The 12 Best Brands for Affordable Ethical Clothing in the UK
Ethical clothing is a growing trend with real staying power. While in days gone by you may have expected to find ethical clothing only in the form of bamboo moo moos, there are now many retailers making fun, flirty, and fashionable clothes – all in good conscience. But how do you find affordable ethical clothing in the UK?
The truth is, while ethical clothing looks and feels great (for you and for the planet!), it’s not always the most budget-friendly. It can be tricky to find clothes that keep you and your wallet on the right path.
In this post I’ve pulled together 12 of my favourite brands for affordable ethical clothing in the UK. I’ll also share a few sites and additional tips and tricks to help you on your journey.
So settle in, get your wish list at the ready, and enjoy!
Top tip: bookmark your favourite shops in your browser! It’s so easy to forget about ethics when you’re in a fashion pinch. But if you have an easy go-to folder saved in your browser, you’ll be able to make better choices for you, the planet, and the people in the fashion industry every time.
The best brands for affordable ethical clothing
On Thought’s website, you’ll find the phrase a little bit of thought, a big difference – a perfect way to sum up the impact of Thought on your wardrobe and your fashion ethics. From comfy dresses to sleek coats, the elegant yet simple design of Thought clothing will add instant sophistication to your style. The strong Code of Conduct (with a commitment to paying a living wage), membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), and use of natural and sustainable fabrics mean you’re buying style with substance.
It’s not the cheapest on the list, but you’ll easily find tops under £50 and dresses under £100. Head on over to the sale section and you can even snag a bargain!
Why to buy: to update your wardrobe with sleek, stylish, and timeless everyday pieces.
People Tree calls itself a Fair Trade fashion pioneer, and it’s certainly been a staple of the affordable ethical fashion world since it came to life in 1991. Products marked with the Fair Trade certification mean they have been produced in this way across the entire supply chain – no easy feat for clothing these days! People Tree is also the first fashion company to receive the World Fair Trade Organisation label and gained Soil Association certification in 2006.
Not only is it an ethical pioneer, it’s also a great go-to for the latest styles. People Tree’s gorgeous V&A collection was a real standout, with prints that wowed. The stunning fabrics, flattering silhouettes, and trendy styles mean People Tree continues to be a leader in the ethical fashion world.
Why to buy: for beautiful prints and classic appeal that will last.
Top tip: looking for a little something for the sunshine? Check out my post The BEST Ethical Sunglasses in the UK!
Since 1988, Komodo has been bringing stunning ethical fashion designs to our closets. The company has a strong Code of Conduct that lays out strict living wage, health and safety, labour rights, and hygiene policies. Most of the factories Komodo employs have SA8000 and GOTS certification or are audited by bodies like UL. Furthermore, all products are produced using sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, recycled PET, and bamboo.
Not only is Komodo ethical fashion, it’s also fashionably ethical. Classic cuts and fabrics make for perfect wardrobe staples. In fact, if you’re looking to build an ethical capsule wardrobe make sure you check out Komodo! Again, not the cheapest, but you’ll be investing in high quality, sustainable, and long-lasting products that can be mixed and matched in a myriad of ways to keep your look fresh with just a few key items.
Why to buy: high-quality wardrobe staples that have staying power, both in terms of style and sustainability.
Surf’s up at Rapanui, a laidback shop that takes ethics and sustainability seriously. Products are made using GOTS certified organic cotton in SA8000 certified factories powered by renewable energy. Fun fact – everything is made in a circular fashion (pun intended!), too. Working with Teemill, Rapanui recycles worn out goods, with every item intended to be sent back and made into new materials when you’ve finished using it.
Rapanui’s style is cool and casual, offering options for men and women (though of course, anyone can wear anything they love!). A great choice for wardrobe basics, you can even buy in bundles to really make the most of affordable ethical fashion.
Why to buy: cool, calm, collected clothes for everyone, everyday.
Know the Origin
For stylish, simple, yet super cool affordable ethical clothing, you’ll want to head to Know the Origin. Made in fair and safe working conditions with equality, freedom of association, and payment of a living wage underpinning the garments, you’ll know you’ll be doing good while looking good. You’ll also be wearing sustainable fabrics, such as modal and organic cotton.
It can be tricky to find sexy and contemporary cuts when shopping affordable ethical fashion, but KTO is a game changer in this regard. Slinky tanks and dresses are sold next to bang-on-trend crop tops, meaning you can update your wardrobe while staying sustainable. And the simple colours mean your purchases will never go out of style.
Why to buy: updated classics that will quickly become wardrobe staples.
Finisterre is another affordable ethical clothing brand born out of the surfing industry. The company prioritises sustainability, working to select the most sustainable materials and methods possible. And Finisterre follows through – the company recently fulfilled its commitment to only use organic cotton by 2020. You’ll similarly find a strong commitment to transparency on Finisterre’s website, where you can browse all of the factories the company uses.
The style of Finisterre is casual, comfortable, everyday ethical clothes. You’ll find t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, and jumpers all perfect for lounging at home or enjoying a busy day in the outdoors. While t-shirts will cost you £30, there’s always sales to be had. And you’re investing in items that will last.
Why to buy: kick back in casual attire that protects the earth and the people on it.
Small and focussed is how Vildnis keeps its supply chains fair and transparent. Working with just two factories, Vildnis ensures personal relationships with the factory owners and closely follows working conditions. Their factory in Portugal is ETI certified and the Indian factory is SA8000 certified, in addition to commitments to sustainable and eco-friendly production. Vildnis also uses only the highest ranked fibres as set by the MADE-BY benchmark, meaning not only are people treated well, but the planet is too.
Workwear and day-to-night pieces are what you’ll find at Vildnis. The style is sophisticated yet casual, ready to wear no matter where you’re headed. I particularly love the dresses (included this gorgeous blue number!), which are going on my wish list.
Why to buy: stylish pieces that will form the cornerstone of your wardrobe.
Check out my post 7 Great Ethical and Sustainable Brands on ASOS
Lucy and Yak
I love Lucy and Yak, a small, family-run business working to make everyone on the supply and demand side of fashion happy. What could be better than enjoying clothes that have been created by happy people? To achieve this, Lucy and Yak works with just one factory in India, profiling all of the tailors on their website (and emphasising that they are paid four times the minimum wage!). They also list their suppliers and work with almost 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. Check out their strong code of ethics to learn more about their commitment to ethical fashion.
In addition to great values, Lucy and Yak has great style. You’ll find fun, funky, colourful tops, trousers, and even dungarees! So you’ll definitely be able to find standout items in the shop. And is any closet really complete without a bubblegum pink boiler suit?
Why to buy: fun and unique items that care for people and planet.
The team behind Nomads are committed to ethical and sustainable products in every part of their business. Their suppliers are certified for social and ethical audits and a code of conduct, and most have SEDEX certification. They pay producers in advance and are committed to payment at or above minimum wage. Nomads work with organic cotton and other natural fibres, in keeping with their slow fashion philosophy.
The Nomads style is a bit more mature, with simple silhouettes in unique prints. You’ll find a great range of tunics, trousers, and tops that tick all the boxes, especially if you enjoy a more modest look.
Why to buy: natural fibres, fair production, and a final product that’s a bit more grown up.
Behind Zola Amour you’ll find a mother-daughter team committed to ending fast fashion. Each item is designed and handmade in the UK, with a made-to-order approach that cuts down on waste. With a commitment to transparency in their supply chain, Zola Amour shares details of suppliers on their website.
Simple, timeless pieces are what you’ll find at Zola Amour. These are items that should be the very cornerstone of your closet – not least because they’ll fit you like a glove! While you’ll be investing a bit more in your shirt dress, top, or trousers, you also have the opportunity to ensure its tailor made to your size. This means you can wear it all the time, reducing your cost per use.
Why to buy: to support a mother-daughter team creating perfect fitting staples you’ll want to wear everyday.
Looking for cool and ethical menswear? Then Absolutely Bear is a solid option. The company uses natural fibres to create its products, including 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and, where necessary, recycled polyester. Their fabrics are also certified against the use of harmful chemicals and vegan. And with a Fair Wear Foundation certification, you know that Absolutely Bear cares for people as well as planet.
While the company makes menswear, you’ll find classy polos, hoodies, sweaters, and t-shirts that suit everyone. The sweaters in particular are pretty affordable (at £65, roughly what you’d expect to pay for quality standard jumpers) yet stylish, classic, and made with care. A great all-round option, with the goal of connecting urban cool with natural products.
Why to buy: stylish menswear that suits everyone for every occasion.
When it comes to building an ethical wardrobe, it’s easy to start with the basics. And Organic Basics – as the name suggests! – is a great option. The brand is open and transparent about its factories, listing them all on their website with details of employee benefits, certificates, and more. And Organic Basics uses GOTS certified cotton and other sustainable materials to make their clothes, too. It even uses a low impact website!
Whether it’s underwear, socks, tights, tees, sweaters, for men, for women, for everyone – you’ll find all the foundations at Organic Basics. The items are built to last and you can buy in bundles to save some cash.
Why to buy: affordable ethical clothing to build up your collection.
Top tip: Looking for an outfit for a fancy dress party? Check out my post Sustainable Halloween Costume: Ideas and Inspiration
Online affordable ethical clothing retailers
If you’re looking for more than one type of item – or items from more than one shop – it might help to head over to an online affordable ethical clothing retailer. Here are just a few of my favourites:
- Ethical Superstore: Great for more than just clothes, as you’ll find toys, gifts, home, and health products here, too. Save on shipping by buying all of your products in one easy shop.
- Ethical Shop: Another one stop shop for ethical items, including books, music, and food. Make sure to keep this on your list for holiday gift giving!
- Know the Origin: Know the Origin isn’t just a great brand – it’s also a site where you can shop lots of different affordable ethical clothing brands. You can shop by standards, so no matter what your priority – people, planet, positivity, or all of the above – you can find the perfect items for you.
Other great options for affordable ethical clothing
It’s definitely not in everyone’s budget (including mine!) to buy from an ethical fashion outlet every time you need a new piece of clothing. No matter how affordable, if it’s been a tight month, or even a tight year, it can be a push to find upwards of £100 for a dress.
But don’t worry! Here are a few options to update your wardrobe when you’re feeling a little short on cash.
Online secondhand shops
Secondhand shopping online is a great place to start when updating your wardrobe. Here are a few of my favourite online charity shops:
- Ebay (some charities have official shops)
And here are some online secondhand shops to check out:
Top tip: check out my post how to make the most of online charity shops to find out how to do just that!
If there are items in your closet that you’re not quite sure of – or that don’t quite fit anymore – why not upcycle? There are YouTube tutorials galore on how to update your preloved items and give them a fresh look. Even if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can use a needle and thread, a pair of scissors, or even just a few safety pins to give your item a whole new life.
Clothing swaps are a brilliant way to update your wardrobe for next to, if not, nothing. Whether its with friends or with the community, get together a group and swap your preloved items for something that’s new to you.
Top tip: My post All you need for the perfect clothes swap – a how-to guide covers everything you need to know about clothing swaps!
Now it’s time to get shopping! But only if you need to – remember that reduce, reuse, recycle is a hierarchy. The most ethical option is always to reduce your use, wearing the items you already have.
When you do need a new item, however, make sure to check out these sites for affordable ethical clothing. Your wallet, your wardrobe, and the planet will thank you.