So here's the thing: I'm not going to be a hypocrite.
I've bought my fair share of animal-tested beauty products in the past. I look at leather and, even though I know where it comes from, I still like the material because it evokes that aura of coolness and edginess, of trendiness and class, that's precisely at the heart of the fashion world. I bought a pair of Nikes a month ago, and honestly? I just loved their shade of orange. I didn't think of all the suffering that may have gone into those shoes, as I didn't think of it when I bought the leather jacket in my closet.
When I switched to a plant-based diet, I became very aware of anything and everything concerning animal cruelty. I searched shoe stores for ankle boots that corresponded with my philosophy and found relief in the aisles of Trader Joe's because they understand me. Suede, leather, silk, and skins were off-limits. It wasn't just a line I was drawing for myself so that what I wore over my body corresponded to what I let past my lips; it was so that my actions corresponded with my words, and even more than this, so that they corresponded with my actual desires. Sure, leather looked badass, but did I want to walk around sporting tanned cattle hide? Not quite.
Thing is, the agricultural and clothing industries we know of today are very closely intertwined. Monsanto, a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, has a large influence on both industries due to many farmers that purchase their products for cotton and other crops alike. While the environmental effects of Monsanto's seeds are still rather unknown, we do know that once farmers purchase these seeds, it is very difficult for them to continue their business without purchasing them further in the future, as they need to buy not only the seeds every season but also must purchase the "GMO ready" Roundup weed-killer. Many also say that Monsanto has purposefully sued farmers for having GM seeds blown into their fields, although the firm obviously continues to deny the allegation. Even without the last point, however, the dependence the firm puts farmers, including cotton farmers in, tends to put a strain on the farmers' incomes that may even result in debt.
So with no further ado, here are a couple of ethical clothing brands to shop from until you drop – guilt-free!
Fair warning, though: most of these ship from the UK, but if you're not from there and you don't mind the distance, well here ya go!
1. People Tree
Classy and put-together, People Tree's dresses look like something drawn out of a picture book. The British brand was featured on The True Cost, the documentary that inspired me to write this article (it's on Netflix)! Sofia Minney, the founder and CEO, is a talented and warm-hearted woman with a lot of spirit, both for the rights that textile workers deserve and for the love many of us share for fashion. Purchase something from them or learn more about them – they're truly wonderful!
If you want a bodycon dress, let this be your go-to! Also based in England (are we seeing a trend here?), Annie Greenabelle offers a mix of brightly colored, clean-cut and edgy tops, bottoms and dresses to choose from. Their Ethics page lists the ways in which each piece of clothing helps others – whether it be because it's made of organic cotton, made in a factory that complies with the Ethical Trading Initiative base code, or is made locally in England, Annie's pretty good, and so you should definitely give 'em a peep.
Proud to "make you feel as good as you look," this one isn't a brand in itself, but a website that enables you to find clothing and accessories based on your preferred eco-ethical criterion: Whether this means a brand that makes its products with organic cotton or recycled materials, or whether it means you want to support fair trade fashion, eco-friendly fashion, or buy second-hand clothing, Style With Heart gives you all the options.
Basically, it's a really good site in every sense. Make sure to give their boutique a look too, if you can!
Ever wanted to look like you just descended from a cloud? Or do you maybe already look like that (if so, props to you), but need a few additions to your wardrobe anyways? If either option applies, or you're just curious, give Braintree a look. Their items are all made from hemp, bamboo or organic cotton – so, sustainable materials – and like many of us (including myself) they're obsessed with cool socks. And, of course, cool priorities: they're against child labor, discrimination, involuntary employment, and promote sensible working hours and conditions for all their factory workers.
Seriously, these guys are awesome. They even make clothing to order, including tons and tons of pretty tops and kimonos. All the clothing is ethically made in Malawi, and each piece stylishly combines traditional African designs with contemporary fashion. The prints are absolutely to die for, so do yourself a favor and click on the link!
6. asos Green Room
Personal favorite alert! You may have already heard of asos, but if not, both their marketplace and "green room" are worth a look! Remember that being green can also involve buying secondhand clothing, and asos is up to the brim with many beautiful vintage boutiques to choose from. Plus, they have something we all love: student discounts. They have so much variety when it comes to clothing styles, too, so you definitely won't regret giving them a shot.
A couple of other cool brands I found:
Howies: (low-impact active wear) http://www.howies.co.uk/about-us
Gather & See: http://www.gatherandsee.com/customer-services/deli...
Maude and Tommy: http://maudeandtommy.co.uk
Fashion Compassion: http://www.fashioncompassion.co.uk
Happy ethical shopping, now, folks!