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Fast Fashion Exposed: Ethical & Affordable Alternatives For Trendsetters On A Budget

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

The delivery of a large box of trendy clothing can only be described as euphoric, especially when it doesn’t break the bank. I can personally attest to retail therapy as an excellent form of self-care, yet it is essential to remember that there is an ethical and unethical way to enjoy trendy pieces. Fast fashion retailers such as Zara, Amazon, and Shein have created a narrative that sustainability is unrealistically expensive, but this is not the truth. Luckily for us conscious fashionistas, here is a list of affordable and sustainable brands with pieces for all shapes, sizes, styles, and budgets.

1. Girlfriend Collective 

My Choice: The Dylan Tank Bra in Plum ($46)

Price Range: $6—$158 

The Girlfriend Collective is a trendy activewear brand whose items are made from recycled materials such as plastic water bottles, fabric scraps, and fishing nets. All products are ethical at the Girlfriend Collective, down to their 100% recyclable packaging. From scrunchies to leggings, the Girlfriend Collective focuses on self-love, sustainability, and appreciating every beautiful body. 

2. Yes Friends

My Choice: Fitted Micro Rib Organic Cotton T-Shirt in Off White ($20)

Price Range: $10—84

Yes Friends is an upcoming clothing line focused on sustainable basics. Yes Friends offers high-quality and ethical options using solar factories, organic cotton, recycled fabrics, and planet-friendly packaging. This brand is perfect for all your early morning classes, and coffee runs with friends. 

3. Everlane

My Choice: The Boxy Oxford in Black/White Stripe ($88)

Price Range: $18—$275

Everlane is the perfect ethical spot for every fashionista who loves classy and timeless pieces. Everlane is committed to creating lasting pieces, from Chelsea boots to high-quality denim. The stylish brand is also dedicated to reaching a goal of fifty-five percent lower carbon emissions per product and forty-six percent lower absolute emissions in their stores by 2030, making it an aesthetic and ethical choice. 

4. Frank + Oak 

My Choice: The Nina High Rise Wide Leg Jean in Medium Indigo ($149)

Price Range: $39.50—$216

Although Frank + Oak is a less affordable option for ethical fashion, it is the perfect place to splurge on outfits for your summer internship or first post-graduate job. Frank + Oak is a certified B Corp company dedicated to meeting the highest standard of environmental performance. All Frank + Oak products are made of one hundred percent eco-friendly materials, and the brand is guaranteed to have the perfect trendy pair of trousers, sweater vests, or button-downs for your next interview.


My Choice: Fisherman Knit Button-Front Cardigan in Mountain View Heather ($134)

Price Range: $18—$148

PACT is the perfect place for all lovers of comfortable sweaters and corduroy pants. Not only does PACT offer a variety of comfortable items, but they are also sustainability certified and partner with organizations such as Fair Trade USA, Global Organic Textile Standard, and SimpliZerio to ensure their products and processes are one hundred percent sustainable.

6. NA-KD

My Choice: The Ruffle Chiffon Tie Detail Midi Dress in Red ($74.95)

Price Range: $4—$285

Are you always scrambling for an outfit before your early morning class? NA-KD is the perfect spot for trendy, comfortable, and ethical clothing. From trench coats to going-out tops, all of NA-KD’s materials are sourced from raw material extraction, and the brand aims to reduce its absolute climate emissions by fifty percent by 2030. 

7. Mighty Good Basics

My Choice: 2023 Collection Tank in Bottle Brush Red ($38.95)

Price Range: $15—$38.95

Mighty Good Basics is an upcoming and ethical clothing brand that sources its products directly from organic and fair-trade cotton farmers. Their transparency statement shares that they are committed to making ethical underwear to protect the planet, people, and animals. Their items are perfect for those who love the minimalist aesthetic and want to be comfortable all day.

8. Ninety Percent

My Choice: The Iphis Top in Enoki Mushroom ($109.77)

Price Range: $48.33—$574

Ninety Percent is the perfect image of effortless and classy fashion. From asymmetrical dresses to flowy jumpsuits, Ninety Percent will have the ideal outfit for your next business dinner, helping you to leave a classy yet unique impression on all your admirers. Every item Ninety Percent produces is natural, renewable, and certified organic.

9. Reformation 

My Choice: The Melanie Top in Ivory ($148)

Price Range: $28—$1,595

Reformation is the newest “It Girl” of sustainable fashion. The fashion empire has the perfect piece for every night out on the town and soft loungewear set for the morning after. In addition, Reformation is committed to sustainability with a one hundred percent circularity commitment, making all its materials recyclable.

10. Honest Basics

My Choice: The One Shoulder Top in Black ($17)

Price Range: $6—$43

Honest Basics provides flawless options for any capsule wardrobe at a reasonable price. Honest Basics uses recycled cotton, sustainable material, ethical production, climate-neutral shipping, and other planet-friendly methods to benefit the planet and all its inhabitants.

11. ABLE

My Choice: The Merly Jacket in Original Wash ($165)

Price Range: $18—$398

The ABLE brand defines chic with an emphasis on wearable, comfortable clothes. With a large selection of high-quality denim and flowy linen dresses, ABLE has something trendy and sleek for everyone. Not only is the brand effortlessly stylish but it is committed to creating high-quality jobs for women in the fashion industry and keeping the earth healthy through eco-conscious material. 

12. Toad & Co

My Choice: The Cotati Dolman Sweater in Barley ($145)

Price Range: $35—$325

Toad & Co is the perfect choice for nature lovers and adventurers alike. The business offers everything you need for your next adventure, from warm parkas to Pointelle hoodies. Toad & Co is committed to preserving the environment using one-hundred percent sustainable eco materials and partnering with environmental allies such as the Los Padres Forest Watch, The Environmental Defense Center, The Conservation Alliance, and other trailblazing organizations.

In summary, ethical fashion is marketed as an inaccessible option, but fashion lovers no longer need to compromise their values for affordability. The brands above offer various styles and prices to accommodate every taste and budget. Purchasing these brands benefits our wardrobes and contributes to a more sustainable future within the fashion industry. It has officially come the time for fashion to meet conscious conscience, and these brands are the perfect place to start.

Charlotte F. Healy is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut and a double major in Human Rights and Journalism. Charlotte enjoys writing about current events, wellness, feminism, and sexual health. Charlotte is a member of Empowering Woman In Law, Uconn CHAARG, Students Helping Achieve Positive Esteem, and Revolution Against Rape. She also interned as a writer for the Dedham Times and as a press intern for the Brookline Police Department. Charlotte enjoys many hobbies in her free time such as poetry, hiking, yoga, coffee shops, and thrift shopping.