Where to shop for Sustainable Fashion on the High Street

You might remember back in October I wrote about Fast Fashion and its effects as one of the largest polluters to the planet, only second to the oil industry.  I also wrote about my desire to make some changes to my own shopping and lifestyle habits to reduce my consumption and also my use of Fast Fashion products, so 3 months on it’s time for a little update…

Initially, I got so wrapped up in the research and I found that the more information I uncovered, the more I made myself feel guilty for pretty much everything I bought or used and it really put me off buying any clothes. I also found that buying Winter fashion made being sustainable and environmentally friendly particularly hard. I tried to stay away from fibres I knew were quite damaging to both myself and the environment, but it felt like everywhere I looked, stores were stocking up with acrylic and polyester jumpers and unfortunately a wardrobe full of cashmere and merino wool knits was way out of my price range, so back to the drawing board I went.

Fast forward a couple of months and I’m currently trying to take things one step at a time, rather than going all in and completely banning myself from buying certain fabrics or only allowing myself to shop at specific retailers. I definitely need to continue my research to gain more knowledge and truly find out what options are out there, which is going to be a long road but I’m sure it will be worth it in the end.

The Basics
Fabric seems to be the best and most logical place to start, so from what I’ve found so far in regards to organic and sustainable fabrics or fibres, ‘Tencel’ seems to be one of the most frequently used. Tencel (the brand name), more commonly known as Lyocell is a fibre, made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees, grown in forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This means that the forests don’t negatively impact the environment and in addition to this, all the chemicals used within products are non-toxic.

Other options I’ve seen widely used are organic cotton and organic wool, as well as lots of different recycled fabrics. They each have their own level of ‘sustainability’ shall we say, some better than others of course but even the smallest difference can have a big impact for the future.

As mentioned above, I’ve tried to limit the amount of acrylic knitwear I’ve bought over the Winter, as this is not only damaging to the environment when manufactured, but it actually sheds plastic fibres when washed and can also contribute to health complications due to the toxins it holds. When shopping on a budget, it’s not always possible to cut out every form of these fabrics however I’ve made a conscious effort to read more clothes labels and shop more sustainably where I can.

Where to shop
When I think sustainable fashion, my mind immediately diverts to luxury fashion and expensive items which would be way out of my price range. Naturally, due to the more complicated manufacturing process and the sourcing of lesser used fibres, retailers need to charge more as it will cost them more to produce the items. Victoria McGrath (InTheFrow) recently posted a YouTube video and blog featuring some stunning items including a Stella McCartney coat, which is now firmly on my wishlist. I would definitely recommend taking a look at those if you’re leaning more towards the luxury side of sustainable fashion. However, recently I’ve started to find more and more sustainable and environmentally friendly items and collections on the high street so I wanted to share with you what I found.

As part of its sustainability strategy, H&M offers an in-store recycling service in exchange for a £5 voucher in order to reduce the number of textile items going into landfill each year. They have provided garment collection boxes in each of their stores, where you can drop off textiles and clothing, from any brand, no matter their condition, at which point you’ll receive a £5 voucher to use against new purchases. The garments will then be passed on to a 3rd party to continue their recycling journey and are split into three different categories; Rewear, Reuse and Recycle.

Although I think it’s a great initiative, I’m not 100% sold on the £5 reward voucher as to me, this actively encourages the consumer to then buy even more, when ideally we should be encouraged to buy less however, it is an interesting concept and is definitely a step in the right direction. If you’re interested in reading more about H&M’s sustainability strategy click here.

H&M also has a fantastic sustainable collection of clothing called H&M Conscious Exclusive. It’s a collection which makes use of sustainable fabrics and materials as well as recycled products with a huge focus on the development and technology behind each of the pieces. The current collection holds more than 200 items, so I’ve popped a few of my favourites below for you to shop – the burnt orange midi skirt is one of my absolute faves.

HM SkirtH&M Midi Skirt £34.99

HM DressH&M Shirt Dress £39.99

HM Jeans.jpgH&M Mom Jeans £24.99

When researching my favourite high street stores, I found that Zara uses Tencel a lot in their ‘Join Life‘ collection, which stocks basic t-shirts at £5.99 and coats at £69.99. As mentioned above, Tencel is a great alternative to other man-made fibres so it’s nice to see a high street store utilising it at such an affordable price and also makes me wonder why other stores aren’t able to follow suit. Their Join Life collection is part of Zaras’ commitment to becoming more environmentally conscious and their website states; “WE ARE WORKING TO ENSURE THAT ALL OUR PRODUCTS ARE SUSTAINABLE IN ALL ASPECTS, FROM RAW MATERIALS TO THE DESIGN AND PRODUCTION PROCESS.”

Zara also offers a garment recycling service, however, this is only in selected stores so head over to the website to find your nearest one. If you’re lucky enough to live in Spain, you can even request a courier collection of your unwanted goods when placing an order online!

Here are some pieces from Zara’s Join Life collection…

Zara Tshirt.jpgZara basic T-Shirt £5.99

Zara TrousersZara wide-cut Trousers £29.99

Zara JacketZara cropped Jacket £29.99

Mango’s sustainable offering is a capsule collection called ‘Committed’ and it boasts some gorgeous pieces made from recycled and biodegradable fabric. The price point is around the same as the standard collection which is another win for high street fashion sustainability.

Mango’s aim is that over 50% of the cotton used across all of its collections, will come from sustainable sources by 2022, and this is part of their Take Action initiative.

Mango JeansMango slim mom Jeans £49.99

Mango JacketMango organic linen Jacket £89.99

Mango dressMango wrap back dress £49.99

ASOS Eco Edit
Something I’ve only very recently discovered is ASOS Eco, which is an edit of ‘sustainable’ brands sold on ASOS. The brands featured are not all 100% sustainable however they do need to adhere to at least one of the below guidelines set out by ASOS, for example;
-Lower environmental impacts
-Recycled/upcycled materials

Although it’s a step in the right direction, the edit is not as clear cut as other brands sustainable collections and I believe you will still have to do a lot of digging to find out exactly how sustainable each individual product is before you buy.
Check out the ASOS Eco Edit here.

So that’s a round up of my favourite high street retailers currently championing the move towards more sustainable fashion. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress and how I get on shopping more sustainably and I’m also planning on switching up my beauty and skincare routine in order to be a bit more environmentally friendly, so look out for a blog post on that coming up soon!

Please let me know of any other sustainable high street fashion retailers or collections that you love as I’m always looking for more inspiration.

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