Fast fashion is known for being cheap and accessible, but at what cost? Today there are more affordable sustainable clothing brands choosing to put people and the planet first, and we’re sharing 15 of the best and affordable sustainable clothing brands changing the face of our current fashion industry.
Why Fast Fashion Is A BIG Problem
Today it is estimated that the average American will discard roughly 81 pounds of clothing every year, which results in 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste landing in landfills. In the simplest financial sense this is money poorly spent and ultimately wasted. Ethically and environmentally speaking there is an even greater cost to the way view our clothes and support fast fashion.
But when it comes to shopping affordable sustainable clothing brands there still remains an issue of access when it comes to finding ethical and affordable sustainable clothing that can meet the needs of those on a smaller budget.
What Are Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands?
Sustainable clothing brands are typically going to be more expensive than the prices we are used to seeing from fast fashion retailers for a number of reasons:
- Fair Wages: Fast fashion retailers are known for not paying their garment workers fairly for their work, which results in a cheeper cost to the consumer, but encouraging a cycle of poverty and poor working conditions for garment workers. Sustainable clothing brands are investing in paying their garment workers fairly and supporting healthy working conditions, which results in a higher priced end product.
- Better Materials: Sustainable clothing brands are using sustainably sourced materials that do not negatively impact our planet. These materials are usually grown using organic practices, and dyed using safe natural dyes that do not negatively impact the health of local environments or garment workers.
- Environmental Friendly Business Practices: From investing in carbon neutral initiatives to choosing regenerative and renewal materials, sustainable and ethical clothing brands are putting the environment over profit, but results in a higher cost end product.
Affordable sustainable clothing brands, are brands who recognize the need to make sustainably produced clothing more accessible to the greater public, and are often large enough to offset some of their costs to bring the cost of their products down to a place that is in line with more mainstream retailers. While affordable sustainable clothing will never be “cheap”, with more people interested in purchasing affordable sustainable clothing, more brands have been able to bring their costs down and make sustainable clothing more accessible than ever.
Price Does Not Equal Quality Or Sustainability
Before we get into some of our favorite more affordable ethical clothing brands, it is important that we acknowledge that just because something is expensive does not mean it was made ethically or is even high quality. Due to the nature of fast fashion, many expensive clothing brands charge based on what their brand worth represents to consumers, and not based on the actually quality and ethical manufacturing of their clothing.
Most often in fact, designer brands will be among the worst offenders using unethical practicing all the way from the manufacturing of their clothing, to the giant rip off they charge to consumers.
So while there will never be an affordable sustainable clothing brand selling clothes at the ultra low prices associated with companies like Old Navy, Forever 21, and H&M, many times affordable ethical clothing brand prices will be right in line with brands like J. Crew, Madewell, Free People, Anthropologie, Lululemon, and sometimes even MORE affordable.
This is just something to keep in mind if you are someone who can afford to shop at the retailers above, because you absolutely have the means to switch to supporting sustainable fashion brands today.
What About Shopping Second Hand For Affordable Sustainable Clothing?
While the below brands are among the most accessible from a cost standpoint currently within the sustainable fashion industry, the most cost effective option with arguably the best environmental impact will almost always be to purchase second hand.
While purchasing second hand doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be buying sustainably made clothing brands, it is one of the best ways that you can support a more sustainable fashion industry as a whole, and ensure that the longevity of the clothing that already exists on this planet is extended and kept from landfills for as long as possible.
So if none of the affordable sustainable clothing brands below still seem to be within your budget I would highly recommend seeking out second hand retailers like consignment shops, and online companies like ThredUp and Poshmark, which both are really shaking up the fast-fashion industry.
15 Best Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands for Every Budget, Body and Wardrobe
For those looking for an excellent ethical fashion alternative to Madewell or J Crew then Everlane is the perfect sustainable clothing brand for you. Personally, I love Everlane for their timeless and comfort driven style. They offer well designed basics from the coziest sweaters, to my favorite t-shirts and jeans that are perfect for the conscious consumer.
Everlane carries both men’s and women’s clothing, and offer a “pay what you choose” option which allows you to choose what you pay on “sale” items.
ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty through providing economic opportunity for women.
At ABLE 96% of employees are women, and the lowest wages are published to improve transparency and increase the demand for fair wages in the fashion industry.
While ABLE may be best known for it’s denim, they also offer a wide variety of other apparel, shoes, and accessories for women.
TenTree believes in making “Earth First” essentials that benefit the planet first! With every purchase TenTree also plants ten trees, to show how individuals can make a big and long-lasting impact. Their clothing ranges from cozy lounge wear to activewear made for exploring the outdoors, and their prices are truly affordable.
Tradlands prides itself on creating pieces you can wear with everything and live in for years to come.
Their clothing focuses on timeless, well-made essentials that redefine the meaning of effortless style.
Made from recycled water bottles and ethically produced in Vietnam, the girlfriend collective is one of my favorite ethical brands for athletic wear.
prAna is known for investing in a truly regenerative and carbon neutral approach to their entire business model. They have been pioneering 100% plastic free packaging and shipping, and choosing organic and sustainable materials for decades and their commitment to positively impacting people and planet shows!
From beautifully designed activewear, to the warmest winter jackets, and cozy everyday essentials prAna has something for everyone and every season. While their prices aren’t the lowest of some of the affordable sustainable clothing brands on this list, they do offer pretty amazing sales throughout the year that can help offset some of their full-price cost of some of their clothing.
Pact is by far one of the most affordable sustainable fashion brands perfect for the whole family.
Pact clothing is made from organic cotton and fair trade certified factories with zero harmful chemicals, and processes conserve water.
Amour Vert designs sustainable, versatile, and thoughtful clothing that’s good for both you and the planet. Their pieces feel like high end luxury, but maintain a moderately affordable price tag that makes them accessible to the larger public.
To reduce their waste and carbon footprint most pieces are made in limited quantities to ensure the highest production standard and eliminate excess waste. 97% of products are made in California all from sustainably sourced textiles.
Made Trade is a one-stop consciously curated shop for all things clothing, home goods, accessories, and more.
- Sustainable — made with earth-friendly materials, either responsibly harvested, recycled or upcycled
- Fair Trade — handmade by artisans outside the US adhering to fair labor practices
- Heritage — crafted by hand using traditional and often centuries-old techniques
- USA Made — locally made by makers in the United States
- Vegan — free of any and all animal materials
Organic Basics is my favorite company to go to for basics that are super comfortable. They offer a wide variety of garments for men and women made using renewable fabrics in certified facilities that ensure the ethical and fair treatment of all garment workers.
The designs, styles, and colors are all minimal, timeless and made to last, which is what makes Organic Basics a great brand to help build the foundation of a more sustainable wardrobe.
Ten Thousand Villages
Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade clothing and home goods pioneer and non-profit social enterprise that partners with independent small-scale artisan groups, co-ops and workshops to bring their products to consumers.
I personally love the variety of accessories from bags to jewelry that Ten Thousand Villages offers, many of which are priced at less than $50 and tell an incredible story.
My favorite bag right now for summer is this Essential Companion Tote that I have been bringing with me to the beach and farmers market. The artisan quality is amazing, and it is absolutely beautiful.
Know The Origin
Know The Origin is all about full transparency from farm to clothing. Know The Origin uses organic & fairtrade cotton from two farmer-run cooperatives in India where 18% of our worlds cotton is grown.
Cotton is an incredible labor intensive and chemical laden crop. This results in a wide variety of global health, environmental impact, and workers rights issues
If I could only shop one ethical brand it would probably by Slum Love.
The Slum Love designs are that perfect mix of bohemian meets everyday basic comfort, and are made ethically in Kenya using eco-friendly materials with a portion of proceeds giving back to education for children in some of the world largest slums.
Sancho’s is a sustainable fashion and lifestyle brand that sources clothing that is certified fair trade and is constructed from sustainable natural materials.
Sancho’s sells both men’s and women’s clothing and stocks a curated range of clothing, accessories and gifts from organic and fair trade clothing producers.
What I love about Sancho’s is the wide variety of clothing options, styles, and departments. You can find basics, undergarments, dresses, and accessories all in one shop.
Looking for bold prints and patterns? Mayamiko is your go-to sustainable fashion brand that brings an eclectic range of colors, patterns, and styles to its sustainably made garments.
Mayamiko is a sustainable women’s wear and lifestyle brand made in Malawi and inspired by African artisanal traditions and prints.
The Mayamiko collections are designed for the global modern woman with incredibly high ethical standards and micro-finance programs in place to ensure that women are able to support themselves and create the life and opportunity of their dreams.
I personally love everything that wearing a Mayamiko article of clothing embodies and believe that they are one of the best sustainable fashion brands in the global fashion marketplace to support today.