5 Ways Shopping Ethically Can Improve Your Style


Before I became an ethical fashion champion, I was already turning my back on mainstream fashion. The clothes at the mall seemed to be getting worse every year. At Zara, H&M, Forever 21, and the like, the materials felt cheap, the tailoring shoddy, and the styles skimpy. Clothes were either dirt cheap or crazy expensive. Affordable, quality basics seemed to be disappearing like the middle class. I was turning to vintage and thrift stores because the quality was generally better and I wanted to dress in more modest and classic silhouettes.

When I started researching which brands I could buy that didn’t exploit workers or cause huge environmental damages, I felt limited in what was available to me. While it’s still a challenge to find certain things, such as ethical running shoes or T-shirt bras, over the past year, I realized making the effort to shop ethically has actually improved my style. Here are 5 ways going ethical can benefit you too.

1. TRENDS WON’T DICTATE WHAT YOU WEAR

Many ethical fashion labels keep their styles more timeless since they don’t drop that many collections in a year. That’s a relief because it’s tiresome to chase trends.

While I still keep up with what’s going on in fashion, I have a good sense of what will be out next season and what’s worth investing in that will still be relevant for years to come. A good indicator of a trend that will soon retire is when you see everyone on Instagram wearing the same thing. When that happens, run in the other direction. Case in point: 2016’s lace-up body suits and chokers. There are a couple of trends that are popular now that I’m predicting will die by next year.

The oversized men’s tweed jacket and high-waisted jeans I’m wearing may be on trend this fall, but they’re both vintage pieces from the 1970s. If you want to know which trends will stick, simply look to the past. If a certain piece has been a classic for decades, is flattering on your body, and can be easily integrated with the rest of your wardrobe, it’s a keeper.

2. YOUR STYLE WILL BE MORE UNIQUE

No, you won’t be the girl in the Zara dress that every other girl already owns. Ethical brands are unfortunately not mainstream at the moment, most being found online, but at least you won’t find yourself twinning with anyone else in public. When you shop vintage, you’ll be the only person who owns that special piece.

One of the misconceptions of dressing ethically is that we rely too much on bland basics—and shapeless sack dresses. My wardrobe is a mixture of affordable and luxury ethical fashion labels, cheap thrift store finds, and secondhand couture. While I do rely on my capsule wardrobe and keep my style simple, no one ever accuses me of being a boring dresser. Conversely, I’m constantly being asked where I bought this or that. It’s fun because I can tell them a little history of the piece if it’s vintage or where it’s made if it’s from an ethical brand, instead of saying, “I got this at Forever 21.”

3. YOU’LL DISCOVER TALENTED INDIE DESIGNERS

Once you quit shopping at the popular chains, you open yourself up to smaller indie brands doing some lovely things. Here’s a list of ethical labels I compiled a while ago, which includes some of my favourite brands. I’ve stopped updating because new ethical and sustainable companies seem to be emerging every day—which is fantastic—and I’m writing about them in new fashion posts as I go.

4. YOU WON’T WASTE MONEY

Once you stop chasing trends, you won’t be wasting your money on items that’ll be out by next season. Yes, shopping ethically can cost more, but you’re investing money in items made from quality materials such as organic cotton and wool. They’re also well-tailored and made to last.

When you choose quality over quantity, you’re buying less. When I want to splurge on a more expensive item, I take a step back to ask myself if I want it because it’s hot right now or if I genuinely like it and will want to use it in years to come. I take into consideration the cost per wear, how many ways I can wear it, and how well it will go with what I already own.

Shopping ethically doesn’t always have to be expensive either. Look at brands like Everlane and Amour Vert—and check out this gorgeous vintage handbag that I scored recently for only $30.

5. YOU’LL SAVE TIME PUTTING OUTFITS TOGETHER

Your closet will thank you because it won’t be crammed with clothes you don’t reach for. Your wardrobe will be well-curated with high quality pieces you love and want to wear. You’ll be a proud outfit repeater. I don’t waste any time mulling over what I’m going to wear in the morning because no options are bad options.

Because smaller ethical labels usually come out with two collections a year—A/W and S/S—choices won’t overwhelm you when you do need to shop for new clothes.

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Wearing a vintage Harris Tweed men’s jacket thrifted in London, tailored to fit me. It’s probably from the 1970s. Funny enough, Everlane just came out with something very similar.

The white top was gifted from Door of Maai, made from organic cotton. Jeans are vintage 505 Levi’s from the 1970s. The black boots are from Montreal brand La Canadienne, and the bag is Gucci – both ethically made in Italy.

JACKET — VINTAGE HARRIS TWEED; similar from Everlane

TOP — DOOR OF MAAI CROSS LAPEL TOP (see it with other outfits)

JEANS — VINTAGE LEVI’S (see it with other outfits)

BOOTS — LA CANADIENNE ‘LALA’ BOOTS (see them with other outfits)

BAG — GUCCI DIONYSUS MEDIUM IN NAVY (see it with other outfits) 

Photography by The Bennett Studio

How has shopping ethically improved your style? Let me know in the comments below!