Affordable, Ethical Fashion? Yes, Please!
By Natalie Bencivenga
October 12, 2020
For a long time I assumed I couldn’t join the world of eco-friendly fashionistas. Either I would be spending a fortune on an organic linen dress or focusing my attention on only second-hand shops. And while I love rummaging the racks for vintage and gently-loved finds, it’s nice to have other options. Well, look no further. Here are some brands, both local and around the country, that are focused on being sustainable, stylish and affordable, too.
Something familiar: At the mall but want to stay eco-chic? Check out Madewell’s line known as the “Do Well Shop.” From vegan leather pull-on paperbag pants smartly priced at $138, to their best-selling whisper cotton v-neck tees retailing at $19 each, there is a little something for everyone. The company is partnering with Fair Trade USA, which supports safer, more sustainable factories and happier, more empowered people.
Homespun hero: Kiya Tomlin, a Pittsburgh-based fashion designer, is no stranger to style meeting function. Her designs are versatile, chic and made from a mixture of cotton and sustainable bamboo fibers, which require little water, no pesticides and regenerates quickly. Her studio in Etna allows for a reduction in waste and quality control. Plus, she notes that if an item doesn’t sell, it can be repurposed into something else. (Although if you’ve seen her beautiful sweatshirt dresses which retail for $199, rompers and more that cling in all the right places… I’m sure not much is left to redesign!)
Outdoorsy chic: You may already know that REI has great outdoors gear and clothing, they also carry a nice selection of dresses and skirts. It was a surprise to me, too! All of their clothing meets a minimum standard of sustainability and ethically produced items. Their pieces are of high quality, consciously made, and many of them are made from recycled materials. Plus, they have a Used shopping section to help further minimize the impact of creating new pieces.
Nama-sustainable: Worried that your athleisure gear may be doing more harm than good on Mother Earth? Check out planetHEMP, an cannabis-athleisure line —yes, you read that right — focused on producing chic, comfy loungewear based right outside of Pittsburgh. The clothing is made primarily from organic hemp, a crop that is eco-friendly due to its natural pest-resistance, allowing it to grow without the need for pesticides. It’s durable and long lasting and only uses a quarter of the amount of water that cotton requires.
Better than Anthro: Love the vibe of Anthropologie but not their environmental record? Check out Made Trade. Not only do they have affordable dresses — in a wide array of sizes — under $150, but check out their curated home goods section, too. They believe in being “ethically elevated,” focusing on artistry, fair wages, and sustainability over mass production.
With a focus on quality over quantity and a return to reimagining what is already in our closets, you can still have fun with fashion while leaving a smaller carbon footprint behind.