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The Gap Year Blog

Where to buy affordable & sustainable fashion?

12 Mar 2019 15:25 PM

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Edited with Permission by Frontier


As the fast fashion industry keeps on growing with the help of Instagram influencers who regularly parade the new clothes from giant fashion brands, the devastating environmental impacts of increasing consumption and throwaway culture seem to be forgotten by many.

The apparel and footwear industries are one of the biggest polluters in the world, accounting approximately 8 per cent of all climate change impacts according to a study by Quantis. In 2015, fashion industry was responsible for 1,715 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through factory processes, such as yarn preparation, dyeing and finishing, and the amount is expected to grow by 63 per cent by 2030.

Fashion industry is not only responsible for enormous amount of greenhouse gases but also water pollution and water waste. The industry wasted 79 billion cubic metres of water in 2015 – ‘enough to fill nearly 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools.’ This is a lot of water, but nothing compared to the usage by agriculture industry.

As you can see, the way apparel production works is complex which makes it challenging to find clothing that are 100% sustainably produced. Furthermore, there is an assumption that sustainable fashion is not accessible for wider masses because of its pricing. 

But times are changing, and more brands are finding ways to make sustainable but affordable fashion: 


1. People Tree

Started in 1991, People Tree is an old school sustainable brand offering modern graphic T-shirts, simple underwear and colourful patterned clothing for women, and for very reasonable price. 

All the clothes are made to the highest environmental standards from organic cotton, TENCEL™ Lyocell and responsible wool. Their cotton fabrics have a Global Organic Textile Standard- certificate which guarantees protection for the cotton farmers and their lands, a Fairtrade certificate that secures a fair pay for the workers and they are ecologically made with minimal toxics. Their other materials, TENCEL™, denim and wool, are all either ecologically sourced or biodegradable. 

People Tree was the first fashion brand to be awarded with Fair Trade Organisation product label which certifies their commitment to fair production of their garments by supporting the local workers and artisans.


How to wear florals in winter 🌱 Vegan Knitwear and Tencel trousers #lovepeopletree #vegan #organiccotton

A post shared by People Tree (@peopletreeuk) on



2. Thundress

An organic, non-toxic underwear brand, Thundress, was founded by Tylea Richard in 2015 after a kickstarter campaign. 

The toxic chemicals normally used in production are non-biodegradable which means they will stay in your clothes long after you’ve made the purchase and slowly absorb into your skin while you wear them. These toxins have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, and they are not that great for environment either as they end up dissolving into rivers and oceans. The focus of the brand is on creating comfortable underwear pieces without the harmful toxins used in the apparel production processes, like washing, dyeing and finishing fabrics.

The organic cotton fabrics Thundress uses are all sewn in the USA and the whole company is operate by women for women. Talking about female empowerment, right?



Know The Origin bases their production process on their values of transparency and ethical standards, such as organic and recycled materials, fair working conditions and reductions of carbon emissions.

Their online store has a large collection of simple, timeless clothing items, delicates and jewellery for both men and women. You can find stylish everyday pieces, but also classy eveningwear made of bamboo silk, which looks like the real deal, except it is sustainably made. On their website, they also sell zero waste sets which include items such as sustainable coffee mugs, shampoo bars and reusable facewipes. Their website is the holy grail for sustainably lifestyle.

But by far, the best thing about Know The Origin is the transparency of their production and products. In additions to typical product details, every item introduced on their website includes a list of the ethical standards it checks out and an explanation for those standards, making it simple to see how the product was made. You can also track the origin country of the garments. 




4. Alternative Apparel

Looking for a company with an overall sustainable mindset from materials and packaging to working conditions?

Alternative Apparel pride themselves as a company that is ‘mindful of the impact’ they have on the planet and its people.  They offer a range of everyday basics clothing items and accessories that don’t break the bank. Their best sellers include ecological t-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants that come in several wearable colours and add an effortless extension to your wardrobe.

They have built the company around sustainable ideologies that are projected to all the areas of their production process. When possible, they use organic or reused materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester, low-impact dyes and washes with reclaimed water. Also, their packaging is oxo-biodegradable. But their sustainable thinking doesn’t end here. They have committed to safe and clean work environment to all their workers and most their factories are WRAP-certified which means they match international workplace standards and regulations. Pretty impressive, right?




5. Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective focuses on activewear made out recycled polyester and nylon through an ethical production process.  Furthermore, to their ethical standards, they believe in transparency, representation and that ‘health comes in many shapes and sizes’.

Their polyester is made from recycled plastic bottles from Taiwan and their nylon is made out of ‘recycled fishing nets and other waste that would otherwise be discarded into oceans and landfills’.

Girlfriend Collective’s facility is Vietnam has an SA8000 certification which guarantees a range of rights and standards for the workers and the workplace, including no child labour and the right to unionize. 

The impressive thing about this company is how serious they are about transparency. They don’t just state their values and goals but provide detailed information about how and where their fabrics are made. They have even added their SA8000 contract to their website so that anyone can see and read the detailed standards they have committed to provide.


So, maybe it’s time for you to consider more sustainable take on your shopping. Buy less, recycle and buy ethically produced items that last with you for decades.

By Tiia Kärkkäinen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!