Ethical fashion, it should be said, isn’t ultimately about the best way to make cheap clothing with relatively responsible, humane working conditions. In the long run, it’s about psychologically and financially reorienting social structures to create slower paced, less resource intensive, less mentally taxing consumerism.
That being said, it is very easy for those of us working in the ethical fashion industry, especially those of us who “influence,” to lose some perspective on what constitutes affordability for people who, either do to chronic income limitations or culturally ingrained ideas about “fair” price points (I fell into both categories), have difficulty with initial buy-in. In reality, the number one way to be an “ethical consumer” is to simply stop shopping so much. But that is tied up in a lot of personal needs and decisions, and I’m not here to tell you what’s best for you and your loved ones.
While I’ve finally gotten to a point of knowing what suits me on the ethical market well enough to “splurge” on items that cost over $100, it took a very long time to feel comfortable doing so, and to reorient my budget enough to be able to. So today I’m sharing 11 brands and businesses that routinely carry responsibly, ethically made clothing that costs less than $50. You may not be able to fill out your whole wardrobe with these items, but you can at least rely on them for building blocks.
There has been a real sea change in the way ethical influencers approach consumerism in the last year, as more and more of us, particularly those of us with white and historic financial privilege, have been forced to confront entrenched, systemic and policy-driven issues that create massive access and income inequality. There is no doubt that real change occurs at the policy level driven by better coalition building at the individual and community level, but I continue to believe that small changes do something, even if the sum of those changes is more about fostering a change of heart. Changed hearts are the key to sustaining equitable societies!
Companies/items were chosen based on their commitment to fair and improving labor conditions and use of natural and/or organic fibers. This post contains affiliate links.
11 Ethical & Sustainable Fashion Companies With Items Under $5