In an era of heightened environmental awareness, there's no excuse for fast fashion.
We're going to be really, really real with you. There's no excuse for buying fast fashion in 2023. Environmental awareness is at an all-time high, with endless documentaries, podcasts, and news articles emphasizing the detrimental effects of our shopping habits on the planet. We know that cheap clothes come at a high price: human rights abuses on garment workers and a catastrophic impact on the environment. At the same time, we get it. Sustainable fashion brands are misconceived for all being expensive, and if you really want to ditch fast fashion, your replacement has to be, well, affordable.
After lots of research, we landed on the following 13 modestly-priced retail brands. We picked them because they are really doing something special in the realm of ethical fashion – from transparent business practices and committing to a circular economy to paying all of their workers a living wage (especially those who make the clothes!). Plus, their stylish products mean your wardrobe won’t miss a beat when it comes to stocking up on fashion-forward looks. If you’re committed to ditching Zara, H&M, and other fast-fashion brands that are responsible for overflowing landfills, sweatshop labor, and flooding drinkable water with toxic substances, you’ll love every brand. Remember, an informed shopper is an empowered shopper.
Sanikai, a little-known Swiss, vegan, ethically-produced clothing line, has been flying under the radar for too long. Its aesthetic is very on-brand (think Swedish minimalism), and its fabrics are as soft as clouds and beautifully crafted. You definitely won't feel guilty after investing in pieces from this brand.
Shop Sanikai here.
Feminine textiles, nature-inspired prints, and striped knitwear can all be found in Komodo’s ethically crafted collections. This brand has been around since 1988 and was one of the early pioneers in creating clothes from 100 percent organic, all-natural fiber materials.
Shop Komodo here.
Kowtow’s clothing is made by workers who are provided dozens of incredible benefits, from clean and comfortable workspaces to education and donation programs for the local village’s farmers. The brand is 100 percent committed not only to the people who manufacture its garments but also to using only Fair Trade, organic materials. Plus, they've really stepped up their design game in the past year, and their inspiring message has even found its way to an established brick-and-mortar boutique in Paris.
Shop Kowtow here.
People Tree is one of the OG ethical fashion brands and was highlighted in the eye-opening documentary The True Cost because of its stringent business practices and methods. The brand not only developed “the first integrated supply chain for organic cotton from farm to final product”, but it was also the first ever to receive the Global Organic Textile Standard certification. Its clothes are made in partnership with artisans in the developing world who are well-trained and make above a living wage.
Shop People Tree here.
Reformation is likely an ethical fashion brand that you’re already familiar with, given its popularity among A-list celebrities and style influencers. Its clothes are totally on-trend all the time, and sustainability is at the core of its business model. Win-win. All products are manufactured in the brand’s downtown LA headquarters or produced by ethical manufacturing partners using sustainable methods and materials. The company’s mission is to “lead and inspire a sustainable way to be fashionable”.
Shop Reformation here.
If you’re shopping for a special occasion but are committed to ethical fashion, Agaati is your new best friend. This Los Angeles-based company is stocked with gorgeous dresses in a wide variety of styles that won’t break the bank. Plus, all of its clothing is Fair Trade, artisan-made, and ethically sourced. The brand also operates on a “zero waste” philosophy, which means everything gets used or recycled back into production.
Shop Agaati here.
Cool, active in-the-know girls wear Nube. Not only is the brand's activewear decorated with Gen-Z friendly colorful patterns and prints created out of partnerships with artists from around the world, but nearly everything is made with eco-friendly and recycled materials.
Shop Nube here.
If you're looking for an ethical, affordable, and sustainable place to stock up on workwear basics, look no further than Baukjen. Not only are their new pieces reasonably priced to begin with, but they also offer a pre-loved range and a rental option.
Shop Baukjen here.
When it comes to finding a pair of perfect jeans that will last you a lifetime, unspun ticks every box: you can custom fit them from an iPhone scan, they're sustainably made (most pieces are made from 98 percent cellulose-based material and even the threading is made with Resortecs® smart stitch threads), and...drumroll please...they make every single pair to order, which means no wasted stock or inventory! unspun has thought of everything, including sizing, there is no size too big or too small for them, which makes them the single most size-inclusive jeans brand we've ever come across. Considering everything you get when you invest in with unspun's bespoke jeans, we also think their prices are insanely reasonable.
Shop unspun here.
Stocking affordable and sustainable options for partywear, activewear, basics, and cozy clothes like hoodies and sweats, Nu-In has our vote as one of our favorite one-stop shops. We love the variety and diversity of their selection, and it doesn't hurt that the clothes are super Scandi and cute as heck.
Shop Nu-In here.
If you're always heading to Zara because you need something quick, on-trend, and affordable, please turn your attention to Damson Madder, the quirky brand loved by cool girls everywhere. Here's where you'll find your stand-out statement pieces at low prices. Think printed fleece joggers, patterned puffas, cut-out dresses, and eccentrically patterned knitwear. Finally, a place to find trend pieces that honors its commitments to sustainability and ethical business practices.
Shop Damson Madder here.
Instead of reaching for new fabrics, Omnes is dedicated to creating large portions of its collections with recycled and headstock fabrics in order to give its clothes a headstart when it comes to sustainability. Their aim isn't to be climate neutral but to be climate positive, making a positive impact on the world by how they design, manufacture, and ship their products. We also happen to think Omnes' designs are cute, fresh, flirty, and a perfect place to source both hot going-out looks and more sophisticated basics.
Shop Omnes here.
Fully crocheted garments mean little to zero waste. As the mantra at Cro-Che goes, you only use the materials that you need. And these crocheted garments are super hot right now, going viral because of "It" girls like Emili Sindlev and Magda.
Shop Cro-Che here.