When sustainable clothing is discussed, it is often dismissed as basic, unstylish and unaffordable.
And yes, it can be. But so can fast fashion.
I’m sure you’ve encountered a lot of badly fitting polyester clothing on the high street and yet you’ve never thought that all fast fashion is ugly. I would argue that sustainable fashion can offer a lot more than you may think because of the differences in values and practices and how this in turn influences the creation of products.
For example, sustainably made garments often fit better and have more attention to technical detail than fast fashion. This is because sustainable clothing is made more slowly, often by smaller companies which prioritize quality over quantity.
As for the price, it’s true that sustainable fashion tends to be more expensive than fast fashion. But one of the core elements of sustainability is to reduce the number of items you buy overall. If you aren’t buying according to trends or fake seasons made up by fashion houses, you can save up to buy sustainable items you really love and wear all the time. Plus, you won’t end up with a wardrobe full of clothes with the tags still on.
Instead of writing a whole article, I want to show what sustainable fashion can be by providing a list that offers a variety of styles, sizes and price points, as well as including small UK brands which you may not have heard of. This list is in no way exhaustive of the sustainable brands that are out there, so I encourage you to go and do your own research.
Grey Milk is an upcoming Manchester business owned and operated by Gwen, who describes it as offering “seasonal ranges of playful, positive impact garments that are crafted to be comfortable and last for years”. The brand aims to be as inclusive as possible, offering custom measurements at no extra cost, in addition to their pre-made sizes which run 6-18. You can also request garments in any of the fabrics that they stock, completely free of charge. They tend to sell out quickly, as they are in very high demand.
Style: Bold and Contemporary.
Size Range: 6-18 and free custom.
People Tree is one of the more popular sustainable fashion brands in the UK, and they are also concerned with ensuring that their garments are ethically made. The style here is minimalist and classic; pretty much what you picture when you think ‘sustainable fashion’. However, they do some excellent, high quality basics. I have two cotton body suits from here, and they are super soft and comfortable, which is what I look for in a garment. The brand is fairly affordable for sustainable fashion, but their larger pieces like maxi dresses and boiler suits do cost quite a bit. Unfortunately, the sizing is quite limited and for most items the range is sizes 8-16, so they have a long way to go in terms of inclusivity.
Style: Minimalist, Classic.
Size range: 8-16
This brand gives a western twist to Nigerian influenced clothes which, according to CEO Yvonne Telford are “Loud, bold and tell the whole world, ‘Look at me, I am fabulous’”. One of their goals is to empower women through clothing which makes a statement and allows them to take up space. They offer quite a range of beautiful products, from maxi dresses and coats to homeware and accessories. Their price point is mid-range, but I expected it to be higher given the quality of their clothing. They are doing various things to reduce their environmental impact and create ethical clothing, which can be read about on their website. The sizing is UK sizes S-XL, but the exact measurements and details about fit are listed in the description. However, the size range is less for some items and there are others which are listed as ‘one size’.
Style: Vibrant and Bold
Size Range: UK S-XL, but not for all items
Lucy and Yak
How could I not include them? I live in Brighton! In case you haven’t heard of them, Lucy and Yak’s style is colourful and comfortable with lots of high waisted trousers, dungarees and jumpsuits. Most of the clothes I’ve purchased in the last two years are from Lucy and Yak, and include t shirts, a pair of high waisted trousers and orange dungarees. They are pretty affordable, but some of their items like patterned jumpsuits are more expensive. It’s also worth mentioning that, as they are a small company many of their items are not in stock for long before they sell out. One of their aims are a brand is to be size inclusive, and they currently a lot of their trousers range from sizes 4-22. However, they are some items such as shorts and t shirts that are more limited so there is still work for them to do. I recommend looking at the reviews before buying an item, to get a sense of how it will fit.
Style: Colourful and Comfortable
Size range: 4-22 (but not for all items)
Free People has a boho style with a distinctly 60/70s vibe. Think lots of flowy dresses and flares. I have ordered trousers from here, a pair of mustard yellow cotton trousers and another pair of velvet ‘seafoam’ flares. The flares were not my style personally, but I am obsessed with the mustard trousers and have been wearing them for most of the summer. The fabric is really good quality cotton and I love the colour. Overall, the cost is average to high for most of the items that Free People sell but I think that if you know you will wear the garments a lot then it is worth it. As for the sizing, a lot of their items are sizes 0-18. However, this is not the case for trousers which rarely run above size 16.
Style: Boho, 60s/70s
Size range: 0-18 (excluding trousers)
House of Sunny
This brand has become popular among influencers in recent years, as the style is very 90s with a lot of 70s inspired pieces. Lots of knitwear and interesting colours and patterns. Unfortunately, the sizing is not inclusive and does not seem like it will become so anytime soon, as it is not one of their brand goals.
Style: 90s/70s Instagram Aesthetic
Size Range: 6-14
This UK lingerie brand prides itself on having created the ‘world’s most inclusive range of bras from responsibly sourced deadstock fabric’. Their bra sizes range from 26A-36I and are aiming to include even more in the future. They also offer a bra size calculator on their website to help you find your size. The lingerie is stylish, sexy everyday wear, but the range of products is limited as they are a small brand. They are quite affordable given the quality, but still not an accessible price point for everyone.
Style: Sexy everyday wear
Size Range: 26A-36I
This brand offers timeless vintage dresses and accessories in magical prints. Sustainability is one of the core values of this small UK brand, which makes everything from carefully sourced dead stock fabric to minimise fabric waste. Because of this, their range is small and has a boutique feel to it. Although the products they offer are pricey, the idea is that you buy pieces that you love and will keep wearing, rather than buying lots of garments that you just kind of like. They are size inclusive, offering sizes 6-30, as well as bespoke garments for an extra £50.
Style: Vintage and Witchy
Size Range: 6-30 and bespoke
Rapanui manufacturers it’s garments in the UK and has sustainability as it’s main goal. The style is very surf-wear inspired, and they offer lots of cool graphic tees and cotton basics. They are reasonably affordable, and I am currently considering buying a tee from them as this is very much my style. They also do collabs with other brands and charities to help raise awareness of issues such as global warming and pollution. However, they only offer sizes 8-18 on most items, and as they don’t mention inclusivity in their brand goals it’s unlikely that this will change any time soon.
Style: Surf wear inspired
Size Range: 8-18
Palava is a small business based in the UK which aims to go Zero Waste and plastic free. The majority of its garments are made in the UK, and their knitwear is made in Turkey. The aesthetic is very cottagecore with lots of floral and vintage inspired clothing. They offer sizes 6-22 on most garments, but not for clothing in their sales. The price point is fairly affordable, especially for vintage style clothing, but some items such as detailed knitwear or jumpsuits are more expensive.
Style: Vintage and Floral
Size Range: 6-22
Photo courtesy of Lauren Fleischmann