No one loves finding deals as much as I do, but sadly, many of the brands that make the cheap threads I grew up on have some unethical business practices that have become harder for me to ignore. Fortunately, my measly clothing budget doesn't mean I can't afford to shop smart — there are ethical fashion brands that are stylish and affordable. It costs money to make cute clothes happen, and while a pair of $20 boots will have you walking around with extra cash in your pocket, they could have come at the cost of underpaid workers and unsafe factory conditions.
There is no legal or regulatory definition of the term ethical fashion, but The Ethical Fashion Forum describes it as "an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment." Ethical fashion and sustainable fashion often overlap, but ethical fashion keeps social responsibility in mind just as much as environmental impact.
Up until recently, trying to keep an ethical closet only allowed me to shop second-hand. Don't get me wrong, I love to thrift, but thrifting can be a time-consuming task and doesn't always mean I'm getting the best deals (especially here in NYC). That's why I hooked up with Rachel Kibbe, founder of Helpsy, an online store for the fashionably conscious, to find 11 places you can find eco-fashion brands that are affordable and cool.
1. Dolores Haze
Marsha Crop Top, $72, Marsha Mini Skirt, $87, Doloreshaze.com
In the past, I've searched endlessly for witchy eco-fashion that was as affordable as it was awesome and I was saddened by my results. Fortunately, founder and lead designer of ethical fashion brand Dolores Haze, Samantha Giordano, has the sense of style I crave. With an undercurrent of darkness and femininity, Giordano has brought the literary character Dolores Haze to life in her line of eco-friendly clothing, much of which is under $100.
2. Azura Bay
Organic Cotton Everyday Long Leggings, $42, azurabay.com
If you're looking for smart intimates and loungewear with an affordable price tag, Azura Bay is a great place to start. The site stocks eco-friendly brands, thanks to founder Ashley McIntosh. You can start building a supply of loungewear you can feel good about on those lazy days.
Double Iris Dress, $90, perithelabel.com
Comfortable clothes that you can wear anywhere is what I'm about, especially when they come with a reasonable price tag. Peri works with fair trade contractors in the Fashion District of LA, using local dye houses that work with hand dye fabrics with low impact dyes. Perusing through the site you'll definitely find there may be a dress for everyone and the majority are under $100.
4. Passion Lilie
Aqua Blue Poncho, $54, passionlilie.com
This fair trade, eco-friendly clothing line channels vintage and retro vibes for an affordable price tag. Passion Lillie's mission is to empower artisans across internationally with dignified employment opportunities and sustainable techniques that lead to a better world.
5. White Rabbit
The Prince Underwear, $16, whiterabbitnyc.com
Another go-to source for affordable and socially responsible intimates, White Rabbit's line of bras and undies are made in Mexico City by fair-waged female seamstresses. Based in NYC, Mariana Hernandez and her husband/business partner are committed to giving back to the duo's native Mexico: A percentage of every purchase goes to Fabrica Social, a Mexico City-based venture that promotes sustainable development within rural communities of female artisans. Personally, I've found these undies are right on par with Hanky Panky in terms of comfort and durability.
Made in NYC, In God We Trust ensures that all design and manufacturing of accessories and clothing are made in the United States. According to their website, jewelry is made in a local workspace in Brooklyn while the clothing is either made in the same studio or in the NY fashion district. The sale section offers a plethora of affordable, stylish threads.
7. Krochet Kids
Primrose, $50, krochetkids.org
Not just for kids, this ethically-conscious clothing brand has affordable styles for adults as well. According to KK's website, the three pals behind Krochet Kids teach people in developing countries how to crochet as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty.
8. Swallow Clothing Co.
Single Bamboo Sunglasses, $45, swallowclothingco.bigcartel.com
Sustainable frames to protect your eyes from the sun and your heart from guilt? Yes, please. Swallow offers a collection of apparel and some seriously stylish shades made with bamboo and unique wood grain, making no two pairs of shade exactly the same. Eco-friendly and cool all in one pair of frames.
9. Tidal Vision
Clutch — Alaska Salmon Leather, $190, store.tidalvisionusa.com
In the spring of 2015, Tidal Vision launched the ultimate sustainable accessories line, opening our minds to a new kind of leather that was both innovative and environmentally friendly. Made from salmon, these leather accessories are more affordable than their cow-based counterparts, but look just as chic. Tidal Vision takes the leftovers from the fishing industry that would otherwise be waste and turns them into leather goods.
10. GAIA For Women
Tribe, $48, gaiaforwomen. com
Another great place for eco-fashionable accessories is GAIA for Women. Each item is handmade by refugee women rebuilding their lives in the United States, the company provides living wage employment for their workers as well as statement pieces for under $100.
Pony Oxfords With Clear Chunky Soles, $96, helpsy.com
Helpsy is one of my go-to's for all types of eco-fashion: Accessories, dresses, funky tee's for under $100 can all be found on Rachel Kibbe's e-commerce site that carries a variety of local, handmade, and sustainable pieces. It's a sweet deal all around.
Image: Courtesy Brands