A Love Letter on How to Be More Sustainable with 15 Ethical Places to Shop…

Honoring Earth Day, our Executive Editor Milan Ball provides a list of 15 ethical places to shop for those transitioning from fast fashion to more sustainable shopping. In addition to ethical fashion brands, the feature highlights good habits for fashion lovers to ease into sustainability. Not sure where to start on your fashion sustainability journey? Read on as Milan spotlights unique sustainable brands that deserve their flowers and your attention.

“Sustainable Fashion” is Only a Dirty Phrase If You Make It One

I have a confession to make and depending on who you are it may have no impact or be (quite literally) earth shattering. Here it is; I have been a victim of greenwashing. That’s it. That’s the tea. Again, depending on who you are, your reaction was either a gasp or topped off with a question mark? For those of you who may be asking, “What is greenwashing?” Greenwashing is the misrepresentation of sustainability assaulting the fashion industry. Namely, companies mislead their customers by launching advertising, campaigns, or products that falsely claim their offerings are environmentally friendly. In other words, the act of greenwashing is the real dirty business of fashion. 

Although I call myself a victim of greenwashing, I consider myself a victor in making everyday sustainable choices. Responsible consumption is often an undervalued pillar of how to live a sustainable lifestyle. In this article, I not only provide you with a list of (actually) sustainable brands, but 3 key questions to ask yourself to become a more ethical consumer. With the help of brand founders, allow us to convert you to the green side by debunking the most common myths about sustainability and browsing a list of ethical places to shop this season.

The Three Biggest Myths Against Converting to Sustainable Shopping:

    1. “Affordable sustainable fashion is hard to come across.”
    2. “There is no diversity in the sustainable fashion marketplace.”
    3. “Millions of people shop where I shop, my purchase doesn’t make a difference.” 

It’s Not “Mind Over Matter”, but Please Mind, Because It Matters.

If I had a dollar for every conversation I’ve had about sustainability that ended with “it’s not my problem”, let’s just say I would be writing this from an estate and not my parent’s attic. The truth is, there’s an insane disconnect between how brands educate their audiences and what the average consumer truly knows about sustainable fashion. While working in the industry, it’s easy to take for granted the access we have to statistics. For instance, the average garment worker is paid 0.6% of the total cost to produce a t-shirt (yes, you can read that again). Furthermore, we know that the fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world. I could recite all the statistics on the planet, but I can’t fault the fast fashion enthusiast for the information their favorite brands withhold. 

As with any other global issue, real change begins with education. We must reframe how we think about our impact as individuals in the bigger picture. It’s dangerous territory to settle into the camp of “it’s not my problem.” We’ve been misled to believe that opting out of the facts is opting out of the problem, when in reality we become cosigners to the issue at hand. Consider this my love letter to the masses who are open to doing the work to make change…

The Three Best Questions to Ask Yourself to Become More Sustainable:

“Where Do I Shop Now?”

One of the most helpful practices in beginning any journey is to assess your current situation. In a seductive market of next-day shipping and bulk buying discounts, taking inventory of what you value from the onset, creates a pathway for success. It’s no secret that fast fashion offers low costs, endless options, and instant gratification. But have you considered exchanging one of these offerings in the name of sustainability?  For instance, saving for a blazer that will last a lifetime opposed to repurchasing one cheaply made that amounts to more in its lifelong cost? As mentioned, it is a common misconception that affordable sustainable fashion is hard to find…

Please allow me to debunk the myth that sustainable fashion has one archetype.

5 Ethical Retailers to Shop: 

1. Tiare Rose Doing what is right for the planet and for its citizens lies in the heart of our business. We require each of our brand partners to be making significant efforts in at least one standard in environmental impact and at least one standard in social responsibility. By demanding better, we can and will make a difference.”

2. The Folklore – “Our carefully curated product-line reflects the diversity of Africa’s contemporary urban landscapes and design aesthetic. We deliver apparel, accessories, shoes, bags, and homeware that can live in cities around the world, and be enjoyed by men and women who appreciate luxurious, thoughtful, clean and boundary-pushing design.”

3. Maison de Mode “Maison de Mode exists for the love of sustainability and fashion. We believe in empowering individuality, with a mission to be the global platform for sustainable fashion, connecting creators, curators, and consumers for a better tomorrow.” 

4. The R Collective“The R Collective is a social impact upcycled fashion brand with a mission to create beautiful clothes using waste materials that was born from Redress, the pioneering Hong Kong based charity working since 2007 to reduce waste in fashion.” 

5. Shop Arielle“Simple clothes for colorful people. Free of trash and exploitation. Stylish, sexy, sustainable. We make the world we want to see.”

Spotlight: Tiare Rose 

If ease is at the forefront of your shopping experience wishlist, I strongly advocate for Tiare Rose. In March of 2021, the online retailer debuted its state-of-the-art livestream feature, inviting a global audience to its brick-and-mortar storefront in Sun Valley, Idaho. Through the livestream, customers can partake in exclusive, private shopping events, both digitally and in person, indulging in an exquisite selection of ethically sourced goods.

With Tiare Rose our hopes are for consumers to start putting pressure on brands to be more sustainable and socially responsible. We hope to create a standard in the fashion and beauty industry that calls for more information and clearer information for consumers to make better purchasing decisions. Choices that are good for the planet, good for humanity, and good for themselves. The goal is for less inventory to be produced, creating more accurate forecasting, which then results in more full-priced products being sold and ultimately creates less waste. – Kim Castellano, Founder & CEO of Tiare Rose


“Could I Be Shopping Better?”

Starting out on the path of ethical fashion can be daunting. After confronting the ‘why’ behind your buy, it’s important to consider the reality of what could be. Once taking inventory of what brand qualities make your heart beat, consider what key factors are in line with your sustainability goals. Is a meaningful mission integral to your shopping experience? Perhaps your ideal tradeoff becomes a longer shipping period to ensure that your goods are coming from a factory that pays its workers a living wage. Surely, there are brands out there worth shopping without the expense of unfair labor.

Allow me to debunk the myth that sustainable fashion has a limited selection.

5 More Ethical Retailers to Consider: 

1. PAPAIŸO “[Our] mission is engineered to create change. The sole purpose of our platform is to amplify the voices of artisanal brands from the Caribbean who are often overlooked in this space. In doing so, we are adding well-needed diversity to the global fashion industry and broadening the range of possibilities for everyone involved.” 

2. OhSevenDays“OhSevenDays is a mindfully made womenswear label creating sustainable staples from dead stock fabrics based in Istanbul Turkey. Essentially, we make slow fashion from fast fashion’s leftovers! We offer Monday to Sunday dressing made from ethical beginnings to sustainable endings.” (Featured in Leading Image)

3. Rere OutlinedRére is a team of three individuals who are pursuing to sustain Indonesia’s ecosystem through the motive of manufacturing garments ethically.” 

4. Laude the Label“Honoring Earth and Maker; LAUDE the Label empowers women around the world to find financial freedom through safe and meaningful employment at living wages. As a company, we measure success by impact, not profits. Our model is moving the fashion industry toward a more humane approach, where the Earth and the maker are valued equally to the customer.”

5. Vetta – “We’re committed to sustainable fabrics and responsible factories. We produce our woven clothing in a family run factory in NYC. Many of the employees have worked together there for over 30 years and we visit often. Our sweaters are knitted by our partner factory in Los Angeles that is audited annually for social and environmental compliance – and gets 70% of its energy from solar power!”

Spotlight: PAPAIŸO

On the subject of values, I cannot sing the praises of PAPAIŸO enough. As the first platform of its kind, the online retailer is devoted to Caribbean brands and their stories, functioning as a hub of sorts for the region. Offering an inventory that is something out of an art gallery, the platform uplifts artisanal voices on the global stage. With artisan-driven labels operating on made-to-order business models, the small batch production of its brands have a gentler impact on the environment. 

 A generational changing of the guard is transforming industry requirements, making social

responsibility and artisanal integrity outpace the holy grail of mass, big-brand production.

Lastly, digitization has given us more ways to connect with our global village, with

unprecedented opportunities to democratize value creation and bring diverse perspectives

to the table. I hope that the future of fashion will use these era-defining shifts to promote

business models that are gentler on people and planet. – Micha Alleyne, Founder & CEO of PAPAIYO

“Should I Be Shopping At All?”

The irony of writing an article on ethical shopping is that sometimes the most viable solution is not to shop at all. On the broader subject of alternatives, emerging markets like fashion rental or the practice of upcycling have proven they are here to stay. To diversify your palette, I’ve curated a list of shopping alternatives to consider on your sustainable fashion journey.

Lastly, please allow me to debunk the myth that sustainability won’t change the world (P.S. It’s already happening.)!

5 Sustainable Alternatives You Might Not Have Considered:

1. Storey the App (Closet Management) – “We are helping to build a future where there are no barriers to fashion circularity by giving everyone the tools to keep wearable clothing in circulation for longer. Digitize and organize your wardrobe. Track your items’ resale value and list them for sale. Browse and buy items from other members.”

2. By Rotation (Closet Sharing – UK) – “Determined to transform the way we consume fashion, By Rotation empowers you to do good for your wardrobe, your wallet and planet at the same time. [Not only] are you able to access designer fashion at a fraction of retail price, but you are also transforming your fashion consumption habits by sharing more.”

3.  Wardrobe (Closet Sharing – US) – “Rent exclusive luxury and vintage dresses, bags and shoes for affordable prices. Save and earn money with the most Earth-friendly form of style. Guaranteed freshly dry-cleaned.”

4. Shop Olive (Cardboard Free Shipping) – “Olive is a service that lets you shop at 100s of your favorite fashion sites + get cardboard-free deliveries with crazy simple returns.”

5. La La Land AI* (Diversified User Experience) – “Bye-bye, one size fits all. Hello, diversity. AI Models with Real Emotions. Make your models as diverse and one of a kind as your target audience.”

Spotlight: Storey the App

There are few things that excite me more than learning from a founder what inspired their launch. Storey was one of the promising applications that caught my attention in a flooded inbox. As the resale market continues to evolve and disrupt traditional wholesale, I can’t help but praise Storey for being an answered prayer to aspirational resale enthusiasts everywhere. I’ll be the first to admit that I am labor-averse to the entire process. Nicole Kobilansky and Tak Fung, however, (Co-Founders of Storey) saw the immense need for a digital wardrobe app designed to “give busy people control of their closets.”

We are reducing the barriers to reselling by allowing you to store your purchases in a digital wardrobe. You can then share that wardrobe with the wider community. You can get more mileage from your clothes by being more aware of what you have. Furthermore, you can get creative with mixing and matching using our collage feature. We also put a stop to filling out lengthy templates to sell your stuff (as all the info is already pre-saved) and we make it easy to connect with people whose style you admire and who are a similar size to you. – Nicole Kobilansky, Co-Founder of Storey

(*La La Land is not a retailer, but services retailers by providing critical KPI’s with artificial human models. Truly, I couldn’t help but include them in this round up, because the entirety of their offerings is not only sustainable, but utterly fascinating. You should expect to see an independent feature on the platform in the near future!)

Thank you for keeping up with me, Pretty Birds! Let me know what sustainable retailers are your favorites and what topics you want to read from me next.

Much love, Milan.

(Leading Image via OhSevenDays)

Related Posts in Fashion:

Meet The Woman Who Ran 200-Miles to Save A Dying Garment Industry

How Sarah Chavez’s Shop Green Angels is an Answered Prayer to Fashion Collectors Everywhere

Co-Founder and CEO of Maison de Mode Hassan Pierre On the Future of Ethical Luxury

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *