How to Shop Ethically on a Budget

Whether you’ve always been a sustainability warrior or you’ve only recently woken up to the dark realities of the fashion industry, we can all agree that the main thing standing in the way between consumers wanting cheap product thats bang on trend and brands wanting to build on strong values and ethics is price.

Primark is a key example of a high street fashion brand (although this occurs through all market levels) sacrificing the wellbeing of people, animals and the environment for profit, but customers will keep buying as long as there is no other more affordable option.

If curbing your fast fashion habit completely seems too hard to break, there are many other ways to shop more ethically, without compromising on style and newness, even on a tight budget.

Charity Shops

An age-old favourite with a modern day twist, charity shopping has finally woken up to its fashion potential; from rebranding second-hand clobber to valuable vintage, to coinciding with global fashion weeks to show that you can recreate designer looks without spending designer money.

Vintage Hunting

Vintage trade fairs are one of the best ways to grab a second-hand bargain from glamorous eras bygone. We love Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, and the Vintage Kilo Sale, which travel up and down the country every month to huge city venues.

Social Enterprise

Go beyond shopping for the sake of style; shop from rebels with a cause. Social enterprises and the circular economy are today’s buzzwords, from Not Just A Label supporting emerging design graduates from around the world to local collectives like The Scottish Design Exchange channelling all profits back to the fashion designer, not the retailer or the middle man.

Diffusion Lines

Many affordable, high street fashion brands produce diffusion collections that offer a more sustainable alternative. Think H&M organic cotton, Urban Outfitters vintage renewal, ASOS green and ASOS Africa. H&M and M&S will also give you coupons in exchange for recycling unwanted clothing to help close the loop.

Fashion Revolution

The Fashion Transparency Index by NGO Fashion Revolution shows how ethical or unethical, affordable, high street fashion brands are. The main point here is to do your research before you buy. A quick google can help you decide if you really want to part with your hard-earned cash for a poor quality dress made in a shambles sweatshop that you’ll probably only wear once.

Shop Local

Nearly every town and city has its hidden gems in the form of stylish boutiques, and although they can often be pricier than your Topshop or Zara, the quality and personalised service you get in return is immeasurable, like fixing items for free after they’ve worn out with no strict corporate returns policy.

Shop Small

Etsy is a brilliant way to discover small businesses from all over the design sphere. With brilliant direct-to-consumer deals and special, unique pieces that no one else will be wearing, it's one of our favourite ways to stand out without splashing out.

D.I.Y

If you’re not confident whipping up apparel from scratch, small changes can still make a difference. From customising your old jeans (patches, frayed hems and patchwork are still big) to fixing buttons and zips, there’s usually a way to up-cycle any garment. Youtube is full of quick, easy tutorials on craft and fashion.

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Ruth MacGilp, 20, UK. Fashion Communication Student and Fashion Blogger.
Edinburgh Website