Sustainable Alternatives To Fast Fashion Trends

September 22, 2020

Sustainable Alternatives To Fast Fashion Trends

What I've learned during the process of simplifying my life is that style is important to me. I'm not ready to dress like a cartoon character and wear the same 5 pieces of clothing all year long. It's possible to be a minimalist and enjoy fashion, and we can do that in a sustainable way.

I'll always recommend shopping second-hand over buying new when it comes to making purchases for your wardrobe, especially if you suspect they might be more temporary additions. However, considering fast fashion brands inexplicably hold their value even when they've been pre-owned and are of poor quality to begin with, it's not always worthwhile buying fast fashion second-hand. The next best option is to buy new from a sustainable brand.

Below I'm offering some 'sustainable dupes' for the fast fashion trend-led pieces you might have been tempted to buy. You don't have to be wealthy to purchase sustainable clothing but you do have to reevaluate your relationship with fast fashion. When you start to make conscious decisions about what you purchase; reducing the amount you buy from fast fashion brands and investing in clothing from sustainable ones, you can actually save money.

I've picked examples of a fast fashion option and compared it to a sustainable alternative. If these items aren't quite what you're looking for or slightly out of your budget, there are plenty of other sustainable brands to choose from. Take a look at my sustainable fashion brand guide.



Sustainable Alternatives To Fast Fashion Trends


Organic Cotton Tee

Fast fashion: COS Organic Cotton T-Shirt - £25
Sustainable option: Thought Fairtrade Organic Cotton T-Shirt - £27.95 (gifted)

T-shirts are one of those wardrobe staples almost everyone has and if you're trying to avoid the poor quality cheap tees found in shops like H&M and Primark, you might be tempted to "invest" in a more expensive yet still affordable one from somewhere like COS. Don't bother. COS is owned by H&M and while the fabric is organic cotton, workers are still exploited to make these clothes. The cotton t-shirts from Thought are not only Fairtrade and organic, they're only slightly more expensive than COS. They come in four colours, go up to size 18, and are a great basic for layering. My favourite organic cotton tees are from Organic Basics, however, they are significantly more expensive than both COS and Thought.



Linen Top

Fast fashion: Uniqlo Linen Shirt - £29.90
Sustainable option: Veryan Linen Shirt - £65 (gifted)

Linen is my favourite fabric to wear and perfect for summer. This linen shirt from Veryan is an investment for your wardrobe but it's worth it for a piece that you'll wear over and over. The shirt is handmade in London using linen sourced from a family-run weaver in Kerala, featuring coconut buttons. The fast fashion equivalent is cheaper but reviews point out its flaws from the oversized bulky fit to the poor quality. Instead of buying a new linen shirt every summer, invest in one that will last you years.



Relaxed Chinos

Fast fashion: COS Relaxed Chinos - £69
Sustainable option: Everlane Easy Chino - £45

Everlane are in the process of switching to organic cotton but these chinos aren't quite there yet. Even so, these are still a more sustainable option if you're struggling to find trousers to fit that are also affordable. I didn't wear trousers for over a decade because fast fashion brands just don't make them for curvy bodies so when I discovered these, I ordered two pairs. They're pretty similar to the fast fashion option except the Easy Chino has an elasticated waistband with a more tapered leg, and the price is more affordable.



T-Shirt Dress

Fast fashion: COS Jersey T-Shirt Dress - £59
Sustainable option: Organic Basics Tencel Lite T-Shirt Dress - £65 (gifted)

T-shirt dresses are so easy and versatile to wear. I ordered the Organic Basics T-Shirt dress in Ocher because I developed a new found love for spicy mustard colours and wanted to test out how earthy tones would work in my wardrobe - and I love it. It's made from eco-friendly wood pulp fiber that's super silky to the touch and has an oversized fit that makes it versatile in style. It's available in 4 colours unlike the COS version, which only comes in black.



Sleeveless Dress

Fast fashion: Arket Slip Dress - £79
Sustainable option: Baukjen Sylvie Dress - £115 (gifted)

This is an example of how sometimes the sustainable option is just more expensive. Arket and Baukjen have near identical dresses made from similar fabrics. The pay off comes in the quality; the Arket dress is much thinner, almost see-through, while the Baukjen dress has a lovely drape from the thick jersey fabric and a tiered design that gives a beautiful silhouette. Buying fewer items and investing in more sustainable options makes the £30 difference in price a better choice, plus you're giving your money to a brand committed to ethical and sustainable production.



Sustainable Alternatives To Fast Fashion Trends


Dramatic Maxi Dress

Fast fashion: & Other Stories Puff Sleeve Maxi Dress - £85
Sustainable option: Linen Fox Marokko Dress - £73

Lots of popular fast fashion brands sell cheap clothing at not-so-cheap prices. Look closely at the tag and you'll notice & Other Stories selling a popular summer dress for £85 made from cheap polyester. There are similarly priced sustainable alternatives made from high quality materials, like the Linen Fox Marokko Dress. There's a few weeks wait because every piece of clothing is handmade to order but the price is less than the poor quality fast fashion option, and you get a dress that fits perfectly and lasts for years.



Woven Tote Bag

Fast fashion: Zara Woven Tote Bag - £25.99
Sustainable option: Ellyla Damini Handbag - £25 (gifted)

This is the perfect example of how shopping sustainably doesn't always mean spending more money. The Ellyla Damini Handbag is handmade from natural jute fibre and wood making it eco-friendly, biodegradable, compostable, and made by fairly paid artisans. It's the same price as a similar bag made by a fast fashion brand except you can feel good buying it, knowing your money is supporting an independent ethical business.



Sunglasses

Fast fashion: Arket Oversized Sunglasses - £55
Sustainable option: Pala Eyewear Pendo Sunglasses - £110 (gifted)

Good sunglasses, the kind that actually protect your eyes from the sun, cost money. A £20 pair made by a fast fashion brand might look cute but it's important to check they're actually doing what you expect them to. Instead of buying multiple pairs, invest in one pair you love and want to wear every summer. Pala Eyewear makes biodegradable, plant-based acetate frames with 100% UVA/UVB protection. I love my two-tone Pendo Sunset pair that go with every summer outfit.



Platform Sandals

Fast fashion: & Other Stories - £85
Sustainable option: Troentorps Da Vinci Clogs - €119 (gifted)

I can't speak for the comfort of the & Other Stories Sandals but the Troentorps sustainable alternative is the kind of shoe even heel-haters like me would love. These vegan-friendly clogs are made from eco-friendly and waterproof microfiber, and are constructed with arch support making them super comfy. I've spent all night in these and experienced zero pain or discomfort. Life is too short for painful shoes and investing in footwear that fits is always worth the extra money.



Sneakers

Fast fashion: COS Sneakers - £89
Sustainable option: Everlane Forever Sneaker - £45

Another wardrobe classic: sneakers. The Forever Sneaker are a new arrival to Everlane, made from recycled cotton canvas with recycled polyester laces. You can purchase really cheap sneakers from fast fashion brands but they won't be made from sustainably and are unlikely to last the year. These Everlane sneakers sit at a nice price point making them as accessible option if you want a pair of sustainable sneakers for your wardrobe.



Statement Earrings

Fast fashion: COS Textured Earrings - £49
Sustainable option: OMCH Arc Earrings - £23

COS claims their silver is recycled but there's no proof of where they sourced these materials or had the earrings made. I make all my jewellery using metals sourced from Fairtrade supplies, and provide information of those suppliers on my website. I also use a fair pricing structure, eliminating the mark-up costs of retail, wholesale, and designer inflation by selling directly to customers from my studio.


This post isn't aimed at people who need to shop at places like H&M and Primark for their essential clothing. Sustainable brands could never compete with those prices. People without much money aren't the ones keeping fast fashion in business though; it's the people who can afford to buy clothes regularly, throw them away when they get bored or not wear them at all who are.

I used to be someone who wouldn't think twice about dropping £50 on an ASOS order every week (on my shop assistant income) while at the same time claiming I couldn't afford to buy a £100 sustainably-made dress. If that sounds familiar then maybe it's time to reevaluate your relationship with fast fashion and start shopping more sustainably.




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