In the past year, I’ve made my best effort to shop as sustainably as I possibly can within my budget. In my other posts– Sustainable Swimwear Brands and Where To Buy Fashionable Facemasks– I outlined how I value shopping sustainably but am aware this isn’t always a possibility for people’s lifestyles and budgets.
Being a student means I’m not in the position to spend lots on clothing branded as sustainable. Instead, I’ve looked elsewhere to make my consumer habits more sustainable. I do my best to thrift a lot of my wardrobe from charity shops and through Depop, but otherwise, I prioritize independent brands over the high street. This is a habit I’ve developed in the past year, and although its not one I’m able to frequent often, it’s something that’s completely changed my relationship with buying and styling.
Buying from an independent brand has numerous benefits; the absence of mass production eradicates environmental and socials issues that are riff in the fast fashion industry.
From a personal perspective, these garments are unique; there will only be a few out in the world, and it is unlikely the designer will reproduce the garment in the same pattern and colourways again.
Like most sustainable clothing options, buying independently comes at a higher price. A million different things have to be accounted for when purchasing from an independent business. I’m not going to go over the nitty-gritty of how money is used and distributed in slow-fashion brands– this will vary from company to company and its best to look at the information these companies provide for their customers.
I wanted to share a few tips on how you can make the move from high-street to independent, and my thought process when I decide whether my next purchase will be high street, independent, or thrifted.
As cliche as it sounds, research is vital. You want to find a brand that you feel represents you, that you can get a lot of wear out of, and you support their ethos. The four places I look when seeking out new independent brands are, Etsy, Instagram, Pinterest, and Depop. Instagram and Pinterest are great visually; you get to understand the brands aesthetic, you’ll likely see who is behind the brand, and useful information is usually easily accessible through their profiles. Etsy and Depop are great for off the bat purchases, not all independent brands will be running through these platforms, but the ones that do have helpful reviews and feedback, and you have the safety of an established third-party seller.
It can sometimes be hard to fathom paying three times the amount for a t-shirt from an independent brand compared to a fast-fashion retailer. Parting with money isn’t easy, and you want to get the most you can for your money. This is one of the reasons I urge you to save and spend wisely A hand-produced garment, made and designed with the utmost care, is going to last a lot longer than something made in a sweatshop halfway across the globe Rather than buying several, low-quality tops, you could save and invest in one long-lasting item. I am no stranger to an impulse buy, but as soon as I slowed down my consumer habits, I noticed I had more money, and I could invest in something worthwhile.
Buying independently, at a higher price tag, can be a great incentive to prioritise your purchases. When things are cheaper, we tend to frivolously purchase unnecessary items we don’t want or need. Spending that little bit extra encourages us to slow down, think, and conclude whether we really need the item.
Versatility is something I swear by. I hate the idea of only being able to wear one outfit one way or one item for one occasion.
My style is quite loud, and many sustainable brands have a neutral aesthetic that doesn’t fit. The great thing about independent brands is how varied they are; you can find bright rainbow tops as easy as you can khaki cargo shorts. Versatility doesn’t have to mean boring; it just has to mean it works with your style and your wardrobe. For example, I recently purchased a pink and red leopard print top from Saturday by Megan Ellaby, for many this would be an out-there piece which would work with maybe one or two basics. For me, a lover of pink and red and pattern clashing, it works endless ways, and I know I’ll be able to wear it through all four seasons.
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