On-Trend Sustainable Fashion That Doesn't Break the Bank? Yes, It Exists!

Bianca Piazza - Author

Nov. 28 2023, Published 2:25 p.m. ET

Photo of two women standing in a field wearing Organic Basics clothing
Source: organicbasics/Instagram

Hundreds of articles on sustainable fashion dot the internet, earnestly encouraging consumers to buy from ethical and eco-friendly brands. Educating wide-eyed readers on the human rights violations and environmental evils associated with fast fashion (annually, the industry is responsible for an estimated 10 percent of global carbon emissions and drinks up about 93 billion cubic meters of water), as well as the trend-setting designers that are stepping up to make a difference, these pieces mean well. Heck, we have written plenty of them.

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But the average person may not be able to afford a $60 plain white tee. Or maybe they simply don't want to spend that kind of money when a $20 basic tee will get the job done. You can even purchase a discounted fitted PWT from a certain Swedish fast fashion giant for just $5.60.

We know you work hard for your dough, and budgeting queens deserve to look cute while protecting the planet. The climate crisis is real, but so are your bills. Though shopping secondhand will always be the most eco-conscious choice, we've compiled a list of affordable and sustainable fashion brands to check out when you want to treat yo' self and modernize your wardrobe.

Photo of two women in We Are HAH satin pajamas in front of a black background
Source: we_are_hah/Instagram

Organic Basics

Offering essential clothing "made ethically for all on Earth," Copenhagen-based Organic Basics knows the oxymoron that is the term "sustainable brand."

"Producing things means contributing to a system that is already overflowing with newness," the website reads. "But finding certain things like underwear secondhand might not be optimal."

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Because of this, Organic Basics uses durable, "recycled, recyclable, plant-based, and organic materials," and makes clothing that stands for inclusivity — in terms of sizing, design, and pricing. Additionally, Organic Basics offsets carbon emissions and partners with ethical factories around the world.

In partnership with Beam Impact, Organic Basics donates 1 percent of a customer's order value to a charity of their choice. Purchasing that adorable True Knit Sleeveless Turtleneck may actually do some good.

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We Are HAH

Founded in West Hollywood, We Are HAH believes respecting the planet is inherently sexy, and its lacy, strappy selection reflects that.

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The company invests in eco-friendly digital printing (which creates less waste, uses 95 percent less water than traditional printing methods, and minimizes the use of "toxic dyestuff"), co-launched its innovative and long-lasting EFL fabric (which features 30 percent "renewably sourced ingredients," uses 25 percent less energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 51 percent) with a manufacturer in Sri Lanka, uses 100 percent biodegradable poly bags, and is transparent about where and how its products are made.

Plus, the brand donates to different organizations for every order placed.

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With a mission to revitalize and modernize the Cambodian and global garment industry, Dorsu follows a unique design approach with three core principles: "ease of wear, longevity of quality, intelligent use of resources."

Interestingly, the brand designs and ethically produces onsite, typically releasing small batches of three to four versatile and "intentional pieces" at a time.

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Utilizing cotton jersey and deadstock materials from Cambodia’s garment manufacturing industry, low-waste practices are at the forefront of the slow fashion basics brand. Additionally, Dorsu burn-tests its fabrics, ensuring they have "very little or no synthetic fibers."

Dorsu is proud to be one of the country's only "locally-owned and privately-held garment manufacturers," even boasting a management team that is 80 percent Khmer and 80 percent women.

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In need of some cozy outerwear? Purchase a coat and plant a tree!

According to Tentree's website, the Certified B Corporation plants 10 trees for every item purchased "in an effort to regenerate ecosystems, capture carbon, and provide planting jobs in communities around the world." The charitable loungewear and outerwear brand has planted over 100 million trees and helped fund the Sarobidy Maternity Center in Madagascar.

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With an "Earth-First approach," Tentree also offsets emissions, sends out recyclable and biodegradable mailers (no single-use plastics!), uses responsible vegan materials (like organic cotton, hemp, coconut, recycled polyester, and TENCEL lyocell), and is upfront about its ethical manufacturing practices.

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Fair Anita

Proudly named after an inspirational social worker in Chimbote, Peru, ethical jewelry and accessories brand Fair Anita prioritizes woman artisan well-being and financial security — ensuring that its global artisan partners (many of whom are abuse survivors) make "a living wage that is two to four times the minimum wage plus health insurance and educational scholarships."

Fair Anita admittedly doesn't provide a concrete number, but relayed that "a majority of [its] products are made from recycled materials, like recycled metal, upcycled leather, or factory seconds."

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In a continued effort to do good, Fair Anita funds tree-planting initiatives and works with the Fair Trade Federation's JEDI (Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion) Committee to tackle the fair trade "whiteness problem" and initiate antiracism conversations.

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