind of brand that makes you feel all warm and hopeful for the future of fashion: their no-photoshop, fair-paying, recycled fabrics stance is a breath of fresh air in an industry that too often peddles an unrealistic beauty ideal and puts profit before people.
The brand works with migrant women in the UK who face barriers to employment and pays them the London Living Wage, while all orders are packed and shipped by a Camden-based charity that works with adults with learning disabilities. They're also passionately anti-airbrushing and use friends as activists to model their pieces—minus any Photoshopping.
In terms of sustainability, Birdsong uses second-hand fabrics through its partnershop with Traid, and aims to use organic, natural and sustainable materials as much as possible.
This beautiful dress, for instance, is made from sustainable TENCEL™ fabric, printed using eco pigments in Lancashire and is made-to-order to reduce waste.
8. Best for cute, ethical dungarees: Lucy & Yak
- ‘Erro’ Organic Heavy Cotton Twill Original Dungarees Poppy Almond, £60 from Lucy & Yak – buy here
Lucy & Yak is an independent, sustainably-made brand that truly shows what is possible with a vision and some determination.
Founders Lucy and Chris were living in and selling vintage clothes from their van 'Yak', before deciding to find a manufacturer to create the dungaree designs they envisioned in their minds.
That idea spawned a sell-out drop of dungarees, and Lucy & Yak was born. We love the brand for its commitment to fair pay: its cute dungarees, dresses, sweatshirts and more are made in a rural Indian village where the tailors are paid four times the state minimum wage, while their UK workers are paid above the living wage.
All garments are made from organic fabrics and are delivered in 100% recycled and biodegradable packaging too—including the beautiful Iris dungaree which is made from a hardwearing, Heavy Twill fabric. Just in time for autumn!
9. Best Sustainable Shoes: Allbirds
- Women's Tree Breezers, £98 from Allbirds – buy here
Allbirds are a native New Zealand brand on a mission. They say that a standard pair of trainers emits 12.5 kg of carbon dioxide, which is not good for the environment. They also say that their average pair of shoes emit 7.6 kg of carbon dioxide, and they want to lower that. So their shoes are made with renewable materials and even have eucalyptus tree fibre responsibly sourced from FSC® Certified forests. Their shoes aren't just designed to be sustainable, they also use a Brazilian sugarcane outsole called SweetFoam®, which makes the shoe super comfy and delightfully bouncy. Win!
10. Best Sustainable Denim: E.L.V
- Straight leg jean, £255, from E.L.V Denim – buy here
Made from a set of two contrasting colours, these vintage jeans are ethical with zero-waste. E.L.V started their journey by taking unwanted jeans destined for landfills and turning them into modern sophisticated pieces. Each item is vintage and unique and the material used has zero impact on the environment.
To create a brand new pair of jeans it would require 7000 litres of water while E.L.V wash thoroughly all their vintage denim using 7 litres of water.
11. Best for Nightwear: People Tree
- Cat print pyjamas, starting at £25, from People Tree – buy here
Made using 100% GOTS certified organic cotton in a breathable and lightweight jersey finish, this cat print rose pink pyjamas set is simply delightful. Featuring ribbon straps and tie at the neck, it is a great addition for lounging or sleeping. Meow!
12. Best ethical tights: We Are Thought
- Bamboo essential plain tights, £17.95, from We Are Thought – buy here
Bamboo clothes are fairly new and these bamboo tights are no exception. Made in soft and durable bamboo yarn, the tights have a quality feel with lots of stretch, meaning extra comfort all around. Perfect for autumn and winter days they are thick enough to keep you warm but still very breathable.
What is sustainable fashion?
Many people have heard of sustainable fashion, and at last it is taking centre stage.
Sustainable fashion is often referred to as ethical fashion, and sources manufacture and designs clothes with the environment in mind. It can be used from recycled materials, or ethically sourced and produced materials but it all holds the same benefits: to help the planet, and people.
At the same time sustainability aims to minimize any footprint on the environment. Many people say sustainable clothes is critical in the future of fashion.
Why is sustainability important in fashion?
In a nutshell sustainable fashion is here to help the planet. More than 300,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year, which is affecting the environment greatly. Sustainable fashion acts as a way to bridge the gap, by using ethical ways to create garments.
Whether that be by using recycles materials or pure fibres such as organic cotton, hemp and linen. The idea is to use natural, renewable, or recycled materials that do not require any or a small amount of water during the production phase.
Enjoyed our guide for the best sustainable fashion? Why not check out the best eco-friendly women's sportswear?
We've also rounded up the best eco-friendly alternatives, from toothpaste to laundry detergent here.
And check out our dedicated Sun Selects fashion section for more style tips, trends and products.
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