The Alternative Shopping Directory

Small sustainable options for a brighter fashion future

I have been planning this shopping directory for a long time. The idea was that when I broke my year-long shopping ban, I would buy a few select pieces and share with you where I got them, and why I was choosing to support these particular sustainable brands rather than going back to the places I used to shop. But last week I broke my shopping ban two months early, and with good reason, which in turn means you’re getting this earlier than expected too.

The Covid-19 pandemic has got me thinking that when we emerge from the other side of this, having taken a break from our normal lives, we have the opportunity to change the way we do things. I’d like to think that having taken stock, we’d rather support the smaller labels that shut shops and production lines to protect their staff from a deadly virus, rather than the billionaire fast fashion stores that still made their staff go to work and put them in danger, when they could have afforded to close AND pay them. Because if they don’t care about the staff in their stores, you can bet your life they also don’t care about the working conditions of the people who make and distribute their clothes.

And if you find yourself with more time on your hands than usual, having watched everything Netflix has to offer and read every book you own, now’s the perfect time to plan how to shop for your future. These smaller brands need our support if they are to survive the next few months, and it’s not like you’re going to be off down the pub any time soon, so you don’t need any new clothes in a hurry (remember, many of us are lucky enough to never buy clothes because we need them; we just want them). But by placing an order now, and being patient about how long it takes to arrive, you could help keep alive these fledgling brands that have been working so hard to change the fashion landscape for the better. You could also buy a gift voucher to spend when everything gets back to normal.

These are my favourite brands that will take the place of the high street stores I used to shop at. Obviously I’m still going to practice mindful, slow shopping, but I will be buying a handful things this year. I’m planning more posts to cover basics, underwear and swimwear in the future too, so watch this space! And as usual, I would love to hear about any companies you’ve come across that you love so I can add them to the list.

Birdsong London

Birdsong London

Great for: special occasion dresses that work for everyday
Shop here instead of: & Other Stories

I bought a dress from this wonderful British brand last week. It was so special to me that after a year-long shopping ban, my first purchase was something that could really make a difference to someone’s life. The skilled women that make Birdsong’s clothes face barriers to employment and are now paid a fair wage for their brilliant work (you can learn about some of them on the website). Not only that, but everything is made to order which means there is no wasted unsold stock, and there is a focus on using sustainable materials. The dress I have ordered – pictured – is made from Tencel. I added a note with my order to say I don’t care how long it takes for my dress to arrive as the safety of the people who work there must take priority (and they, unsurprisingly for a brand that looks after the people who work for them, chose to shut down production to protect their staff). I would advocate doing this for any orders you place while we are on lockdown to take the pressure off. birdsong.london

Alice Early

Alice Early

Great for: classic tailoring with a feminine twist
Shop here instead of: Arket

Something brilliant that came out of my shopping ban was having the time and space to assess what I actually really enjoy wearing. It turns out I feel good in a shirt, and I only have a couple in my wardrobe. I also LOVE black and white. So this shirt from Alice Early will be another of my limited purchases. It looks so flattering and I know I will wear it for years and years. Alice uses sustainable materials and is socially conscious in the way she makes her clothes, choosing to design and produce her collections in London – she has a massive amount of information on the sustainability section of her website. A big red flag when deciding where to shop or not shop, is if a brand has no sustainability information whatsoever – this is a masterclass on how to do it right. alicearly.co.uk

READ MORE: THE RESPONSIBLE FOOTWEAR GUIDE

Justine Tabak

Justine Tabak

Great for: prairie-style, roomy dresses in bright colours and floral prints
Shop here instead of: Anthropologie

Justine Tabak’s gorgeous dresses keep popping up on some of my favourite people on Instagram, so I had to add them into this guide. Whilst not actively branded as an eco-label, Justine has excellent sustainable credentials, using low-impact fabrics like linen (pictured) and dead stock, as well as manufacturing locally in the UK. As well as eye-popping colours like this saffron yellow, you’ll find the website brimming with Liberty floral prints and plenty of classic gingham. justinetabak.co.uk

Yevu

Yevu

Great for: eyecatching prints in wearable silhouettes
Shop here instead of: Monki

I discovered Yevu really soon after I stopped shopping, so I knew it would be somewhere I wanted to support as soon as I could. I absolutely love the prints, all of which are available on loads of different shaped items, meaning there is something to suit everyone (and there are a LOT of pockets – always a bonus). This socially responsible label makes everything in Ghana, empowering once vulnerable women to be financially independent. You can read all about their impressive impact on their website. yevu.com

Lucy & Yak

Lucy and Yak

Great for: comfy dungarees
Shop here instead of: ASOS

I get so many messages from Instagram from you lot telling me how much you love your Lucy & Yak dungarees! But for those of you who haven’t come across this lovely brand, they come highly recommended by a large portion of En Brogue readers, so that must be a good thing. With really reasonable prices (these organic cotton dungarees are £62), the clothes are made in a solar powered factory in India where tailors are paid four times the state minimum wage, or in a new factory in Yorkshire. Their whole team is currently staying safe at home and all are being paid, even if they’re not able to work from home. lucyandyak.com

READ MORE: 18 BRILLIANT INSTA ACCOUNTS THAT WON’T MAKE YOU WANT TO HIT THE HIGH STREET

Community Clothing

Community Clothing

Great for: quality unisex basics
Shop here instead of: Uniqlo

With a focus on slow fashion, quality products and timeless styles that won’t date, Community Clothing has also created work for people in some of the most deprived areas of Britain – so far they’ve provided the equivalent of over 76 years of full-time employment. The unisex aesthetic is right up my street and the prices are easily competitive with the high street – this T-shirt is £29. They also have an ‘Odds and Ends’ collection made from deadstock fabric. communityclothing.co.uk

Stalf

Stalf

Great for: oversized chic
Shop here instead of: COS

The first thing you’ll see when you go to Stalf’s website is a message explaining that you can order as normal but it will take a while to receive your stuff because they have closed to keep their staff safe. And rightly so. Everything is made to order in the brand’s ‘Pink Studio’ in Lincolnshire by a small team, which once again goes to show why the way a brand reacts to Covid-19 is a direct reflection of how well they treat their staff in normal circumstances – if you know who makes your clothes, so it follows that you care about them. And speaking of the clothes – they are gorgeous! I love the muted colours and emphasis on loose, oversized silhouettes and size inclusivity. stalf.co.uk

So there you have it. It’s a small list for now because I was very picky with who passed muster, but it’s one I will be adding to as I hear of (and thoroughly check for greenwashing) more brands – please do leave suggestions below!