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Ethical shopping - fashion with a heart

Where to buy your clothes with a good conscience

Author: Doreen Corbey January 3 2010

The Earth in a supermarket trolley

Whether shopping is an experience you relish and savour or an unavoidable necessity, we’re spoilt for choice at all levels. In the UK, we are presented with the supermarket giants who wash and chop our vegetables for us and charge a premium, while also selling us their own cheap and basic ranges. There are the high street quality clothing stores sitting next to the pound shops, Primarks and the like.

But while we’re grabbing our bargains and searching for ever-lower prices, it is so easy to not think about the little man, the end supplier, to not wonder how do they do it for so little? Primark has been criticized for using cheap labour, even child labour and, along with Tesco and Asda in 2007/8 was named as the 3 least ethical clothing retailers in Britain by No Sweat, an organisation that names companies and brands that do not treat their suppliers or workers fairly. In this conflict of credit crunching and throw-away culture, we want value for money and quantity over quality. But cheap is not always value, especially if someone at one end of the line is suffering for it.

What is Ethical Shopping?

Shopping ethically is not necessarily about striving to be organic. It can also mean buying from a supply chain where all workers in the chain are treated fairly; it can mean using natural materials; conforming to vegetarian or vegan philosophies; being charitable with money; transporting goods while emitting fewer carbon emissions. A Lot of Organics is a good starting point to search out what is on offer - my favourite page on the site is the list of clothing retailers. My favourites are:

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  • is best known for its fashion, but also sells houseware, beauty and jewellery. They have been working with communities in Rwanda, Colombia and Nepal.
  • is your green and ethical all-round grocer/department store.
  • have recently revamped their website and include, in addition to clothes, groceries, home and garden, electronics, stationery and office. They also sell my favourite brand of bath products by Faith In Nature.
  • is great for candles, chocolate and have the best selection of wedding favour boxes I’ve ever seen!
  • supply clothing made only from organic cotton at surprisingly affordable prices. If you have never tried organic cotton, do be tempted. You won’t regret it.
  • are “green living in style”. They have a Charity section where you can buy a goat for a family in the Sudan or seeds for Zambia. There’s also a very tempting Bargain Basement section.
  • are a London-based company whose clothing for the “stylish male” is made in UK from materials which are either organic, natural, or from sustainable or recycled sources.
  • is a London-based fashion designer with a boutique plus on-line shop who does “fashion with a conscience”. The clothes may look expensive but the prices are very affordable.
  • supply wool from organic sheep for the knitters and craft makers among you. Prices compare well to non-organic equivalents.
  • specialize in Yoga clothing.
  • one of my favourite sites is a British husband-and-wife team who support British designers and manufacturing. Their clothes are breathtakingly simple and elegant and again, affordable.
  • has a wonderful collection of products for bed and bath, baby and bamboo clothing.
  • also specialize in bamboo clothing and textiles.
  • one of my latest favourites do stylish and affordable clothing in bamboo, organic cotton and sustainable materials. Based in Dorset they are a husband-andwife team.
  • have the most beautiful collections of clothes which are made in Nepal. Their clothes are available on-line via other stockists but it’s worth perusing this site just to glimpse the quality and cut of their clothes. Breathtaking!
  • call themselves a “community driven clothing label motivated by the mountains and the snow sports lifestyle”. Profits are put back into their label and a percentage donated to an environmental fund.
  • do fair-trade fashion out of Farnham, Surrey for women, children and babies.
  • apart from clothing and cosmetics also do bedding, mattresses and duvets,
  • specialize in ethical handmade shawls and scarves, made from pure cashmere and nettle! Prices easily comparable to big commercial retailers.

I have only chosen some of my favourite sites but the list is by no means exhaustive. And don’t be put off by the words ‘ethical’ and ‘organic’ and think they equate to expensive - if bargains are still what you’re after, then almost all the online shops do have special offers and sales, usually at the same time as the high street retailers. Mind you, as the old quote has it: "A bargain is something you can't use at a price you can't resist."

Happy ethical shopping!

About the Author

Doreen has had a passion for massage since she was 15 years old. She still has that passion, and offers massage, specialist facials and other beauty treatments in her home-based salon in Surrey. With any energy left over she will devour all the beauty pages of all the magazines she can lay her hands on!

Doreen's homepage: Bellessence

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Posted on 06/01/10 16:17 by: Machja

If you are looking for other ethical clothing, check out organic cotton clothes by Machja. I can guarantee you the high quality of these eco-friendly products, since I work for this company :)

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