When it comes to affordable sustainable fashion there are two sides to the coin. One side says you should buy less, buy better so only splurge on what you need. The other side says everyone needs clothing and so the more affordable and attainable sustainably made clothing can be, the less excuses people have to make other choices.
We don’t need to tell you that when you buy a $5 H&M shirt, it’s the people in the supply chain who are wearing the true cost. Yes, buying sustainable and ethical clothing is more expensive (for many good reasons), but there are a number of brands who have solid values and ethics while offering garments at the more affordable end of the scale.
Sustainable and ethical fashion can seem out-of-budget for many, and sometimes the op shops or vintage markets don’t deliver everything (here’s looking at you second-hand underwear), so here we’ve rounded up fashion brands that tick the box for affordability too (within reason, of course).
The brands mentioned below have been judged on their full price, but a few had sample sales, seasonal stock offs where you could pick up items for even less.
T-shirts and basics
A great fitting t-shirt goes with everything and is a staple in any wardrobe. But if you don’t pay the price, someone else in the supply chain is wearing the cost. Looking at ethical and sustainable brands in Australia and New Zealand, around $50 is usually the sweet spot.
Dorsu uses surplus fabrics to create basics (including stretchy, comfy work pants) at its factory in Cambodia. Tees start at $40, with easy-wear t-shirt dresses for $80.
Etiko uses organic, fair trade cotton to make its clothing in India with tees from $40. The Road also produces in India and uses sustainably sourced cotton from GOTS- and Fairtrade-certified farms. T-shirts start from $49.
Sydney’s Mnml offers GOTS-certified cotton tees from $50. Melbourne streetwear brand Homie sells ethical tees from $55 and supports people experiencing homelessness. A.BCH say they don’t mark their garments up to a traditional RRP as they don’t wish to price people out of making a difference. Tees start at $55.
A little more expensive but worth mentioning, Sydney brand Citizen Wolf designs and creates custom-fit tees from $69. For a staple piece made to fit and last – with free lifetime repairs – the investment is worth it.
From cute floaty dresses to tough workwear for women, and crisp linen shirts and chino shorts for men, these ethical and sustainable clothing brands create garments that tick all the right boxes, including price.
Sunshine Coast label Tasi Travels designs clothing for men and women inspired by wanderlust. All garments are made in Australia from Tencel or Modal and everything comes in under $199 including dresses. Entirely handmade in Melbourne, Wilga offers cute corduroy dresses and classic skirts or skivvys for under $200.
For shirts, dresses and wrap skirts made with European linen, Luna & Sun is the spot (and it is accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia). Made on the NSW south coast, Indecisive uses a lot of organic cotton and linen to create textual pieces in neutral colours with dresses between $120-200. Theo The Label offers “sweatshop-free staples for the everyday wardrobe” manufactured in Bali. Think t-shirts, shirts, linen shorts and floaty dresses.
Feminine workwear brand SÜK creates super durable clothing from 100% fairtrade pre-washed 310 gsm cotton drill in Pakistan. Each piece is designed to fit and flatter the female form with pants at just $100.
From harsh chemicals to high water use to sandblasting, denim isn’t exactly the easiest fabric to make sustainable – but a handful of Australian brands are creating change in the methods and supply chain. Outland Denim’s James Bartle says if you buy jeans for less than $100, you can be certain there’s slavery in the supply chain. Given that stat, if you’re on the hunt for affordable, ethical denim look to the following brands.
For under $200 look to Neuw Denim for jeans. The brand has strong environmental ethics and uses Australian-grown cotton. At Outland Denim, shorts start at $149 and jeans from $199. The brand supports Cambodian women with living wages and uses the best available methods for the environment.
Slightly over $200, Denimsmith and Justice Denim both make their jeans in Melbourne with prices from $219. Justice Denim also funds four weeks of education for children rescued from slavery with each pair sold.
Find your zen with a clear conscience in ethical activewear. Brisbane label DK Active designs and locally manufactures high-quality, stylish and eco-friendly clothing for everything from high intensity sport through to swimming and yoga. Tights start at $80.
Another option for yoga lovers is Vege Threads. The Melbourne brand has launched a yoga collection, manufacturing cotton tights and shorts onshore for $75-95. Faebella creates long and short tights that incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork. Every pair is ethically made in Australia and range from $69-99.
For the more sporty, Sydney’s Sunrise at Bondi creates ethically produced women’s swimwear and activewear, and men’s briefs, trunks, jammers and compression leggings. Prices are around $50-130. For the “greenest tee on the planet” look to Kusuga Active. The brand spent two years creating ECOLITE and uses the water-saving fabric in its activewear. Tees start at $45.
For sleepwear, look to Sorella Organics, an Australia label that ethically produces soft and luxurious loungewear for all in Australia, Fiji and India. Prices start from $60 for pyjama shorts or a unisex tee. New Zealand’s The Goodnight Society produces its range of quirky patterned pyjamas on the isle with tees from $55.
Made with soft, sustainable bamboo fabric, Bamboo Body offers pyjamas in classic colours and comfy oversized tees from $40. Sydney’s Boody creates all types of organic bamboo basics including sleepwear from $30. Country Road also offers bamboo pyjamas from $50 for a top.
While we’re all quite happy with a second-hand dress or vintage jacket, used underwear is a line many don’t wish to cross. Here are a handful of ethical and sustainable brands that come in at the lower price point of sustainable brands in Australia and New Zealand.
Imagine a set of underwear you could play, swim and sleep in. That’s the goal behind Bimby & Roy, an Aussie label that manufactures – using solar power – in Fiji. Fun and bright briefs are from $29, bralettes are $43.
For bras and bralettes, Jackfruit the Label creates minimal pieces with cotton in Australia for $55. As does Melbourne’s Hara label. Wonderpants bras start at $38 for a crop, and $30 for undies. For something lacy, Eco Intimates bras start from $75, with briefs from $29.
New Zealand’s Thunderpants creates bright briefs for women from $28. Organic Crew’s three-pack at $59 is a no fuss, good value option. Sydney’s Boody offers women’s briefs from $13, bras from $27. Made in Byron Bay, Annukka’s organic cotton briefs for women start at $20. Made to order, Australian-based Lahay creates briefs from $14.50 a pair.
Etiko and Mighty Good Basics both use organic, fair trade cotton and manufacture in India. Etiko briefs are from $13.50 and Mighty Good Basics start at $22.50.
For men, Sydney’s Boody offers organic bamboo trunks for $17. Etiko uses organic, fair trade cotton and makes boxers in India from $22.50. Mighty Good Basics also manufactures with organic, fairtrade cotton in India and briefs start from $26.
New Zealand’s Thunderpants makes bright men’s trunks locally for $36 a pair. Bushy is made in Australia and uses Tencel fabric to create ultra soft and comfortable briefs from $30.
Wonderpants use no elastic or binding – just the comfortable, stretchy organic cotton fabric – and are $33 a pair. The Road uses sustainably sourced cotton from GOTS- and Fairtrade-certified farms in India. Trunks are $35.