5 Tips For Shopping Sustainably in Mainstream Fashion

Kate Hall

Ethical fashion can be overwhelming.

I remember when I first discovered the severity of fast fashion; I felt bombarded with information and options, yet at a loss for how to begin.

Sticking to mainstream fashion, with a sustainable twist, isn’t ideal. But, when done right, it can push the fashion industry in the right direction. And let’s face it… sometimes you just want to go shopping with your girlfriends!

Whether you’re beginning your ethical fashion journey, or simply can’t find an ethical alternative, I’ve come up with five tricks to shopping sustainably in mainstream fashion.

shopping sustainably

1. The Good On You App

The ethical fashion app we’d all been waiting for was launched in March 2017. The Good On You app is offered for free worldwide; so there’s no excuses. This app rates any brand based on information that is publically available. This includes summaries of certifications, rankings, and information published by the brands themselves, the media, and NGOs. The app is super accessible. Simply type in the brand name, and read the ratings labelled ‘labor, environment, and animal’ to make a more informed decision on your purchase.

2. Do your research

With so many brands out there, it’s near impossible for The Good On You app to rate them all. If you can’t find the brand in the app, get stuck into your own research. Visit the brand’s website, and click the ‘about’ page. Sometimes brands talk about their manufacturing, materials, or production details here. When they don’t mention these at all, your alarm bells should go off. If a brand doesn’t share even a glimpse of how their products are made, they probably don’t have a clue themselves. Most likely, they opt for the cheapest supplier, whilst turning a blind eye. This isn’t always the case, but researching the brand helps to rule out those who care and those who don’t.

3. Visit, revisit, and revisit again

Sustainable fashion doesn’t just embody how a product is made, it describes the ideology behind how you shop too. Wearing something over and over again is the most sustainable way of shopping. To make sure this will happen, don’t buy anything after seeing it once. Visit the garment again a week later, then for a third time. If you’re still convinced that it will work with your wardrobe and you’ll wear it more than 30 times, buy it!

sustainable fashion

4. Know what you want

Shopping without a purpose, is a recipe for disaster. Before you shop, make a list of the things you need, and their specifications. Don’t just write down ‘black jacket’, but detail how long you want the sleeves, or if you want a zip or buttons. Doing this means you’ll reduce the risk of settling for second best. Second best means the black jacket will collect dust in your closet, and find itself in landfill after only a couple of wears.

5. Talk to the shop keeper

The young female attendants at Dotti probably won’t have a clue what you’re talking about when you ask how and where the garment was made. Yet, instigating the conversation, and making them aware of ethical fashion, is a huge game changer. You never know if they’ll talk to their managers about “that crazy lady who came in asking who made the dresses”. Showing demand for ethical fashion in the mainstream space, is where we’ll make change.

A few months ago, I used all these tactics (apart from number three as we didn’t have time) on a swimsuit shopping trip for my mum. Armed with the Good On You app, and after a serious talk about our intentions with the shop keeper, Mum ended up with two swimming suits, (rated ‘good’ on the Good On You app) she’ll wear for many years. I ended up with a fellow ethical fashion activist after converting the shop keeper!

When you plan your next shopping trip, take these tips with you. Use the app, do your research, revisit the item, know what you want, and don’t be afraid to chat to the shop keeper. Creating demand for ethically made garments is important, but implementing these strategies in mainstream fashion makes a big difference too.

Happy Shopping!

Kate Hall

I live and breathe sustainable living and ethical fashion. This alternative way of consuming and existing dominates my every waking moment- and sometimes more. Ethical fashion and living are no longer my hobbies, it has become my mission... to change the future of fast fashion and the way we consume. My husband and I strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle, live at thrift stores, and always look to 'up-cycle' rather than throw out. Eco-living is not a choice for me, it's in my blood, and I am trying with all my power for it to be the new 'norm'.