Sustainable fashion. It’s something that’s very important to us here at Eco-Able, and is a topic I’m sure many of you feel passionately about too. However, what happens when you’re searching for that perfect summer dress or pair of shorts, with an environmentally conscious mindset? Of course, the best option would be to wear what you already own, perhaps by having a hunt through your wardrobe and by digging out something lovely you’d completely forgotten about! Alternatively, swapping clothes with friends can be a great option if you’re the same size!
Plus size problems
As much as we recognise how important it is for us to consume less and less, especially from fast-fashion brands, we also understand that this is not always possible. In these instances, we might turn to secondhand purchases, or look to buy from a more sustainable brand, where workers have been paid and treated fairly, and where the clothes are made from more sustainable or recycled materials. Now I present you with a problem in this search for that perfect fit and flare, flowing maxi or comfy linen shorts – many sustainable brands and secondhand stores do not adequately cater, or even cater at all, for those of us who consider ourselves to be plus sized, or shop in a UK size 16 or above or a men’s XXL. And there we have it – for the most part, sustainable and environmentally conscious fashion is exclusive, inaccessible or just doesn’t quite get the fit right for that otherwise perfect, summer dress or top.
Another problem to note, is that when we do find something that fits perfectly, is breezy and more environmentally conscious, it often carries a hefty price tag. Of course, these price tags are not unjustified; paying people fairly and using sustainable materials more than justifies the cost, however many people simply cannot afford the extra money that sustainable brands charge. You might think the easy solution to this is charity shopping, however with ‘vintage’ clothing becoming increasingly popular, many high street charity shops charge more now for clothing than they used to, meaning for those who rely on charity shops as their only means to find affordable clothing may find it harder to find such clothes.
Additionally, the same problem applies to finding sustainable plus size clothing options, in that many older items of clothing and vintage pieces, were cut to straighter body types and were less size inclusive than many accessible and fast-fashion brands today. This can mean that for a lover of vintage styles and dresses it is harder to find those styles in sizes above a UK 16. As people began to demand inclusive sizing from fast-fashion brands such as ASOS, Boohoo, and New Look to name but a few, brands began to cater to more sizes and display their clothes on models of various sizes.
It’s a similar story when we look to newer, more sustainable brands, except the crucial difference here is that many of these brands are smaller companies, and so are more likely to make profit or break even, if they are producing less garments – meaning that one way to do this, is by providing fewer sizes. However, as these brands begin to grow and gain a customer base, this allows for a more inclusive size range. Producing limited collections across all sizes would also allow for smaller companies to be size inclusive, whilst also being aware of their budget constraints but, this does mean that items have a larger ability to sell out, so people may still miss out, and as such accessibility remains an issue. It’s also important to note that shopping for men’s sustainable clothing can be even more problematic, with many pre-loved options and sustainable brands, catering largely for women.
So what can we do about this?
At Eco-Able, we’re always looking out for new ways to reduce our environmental impact, and we believe that taking small steps to sustainability is one of the best ways to make living sustainably a habitual lifestyle choice. By doing what we can, when we can, and in learning as we go along. In this case, it’s often not as simple as to boycott fast-fashion, when many of the current sustainable brands are less accessible, more expensive and are not size inclusive.
One way we can help is to share our knowledge of our favourite size-inclusive and/or gender inclusive sustainable brands and secondhand stores, as well as by demanding more from brands that we feel can do better. It might not seem much, but one step in the right direction is better than standing still. One step leads to another, and in our journey to lead more sustainable lives, we are taking it one step at a time. I’ve noticed that a few of the leading high street brands are beginning to launch ranges using more eco friendly fabrics, which is a step in the right direction, albeit a very small step.
We’d love for as many of you as possible to share your own favourite places to find vintage gems or sustainably made clothes by popping us an email or getting in touch via our social media platforms, and we’ll link a few of ours below as well!
For secondhand high-street pieces which are affordable and up to a woman’s size 32, Re-fashion is my personal go-to. They’re an online charity shop, where you can also donate your own clothes and pick a charity you wish to support. Re-fashion are reliant on donations, which means the sizes and variety of stock changes all the time, so whilst you might not find something you love straight away, with new arrivals every week it’s worth looking regularly to find something that’s right for you! You can find them at: Re-Fashion
For size-inclusive, sustainable and ethically made activewear for women, look no further than Girlfriend. Girlfriend have full transparency on their website about the processes of how their clothes are made, and what they are made from, which is exactly what we like to see. Plus their colour selection is just gorgeous.
Organic basics offer sustainable options in a range sizes for men and women, great for underwear, tops and T’s and sportswear.
Oxfam also have an online shop, as well as their high street shops, which is great for men, women and children, definitely worth checking back every so often to see their new donations.
We’ve also been signposted to Lost Stock who sell clothing arising from orders cancelled by major fashion brands, especially prevalent currently due to Covid-19, they support the workers through selling this otherwise unwanted stock. They cater for both men, women and children. Read more about them here: Lost Stock
Finally, another fave has to be Lucy and Yak. As an avid dungaree-enthusiast, I might be a little biased, but Lucy and Yak also stock tees, underwear, jumpers and trousers, all of which are made ethically and from recycled materials or materials which are more sustainable than those many fashion brands currently offer. They believe in comfortable styles that look great on any body type, often with oversized cuts, generous waist to hip sizing, with many unisex options and colours to suit anyone’s wardrobe!
Guest blog written by Lauren Seatter-Messer
Lauren Seatter-Messer is an artist, writer and photographer, currently living and working in Liverpool. You can find her at @laurenseattermesser on instagram