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Image / Fashion

Here’s where to shop ethically on the high-street


by Niamh ODonoghue
23rd Apr 2018
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It takes about 2,700 litres of water to make just one T-shirt. When was the last time you bought a piece of clothing that was made from biodegradable materials, used less water, wasn’t made from underpaid labour, or didn’t use harmful chemicals? It could be argued that a lack of variety and product readily available, as well as higher costs, deter people from buying ethically. But many of our high-street favourites are now producing pieces that withstand the test of ‘fashion-fashion’ and are kind to the environment.

Right now, we’re witnessing a shift in the way our clothes are produced. Brands are becoming more conscious about minimising the damage done to our planet. Some are choosing to produce garments using recyclable materials, some are going fur-free and some are changing their entire business models to ensure the clothing industry starts saving the planet, instead of harming it.

There’s still some disparity about what ethical fashion means and how consumers can tell if their purchase is actually ‘green’. Some retailers will display ethical information or marks of sustainability on their clothing tags. It’s entirely up to the brand on how transparent they choose to be. So, while they might have impressive charts on their website about ethical processes, your jeans could, in fact, be made by tiny, tiny hands. It’s worth taking 15 minutes to find accurate information about where your fast-fashion originates from.

If you’re the type of responsible consumer who wants to make a change regarding where your money ends up, then this index of our favourite high-street conscious collections will be your cup of evening tea. It’s thought that the entire retail industry will be in jeopardy by 2030 because of a lack of natural resources and with yesterday being Earth Day, there’s no time like the present to start saving the world. Brands like these are helping to shape the narrative that eco-friendly is not just for hippies or women who wear casual clothes: it’s for everyone, so let’s be a part of the story. Not all heroes wear capes, but they might wear conscious fashion…

Mango Committed Collection

Chest-pocket soft shirt, €57.08 at mango.com

Bow soft dress, €91.34 at mango.com

In February, high-street favourite Mango became the latest retailer to make sustainability a major part of its ethos by launching a 45-piece eco-friendly collection (25 women’s pieces and 20 men’s pieces). Though the collection has been in the pipeline for a long time, the brand wanted to the time to source the right materials suited for the brands vision. Manufactured in factories in Portugal, Turkey and Morocco, the entire collection has been made with environmentally friendly organic and recycled cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel (Tencel uses 80% less water to produce than cotton and is certified by the European eco-label Oeko Tex 100 as containing low levels of manufacturing chemicals and byproducts ). The pieces have been dyed with environmentally friendly inks and come with individual international certificates “guaranteeing their sustainable origin”, according to communications director Guillermo Corominas in a recent interview. The collection itself is neutral, elegant, feminine and pocket-friendly; with almost all conscious pieces priced under €100.

Zara’s Join Life collection

Printed T-shirt with belt, €17.95 at zara.com

Shirt-style jumpsuit, €39.95 at zara.com

The Join Life collection launched in 2015 and is, according to the brand, “a selection of the best sustainable raw materials and process that help take care of the environment”. Zara’s Join Life pieces are made from organic cotton, recycled wool and Tencel (Tencel, or lyocell, is a fabric made from wood cellulose sourced from certified socially and environmentally responsible forests). The collection is characterised by rich colours and uncomplicated design: how stunning is this red and white T-shirt with the contrasting belt?

ICYMI: Summer’s coming. Here are five sustainable and eco-friendly swimwear brands to make a splash in

H&M’s Conscious Collection

Short lyocell-blend dress, €91.34 at hm.com

Conscious satin mules, €79.92 at hm.com

Arguably, H&M was the first high-street retail giant to change its business model and become more conscious about ethical clothing manufacturing.  Established in 2011, the H&M Conscious Collection employs organic cotton, Tencel and recycled polyester as materials and has developed and matured in the six years since its fruition. This year the brand made an even bigger commitment to the cause by combining the latest in sustainable fabric innovation –recycled silver and Econyl – with designs inspired by Swedish artists Karin and Carl Larsson. A standout feature of this collection is the modern, feminine and beautifully crafted design that’s in-line with women who want something more than casual, everyday wear. I love the pattern and fit the short lyocell-blend dress, above, that can easily translate from workwear (add a blazer) to dinner party (ditch the blazer, add some bling).

We will keep adding to this list as brands continue to change how they produce garments. Did we miss one? Email [email protected]

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