Fair Trade & Sustainable Fashion.

2 June 2015

L: SVILU Tailored Green Pants, £140  //  R: Groceries Apparel Black Jersey Dress, £40    

I'm gonna come out and say that shopping for sustainably made fair trade clothes is a bit of a minefield. 

I started this journey only a couple months agothe journey being to locate where I can actually buy ethical, sustainable clothes, or is it thrift shops and eBay for the rest of eternity. Spoiler alert: I found some places.

In a previous post I mentioned that I want to live more consciously and sustainably. I made a pledge to myself to stop buying from stores that have their products predominantly made by exploited children and impoverished workers. Cool.  Good. Step in the right direction. Now where do I cloth myself?

Sanne, Lex, and Rosi can duly testify that whilst walking down the high street, I've taken up muttering 'slaves' when passing pretty much any clothing establishment. I can't walk into an H&M or a Topshop anymore without seeing all the people who have been taken advantage of so we can have fast, cheap (and sometimes not-so-cheap) fashion.

L: Tara Starlet Homefront Dress, £80 //  R: Upstate Maria Shirt Dress, £230 

So great, you're ready to commit? You're done giving your money to the oppressive high street? Awesome, let's start shopping SEFT*! But you need to check yourself at the door because there's gonna be a few of those fast fashion luxuries we need to shake off and SEFT myths to debunk.
*I've abbreviated 'sustainable, ethical, & fair trade' to SEFT because frankly it's a lot to spell out every damn time.

Here's what I've learned over the past couple months.

'Sustainable', 'ethical' & 'fair trade' are not mutually exclusive labels.
I think the issue at the heart here is that these terms often have intersecting meanings and there aren't set industry definitions to make it any easier. Currently, it's lucky if an item meets two of these criteria. And if you're trying to tick all these boxes, plus have it vegan too? Good. Luck.

'Sustainable', 'ethical' & 'fair trade' do not always mean high quality.
Sanne recently got a dress from People Tree that had a dyed pattern that wore away after one wear. I have a cotton shirt from them that looks nice but doesn't feel great (I also have a dress from them that I love and the quality is top notch—it's a roll of the dice). I've come across numerous other brands selling flimsy, wrinkled shirts.

Say goodbye to the budget buy.
There are reasonable prices and great sales but you need to forget the idea of seeing a full price top for £15. To soften the blow of higher price tags, I remind myself it reflects that the person who made this item actually got paid decently.

The websites for the most part? Terrible.
The majority that I'm sharing today have their shit together. But there's a lot of clunky and unaesthetic websites to wade through to get to the good ones.

Selection and 'fashionability' is missing.
SEFT clothes sadly aren't the most fashion-forward. A lot of it is designed for middle aged women, which makes sense because they are the clientele more able to afford its price point. The Acey is one place that is thankfully on trend as hell (but also with high-end prices). You're not going to see the wide-range of selection offered by a typical high street clothing store. They call it slow fashion for a reason. It means a lot of waiting around for next season if you aren't crazy for the current collection.

L: MAYAMIKO Baroque Rust A-line Skirt, £35 //  R: Braintree Coira Stripe Bamboo Socks, £4.90 

There's a lot of compromises to be made as SEFT fashion is still a very young industry. But with the growing strength of the cruelty-free movement, I can't help but see this being the next logical step for conscious consumers. Like with cruelty-free products, it's not perfect. You're putting your trust in these brands that they are being honest about their practices. But regardless, I think brands that seek to be fair trade/ethically produced, sustainable, and/or vegan are making a move in the right direction. And that's something the rest of the fashion giants have largely ignored and continue to ignore. 

I hope this will be the first post of many on SEFT fashion and brands. For now, I've compiled a list of clothing/fashion brands I've stumbled across. Some are great, and some of the websites are clunky. But I hope you find it helpful! If you have any brands to share (UK please if possible!), do jot them down below.


  1. Hey Marion, I just wanted to thank you for this. For a long time I have considered transitioning towards buying clothes which matched with my commitment to make a positive impact in the world, but felt overwhelmed by the difficulty of finding the right shops to buy from. This has made it way easier, and I hope to finally make the jump now!

    As an aside, I think one thing I was struggling with was that it means means I have to totally change my attitude to clothes, and just buy... less. When you buy a shirt which costs the same as three shirts from H and M (and 5 from Primark!), you just can't do it as often, or as carelessly... I recently read Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything', about Climate Change, and she pointed out that the only way to prevent climate change was for society, collectively, to transition towards a more conscious philosophy regarding consumption of all resources. I see this as part of that... (whoa, pretentious alert!).

    As an alert, I haven't read it yet, but it sounds like her book 'No Logo' is all about the SEFT movement! It's here: http://www.naomiklein.org/no-logo if you're interested.

    Again, thanks- definitely going to be using this as a touchstone from now on!!


    1. Hi Freya, thank you for commenting! So glad to hear you found this helpful and a nudge to get you going.

      I totally agree with you on the need to shift your attitude too clothes--we can be pretentious together. It's definitely about buying less to balance out the cost but also buying less to reduce your global impact. Ideally, everything I purchase now should be an investment piece that I'll be wearing for years to come.

      And thanks for sharing those books! Both titles sound familiar but I'll be adding them to my Goodreads :)

  2. being cruelty-free has been relatively easy, but i've found it difficult to find brands that are seft, so thank you so much for this!

    1. I found it difficult too so that's why I threw up my hands and said "That's it. I'm writing about this and I'm making a pretty list for other people like me out there." Happy shoppin'! And so glad to hear you are doing cruelty-free as well. You go girl.