Affordable Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Under $50
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 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/or 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. While some brands offer higher priced goods in addition to their more affordable options, some have good sales. This post contains affiliate links.
Sustainable Brands Under $50
With a focus on fair labor and flourishing for its artisan partners, Krochet Kids makes clothing and accessories for adults and children.
Krochet Kids’ sister company, Known Supply specializes in affordable cotton basics and more on-trend separates.
Using a manufacturer-to-consumer model, Quince offers a curated selection of luxury basics, like cashmere sweaters, at a more digestible price point.
With a focus on lounge, athletic, and casual wear, Soul Flower offers ethically made, organic clothing.
Black-owned with a focus on trend-forward clothing, accessories, and home goods, EcoVibe is focused on more sustainable, ethical, and vegan options.
Elegantees has a transparent social enterprise model benefiting primarily women in garment centers like Nepal. They make a nice range of updated tops, dresses, and more.
With a focus on fair labor, representation, and zero waste practices, Tonle’s items are wearable and extremely cool.
This Australia-based brand offers simple, sustainable goods that pair well with anything.
With pieces that suit a variety of aesthetics, Thought is ethically produced and made with organic, natural, and biodegradable fibers.
TOMS used to be on my do-not-buy list because their one-for-one model was possibly doing more harm than good. Now they have a simple charity program that accompanies the sale of each product, and they also use more sustainable fibers.
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Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.