Fast fashion has created an environment in which people have a huge appetite for clothing. What with new styles showing up all the time, it’s easy to want to buy and buy some more.
Unfortunately, the environmental and social impact of fast fashion is nasty.
- Serious carbon emissions
- A million tonnes of waste
- Unsustainable consumption of resources
- Poor worker welfare
These are a few of the problems, but they are evidence that the fast fashion industry is pretty appalling.
The great news is that more fashion brands are realising the need to ditch fast fashion. There has been an increase in the number of slow, ethical brands around. The not so great news is that ethical fashion tends to be on the expensive end of things. Expensive as in you can expect to pay at least $100 for a pair of jeans.
When you’re on a tight budget, sacrificing your ethical conscience may seem like the only option, but guess what? There is a way out of this tight spot. With a bit of strategising and looking around, you can fill your closet with inexpensive clothes you can feel good about. Here’s how.
Wear clothes that matter.Solitaire Townsend
1. Seek Out Cheap Ethical Producers
Many of fast fashion items come with unpleasant tales. From awful working conditions to unfair compensation and unethical worker treatment.
But things are not all bad.
Ethical fashion brands are giving clothing production a facelift. These brands are building good factories, they are paying a living wage, and they are taking worker welfare to heart. They are also building sustainable product lifecycles, from the raw materials all the way to the consumer. All this is being done without compromising quality, durability, and even affordability.
A good example of one such ethical brand is Kotn. The brand sources all its cotton through direct relationships with farms and workers receive fair and equal pay. Kotn is also big on making a positive impact, and so some of its profits go towards funding schools in Egypt. All this, and the price range of Kotn clothes is around $22 to $78. How’s that for ethical on a tight budget?
You can kickstart your search for inexpensive ethical fashion brands with a simple Google search. Yes, it doesn’t have to be complex.
2. Do Your Research
Congratulations on gathering your list of ethical producers! But before you get to the buying part, you need to have a good understanding of what you’re dealing with. Just because brand XYZ says that it’s ethical doesn’t mean you don’t do a little digging of your own.
So the next step to buying ethical fashion on a tight budget is to figure out how a brand measures up when it comes to ethics. Some of the crucial information to look out for includes:
- Where the clothes are manufactured
- The working conditions workers are subjected to
- How much workers are paid
- The materials used and whether they are sourced ethically
If this information is not readily available on a brands’ website, you can use other resources. For instance, this nifty resource provides insight into how ethical a brand is, based on several factors. The best part is that the resource distils all the data into an easy-to-understand grading system.
To streamline your search process you can also get more resources here and here. Please note that these resources are in no way exhaustive and there are many places where you can find information. If a brand’s information is very hard to come by, that should set off some alarm bells. After all, transparency is key in the world of ethical fashion.
Once a brand is in the clear, you can then go ahead with your shopping. Do keep the following tip in mind though.
3. Buy For The Long Haul
The switch from fast to ethical fashion can be hectic. Ditching a five-dollar shirt for a fifty-dollar one can seem unreasonable. Why get one shirt when you can get ten?
But it starts to make sense when you think about the true cost of fast fashion. What’s better, buying a five-dollar shirt that needs replacing every three months or buying a fifty-dollar one that lasts for 5 years.
Now for a bit of math. Let’s say you buy the five-dollar shirt which lasts for three months. In five years, you will have bought twenty shirts bringing your grand total to $100. Suddenly the fifty-dollar shirt doesn’t seem so bad after all.
The principle of the story is that ethical clothing is made to last. By choosing quality over owning many clothes, you will actually save money in the long term. You win on the money front and you also help save the planet.
Buying more expensive clothes for the long haul can mean you end up with fewer items than you are normally used to. But you can expand your options on a tight budget by trying tip #4.
Top Tip: To avoid limiting your outfit options, go for versatile pieces that are easy to combine with other items.
4. Go For Pre-loved Clothing
There is a rise in the number of people opting for pre-loved clothes.
Because you can get your hands on some ethical pieces for only a fraction of the original price.
In the US alone, the second-hand clothing market is forecast to reach $64 billion in the next decade. Pit this against the fast fashion market which is set to reach $44 billion and it looks like we are in the golden age of pre-loved clothing.
Gone are the days of sifting through unfashionable clothing at the Salvation Army stall. Second-hand clothing has evolved. You can get great fashion items even if you love high-end items. In fact, luxury products are common among second-hand items because they tend to stay in good shape for many years. Research from ThredUp found that people who buy luxury pieces make up 26% of shoppers who buy second-hand fashion items.
The best part is that pre-loved clothing is not only good value for money, but it’s also great for keeping clothes out of landfills. This is great for the environment and the resources that go into the production process. For example, extending the life of a piece of clothing by nine months can reduce water and material waste. It can also reduce the clothing’s carbon footprint by around 20-30%.
Love for pre-loved clothing is on the rise. But if it’s not really your thing, but you are still on a tight budget, there is another way.
5. In the End, You Can Always Go For Some Good Ol’ Bargains
What better way to buy clothing on a tight budget than to find out where the sales, discounts, and promotions are. Ethical clothing companies also rotate their inventory like other retailers, so you can capitalise on this to get some good deals.
A great way to stay in the loop is to sign up for a brand’s mailing list. This way, you can always be up-to-date when it comes to sales and discounts on offer.
Top Tip: If your wardrobe is already brimming with fast fashion items, wait for them to wear out before restocking with ethical items. The idea behind slow, ethical fashion is to only have what you need. Adding new items to an already full wardrobe is pretty counterproductive even if the current items are not so ethical.
Want to have an in-depth look at all things ethical fashion? Check out this comprehensive ethical fashion guide.