I once read a very interesting article that made the argument that although the rise in second hand shopping is a great way to ensure clothes don’t end up on the trash heap, it’s not the most sustainable practice for the fashion industry. I remember thinking this was so true and something many people advocating for only buying second hand these days don’t understand or remember. At the end of the day the items in that charity shop or at that market, still had to be produced somehow and if we only buy second hand, we will soon run out of clothes to buy second hand.
So, I’ve been thinking about what the balance should be. I love buying second hand, but it also requires a lot of patience and a sharp eye to make sure you’re still buying quality. Sometimes though, I’m looking for a very specific piece (my style has changed over the last couple of year to very staple item focussed) and if I have to wait until I finally find that perfect item in a charity shop, the season might already be over. Now it’s important to note that I make very sure that I really want/need this item and I’ll never impulse buy (I usually let it simmer for a few weeks). These items are usually more expensive, so they require research and thorough consideration.
For items like these, I choose to buy from companies that produce sustainable items in every manner of the word; from the materials they use to their ethical practices, to their environmental impact overall. This transition has been really difficult for me and I think it’s because of the amount of research that needs to go in before choosing to buy from a company, and because I still want to buy beautiful clothes.
So I’ve put together a list of my favourite sustainable brands for everything from clothes to socks, to shoes and jewellery. I hope this list can help you kick off your sustainable fashion journey or expand on your journey as well.
Clothes – Thought Clothing
I love Thought because their whole business model is geared towards sustainability. Their clothes are all made from natural materials like 100% cotton and hemp and made ethically in the UK (the UK branch at least). There’s also no plastic involved anywhere in their products or packaging. Even the labels in their garments are made from material, which makes the items feel even more luxurious. As it’s online shopping there’s always the risk of plastic packaging, but they have really strong paper bags that the clothes get delivered in (or boxes) with tissue paper. Not a single piece of plastic in sight! And if you really need to return something they have a super simple returns form where you can actually state whether you want a new size, or just that it simply didn’t work for you – no hard feelings. The brand was actually started in Australia by a husband and wife as a couple of naturally made men’s shirts and soon spread to the UK and grew from there. I love the handwritten notes I get with each purchase and the speed of the delivery. I have sometimes found their sizes to be a bit off, but this is something I’m learning to live with as well when it comes to online shopping cause it really is a guessing game and that’s where their simple return system helps. My go to brand for any specific clothing items.
Shoes – All Birds
If you’re looking for new trainers All Birds is the brand to support! They claim to be the world’s comfiest shoes and I’ve had mine for about 4 months now and I have to say I’ve never had trainers this comfy. You can wear them with or without socks and your feet never get cold or wet or sweaty. I’ve even walked in the rain with my Marino wool pair and it looked like my toes should be wet, but they were perfectly dry. All Bird originated in New Zealand after founder Tim Brown was inspired to create a new kind of footwear with Marino wool. Makes complete sense in a country where sheep outnumber people six to one. What I love most about All Birds is their holistic approach to their shoes. Everything is made sustainable or from recycled materials. The laces are made from recycled plastic bottles, the wool for their Marino line is sourced sustainable (their sheep live happy lives) and their boxes and packaging are made from recycled cardboard (and these boxes and insoles are really cool). If that’s not enough they are a registered B-Corp company and they work with a company called Soles4Souls to distribute lightly worn All Birds to underprivileged communities. They also have a Tree range where the shoe is actually made from trees! But is you’re not a trainers person don’t despair, they also have Breezers (pumps), Loungers (slip-ons), Toppers (high tops) and Skippers (lightweight slip on trainers) and these are available in an assortment of colours! I literally wear my All Birds every day for my commute and any other walking and they have never let me down. I love the ethics of the company and the closed loop system, but also that they create such beautiful footwear for every day wear.
Socks – BAM, Bamboo Clothing
BAM is a UK brand of bamboo clothing that was started by adventure seeker David Gordon. All of their clothing items are made from bamboo fibres which makes them all super soft and lightweight. They make all kinds of clothing but I found them when I was looking for bamboo sock that would keep my always freezing feet nice and toasty. Their cable knit socks were just the thing I was looking for. The great thing about bamboo is that it’s hypoallergenic, but also, as I found out, it does temperature control and moisture management on your feet. This means that your feet won’t get that sweaty and cold feeling when you wear them for a long time. I now wear them to sleep and travel because they’re a bit thicker, but they also have thinner socks that you can wear with normal shoes and even secret socks. Honestly I would never buy any socks other than bamboo again and best is that BAM has amazing customer service as well. When my socks came lose at the toe after 1 wash, they sent me 2 new pairs! I love that it’s all natural fibres and sustainable to produce and also so practical and warm.
Jewellery – Wild Fawn
If you’re looking for jewellery that will last you a lifetime and that’s good for the planet, then look no further than Wild Fawn Jewelllery. Emma Barnes started the London based brand out of her love for beautiful jewellery and her understanding that you need to know where the products you buy come from. Wild Fawn is a registered Fairtrade company and all the gold and silver used in their pieces is made from sustainably sourced materials or recycled gold and silver. Each piece is hand made to keep costs down and even the packaging is 100% recyclable (and just too beautiful). They have a huge range of different jewellery, but what I love most is how the pieces are delicate yet make a statement. Perfect for a gift, or as a gift to yourself!
Backpacks – Fjällräven: Re-Kanken
Fjallraven is a great company in general when it comes to a holistic sustainable product lifecycle and their commitment to donating to the Arctic Fox. All their products are made from sustainably sourced material and have a sustainable production process, from labour to carbon offsetting certain processes. My personal favourite is the Re-Kanken backpack which is made from recycled polyester from 11 plastic bottles (per bag). It looks a bit different from the other Kanken bags as the whole bag is made from this recycled plastic fibre, even the handles. The bag is also dyed (coloured) using a SpinDye process which reduces the amount of water, energy, and chemicals used in general dye processes dramatically. And the best is if there comes a time when you no longer want your Re-Kanken (who wouldn’t want it) then it can be recycled again. I love my Re-Kanken because of how functional it is and at the same time, it’s a bag that really is doing something good for the environment. I’ve travelled all over Europe with mine and definitely recommend it as your next backpack buy, it’s worth the investment.