Ethical fashion at affordable prices
The high cost of cheap fashion is back in the spotlight this summer after a woman was horrified by a poignant message, "Forced to work exhausting hours", sewn into the washing instructions on the Primark dress she'd just bought. While the hand-stitched label may be a hoax, rather than a message from a Bangladeshi sweatshop worker, no one can deny that routinely working illegal 14-hour days is indeed a punishing schedule.
So what can we do about it? Is it possible to buy affordable clothing without abandoning our morals? The good news is yes, things are changing, and on a High Street near you.
Whilst things aren't yet ideal, these fashion retailers have turned over a new greener leaf... we think it suits them!
No one would accuse H&M of being overpriced, yet they consistently score at or near the top of surveys looking at sustainability on the High Street, mainly due to their H&M Conscious collection.
Offering "more fashion choices that are good for people, the planet and your wallet", H&M Conscious features everyday basics made from organic cotton blends, organic leather, innovative wood pulp fabrics and recycled wool and denim. Prices start from just £7 for t-shirts.
H&M were the first fashion company to launch a worldwide textile recycling initiative. You can now hand in any clothes you no longer want at their stores and H&M will remodel, resell or recycle them. Any profits made on these recycling activities goes towards investment in social projects and funding new ways to recycle old clothes into new fibres.
Monsoon and Accessorize
Not just a pretty face! One of the more conscientious High Street shops, Monsoon has a history of solid ethics and recently came top of Ethical Consumers' clothes shop supply chain rankings.
The Monsoon Boutique sends fabric offcuts to disadvantaged artisan communities where they can be upcycled into very desirable quilts, aprons and retro dresses, providing many people with fairly paid work with decent working conditions.
Even better, all profits from this go towards the Monsoon Accessorize Trust. This charity, set up by Monsoon in 1994, provides healthcare in remote parts of India, funds a hostel for homeless children who would otherwise be on the streets of Delhi and is currently helping to re-establish the silk industry in war-torn Afghanistan.
We love the Shwopping programme - drop your unwanted clothes off at M&S to help Oxfam raise money for their vital work through resale, reuse and recycling.
The good doesn't end there: now Marks & Spencer's Plan A is being put into action. The company's beauty products have become cruelty free, a pledge has been made to pay a living wage to all workers in the supply chain and the entire business has gone carbon neutral!
Intidex a.k.a. Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear and Bershka
A rising ethical star, perhaps? Intidex, the parent company of some of the top clothing brands on our High Street, is now a newly paid up members of the Ethical Trading Initiative. They've signed a deal to pay a living wage to all workers in the supply chain and a safety agreement to help ensure regular inspections in workplaces. Fantastic news.