We think it's fair to say that we'd all like our wardrobes to be a more sustainable place, but aside from vintage, a lot of people are under the impression that eco-friendly fashion comes with a not-so-friendly price tag. If you were to look at some ethical brands, such as Mother of Pearl and Mara Hoffman, as gorgeous as they are, that would indeed be the case. But there's a new wave of more affordable conscious brands emerging that are making it easier for those of us with less-than-flush bank accounts to shop more consciously.
Influencer Ellie wears a sweater and trousers from Aligne.
The word "affordable," however, is difficult to cookie-cut and is completely dependant on individual circumstances. One blatantly clear thing is that the pieces, which you'll find via the brands we've hand-picked below, will likely never appear "affordable" when you compare them to their high-street counterparts. The retail giants that can (and do) sell dresses for £10 and coats for £20. Instead, we need to change our shopping mindsets.
Influencer India wears rings from Daphine.
The first stepping stone to making your wardrobe more considered is to spend less frivolously. By cutting back on items bought a whim (which, let's face it, you'll likely only wear a handful of times before relegating them to the back of your closet) and instead investing in high-quality, timeless pieces that you'll wear for years to come, you'll find these purchases to be significantly more "affordable" in the long run.
With this in mind, keep scrolling to see our edit of some of our favourite affordable sustainable brands—a list we plan on updating on the regular when we discover more labels of the same sustainable ilk.
1. WE ARE KIN
Founded by fashion designer and influencer Ngoni Chikwenengere, We Are Kin is an emerging sustainable label that's quickly commanding a cult following. Crafted in London using end-of-line and sustainable fabric, the pieces are made-to-order in UK sizes 4 to 24.
A brand that's rapidly gaining momentum, Aligne creates beautiful clothing with a transparent supply chain, using planet-friendly fabrics and democratic practices. The latest collection is filled with dresses and separates you'll love and wear for a lifetime, which is absolutely the intent.
3. GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE
Spearheading sustainable activewear, Girlfriend Collective produces pieces that look good, feel good and do the planet a world of good. The company believes in ethical manufacturing and the use of recycled materials. Each product is made using recycled water bottles and fishing nets, so with every purchase, you're helping to clean up the oceans. Scoop extra ethical points when you purchase it from independent sustainable boutique Treen.
Aardes makes its clothing in small batches, producing only one collection a year, so it's unlikely you will see someone with the same piece as you. Each garment is hand-printed and constructed, and all packaging is made from recycled materials and is itself recyclable.
Albaray is the brainchild of three women who have a combined experience of 25 years in the fashion industry. Together, during the pandemic, they made their idea of creating clothing built to last and with sustainability at its heart a reality. Each stage of the design, manufacturing and distribution process is monitored meticulously, ensuring there is no unnecessary waste or impact.
If you were to look at any Who What Wear editor's current wish list, chances are you'd see one commonality: a piece from Daphine. The jewellery brand has made its mark on the fashion world with its gorgeous, pared-back designs, but did you know it also gets the sustainable seal of approval? All the pieces are handmade using recycled brass in its atelier, which is based in Jaipur.
Former high-street designer Frankie Steed founded her namesake label after being inspired to create sustainable pieces influenced by bygone eras. Having only launched in autumn 2019, the collection is made in London, and production runs have been limited to 30 pieces per style to limit waste. The garments are made from recycled fabrics and are delivered to customers in gift bags made from fabric scraps to eliminate plastic waste.
8. BY MEGAN CROSBY
Made-to-order is a winning concept. Not only do you get a piece that's entirely bespoke to you, but it also minimises waste. At By Megan Crosby, the clothes are made in limited numbers from resourceful fabrics without scrimping on aesthetics. Customers are asked to submit their measurements on-site when they buy, so the garments can be made specifically for them, all for as little as £60.
9. SEVENTY + MOCHI
With prices you'd expect from the high street, there's no reason not to consciously spend with Seventy + Mochi. Dedicated to producing its collections out of recycled materials in limited quantities at its own facilities, Seventy + Mochi's business set-up ensure minimal impact on the planet.
Pouring its energy into creating chic knitwear with a conscience, all of Diarte's designs are created with a local, small-scale production chain in its native Spain. The brand has also been Oeko-Tex certified, which means all the materials used to manufacture Diarte's designs are free from harmful levels of more than 100 substances known to be damaging to human health.
Omnes's mission is simple—to make thoughtful fashion that doesn't cost the earth. The brand is focused on minimising waste and uses both recycled and recyclable fabrics where possible. Much of Omnes's latest collection is made using FSC (The Forest Stewardship Council) certified viscose, which is a renewable plant-source material that will eventually biodegrade.
Founded in 2019, Nu-In was created with the idea of making beautiful garments that have a lower impact on the environment. The label uses a plethora of eco-fabrics including Seaqual, which is made from recycled plastic bottles, and Ecotec cotton, which is made from upcycled yarn waste and used clothes—the perfect circular fashion model.
13. THINKING MU
Thinking Mu's prides itself on being completely traceable. Each garment is labelled with a QR code which allows customers to see the complete story behind the clothing, tracing the garment's impact. The brand uses sustainable fabrics and even has a Trash collection, which sees new clothes made from recycled materials.
In the wake of the pandemic, after hoards of fast-fashion stores cancelled their factory orders, Lost Stock swooped in to save the day, buying the pieces and saving countless livelihoods of garment workers in the process. Consumers we given the chance to buy this stock in surprise bundles. Now, having reemerged as Unfolded, the brand offers seasonal capsules where customers can curate their own fashion bundles from a selection of pieces. After orders are placed, exact numbers of the garment will be made, cutting out any waste whatsoever. Along with schooling and other initiates which positive affect garment techs and their families, an Unfolded purchase is a do-good purchase.
15. PEOPLE TREE
Born in Tokyo in 1991, People Tree prides itself on creating sustainable clothes that don't scrimp on style. Every product is made to the highest ethical and environmental standards from start to finish. Fabric-wise, you can expect organic cotton, Tencel, lyocell and responsible wool—all of which are made using traditional artisan skills.
16. NINETY PERCENT
Ninety Percent's founding principles were to prioritise the use of ethical factories and sustainable fabrics, and the brand has followed though. It also shares 90% of its distributed profits between charitable causes and those who make the collection happen, hence the name Ninety Percent.
Kowtow is a brand committed to creating positive change. It only uses renewable and sustainable fibres as well as ethical manufacturing. Each collection is made from organic, renewable, biodegradable and regenerated fibres, but that's not all. Its silhouettes look so premium it almost didn't make our list, as we assumed the pieces would cost more than they actually do.
18. SKALL STUDIO
Skall Studio is a Danish sustainable fashion brand established in 2014 by the two sisters Julie and Marie Skall. With a vegan lifestyle, minimal use of animal products in the collections and a general sustainable and conscious approach to design and development, Skall Studio has created a design universe of effortless, elegant and feminine styles, where quality is never compromised.