Whether vintage or big brands, there's no need to compromise style for ethics
The fashion industry is not typically believed to have a conscience – to be frank, it’s rarely ever seen as even being ‘nice’. Admittedly, we’ve developed much of this view from Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada...
Cult movie hits aside, signs show the trend of ethically questionable fashion (wearing fur, for example) is waining. Eco and sustainable fashion is now in style with designers and high-street brands taking a greater interest in the environment, their impact on it and the footprint they leave behind.
For a while now, the likes of Stella McCartney have been leading the ethical charge by solely using environmentally friendly materials. However, fast-fashion still dominates the high street and online; this has meant some popular stores have found themselves in a quandary, alerting probing investigations concerning Fairtrade and the environmental impact of throwaway fashion.
So, how do you make sure your clothes are both ethical and sustainable without having to wear head-to-toe hemp? Well, shopping ethically can be a minefield.
To help, we’ve put together our list of eco-friendly stores and tips to use in Manchester and beyond:
Beaumont Organic + 49 Hilton Street
Online fashion doesn’t have to be throwaway, just as ethically made clothes do not have to be unfashionable. Manchester-made brand, Beaumont Organic specialises in luxury casual pieces made with lots of good intent. As the cotton industry is marred by its use of fungicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, Beaumont Organic chooses to use 100% organic cotton instead. Now with its own Northern Quarter based boutique, the brand also uses sustainable materials such as bamboo (100% biodegradable), linen from flax fibres, wool and natural leathers. Created by young designer, Hannah Beaumont, Beaumont Organic also wins style points as well as eco-points too, as the store boasts an expansive casual wear collection with many chic, Parisian style pieces.
Find Beaumont Organic online
We’ve all been privy to Mary ‘Queen Of Shops’ Portas’ public mission to return the textile trade back to British manufacturers. And, after the Pakistan factory collapse in 2015, much conversation has been had concerning the welfare of factory workers and the conditions of fast-fashion factories abroad. Greater Manchester, once considered the UK’s epicentre for textile and manufacturing, is making a bid for a return to its heyday era. Based in Blackburn and lead by Patrick Grant, Community Clothing is a manufacturer's cooperative with a valuable mission: 'to make excellent quality affordable clothes for men and women, to create great jobs for skilled workers and help to restore real pride in Britain’s textile communities'.
Find out more about Community Clothing and shop the clothes, here
Two For Joy
Well sourced, sustainable clothing is the focal point of Two for Joy, a Manchester based online fashion label founded by local entrepreneur Sarah Jerath. The label holds an ethical ethos at its core, with 60% of the collection crafted from sustainable fibres including viscose, cotton and wool. Extra measures are taken to minimise the environmental impact of the label, such as the transportation of goods by shipping rather than air and the refrain from using harmful dyes in the manufacturing process. “Increasingly consumers want to know where their products are coming from and how they’re made,” comments Sarah, on the change in consumer attitudes. “We’ve seen an enormous shift in attitude towards food and thankfully the fashion industry is starting to follow."
Private White V.C
Salford–made factory and menswear outfitters, Private White V.C are firm on their stance against fast-fashion. A namesake to WWI hero Private White, the British heritage brand say: ‘at a time when the fast fashion industry is driving record high numbers of casualties in factories, violating human rights, creating an unsustainable and growing toll on the local environments in these regions and simultaneously driving down prices so that local farmers and employees cannot claim fair wages for their efforts, it’s important the world sits up and takes notice’. More than a century old, Private White V.C certainly stand apart from many of their fashion counterparts for their commitment to ethical manufacturing – all completed within the confines of their Salford-based factory. Their luxury and practical materials are all locally sourced where possible.
Private White V.C - Cottenham House, 1 Cottenham Lane, Salford, M3 7LJ
'Buy less, wear more' is the key rule to follow when shopping ethically. Yet, ‘buy less, make more’ is also a sustainable style ethos to live by. Chorlton based grassroots initiative, Stitched Up, have made sustainable fashion its mission, and the group aims to create an alternative fashion industry: one that’s guilt-free. It's extremely admirable. They say, ‘why buy new clothes when you can make your own?’ and offer attendees sewing and up-cycling classes to help them do just that. Stitched Up also present eco-fashion events such as clothes-swaps, vintage fairs and a repair café where expert volunteers teach you how to repair clothes, bikes, furniture etc. All-in-all, Stitched-Up want its attendees to rethink how they view and consume clothes – instead of fast, throwaway fashion, it may be time to opt for slow, sustainable style.
Stitched-Up, 527B Wilbraham Road, Manchester M21 0UF - see website for events and workshops
54 Port Street, Northern Quarter
‘Long live real shopping experiences’ say NOLA, an independent boutique recently opened in the Northern Quarter. Originally hailing from Brighton, the team have joined Beaumont Organic in the uniform avocado green buildings on Port Street. With a carefully curated collection of premium brands – some niche, some well known - Nola champion slow, sustainable fashion that lasts the test of time. Think Scandinavian and Japanese street style: casual, well put together, sustainable and extremely fashion forward.
You can also shop Nola online
“Waste in the fashion industry is a huge and expensive issue so by only stocking vintage products, we have managed to dramatically reduce our waste in comparison to the majority of fashion brands. I’m not one to brag but we think that’s kind of cool, right?” says Dirty Disco founder Hailea. Operating from a studio in Ancoats, Dirty Disco is a young online store mending and reworking vintage and second-hand clothing. A cross between Urban Outfitters and Topshop, Dirty Disco has managed to make old clothing feel brand new (just check out their Instagram page). Hailea has a clear passion for sustainable clothing who believes vintage clothing could help redeem a wasteful fashion industry. She says Dirty Disco’s stock is 99% vintage and recycled.
Shop Dirty Disco online
Manchester Craft and Design centre
When it comes to food shopping, buying locally has long been seen as the more ethical choice. But how does this benefit the fashion industry? According to Sustainable Connections, ‘locally owned businesses require less transportation’ this generally means; contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss, and pollution.’ What’s more, shopping for fashion locally means more opportunity to find something unique. Home to more than nineteen resident designers and craft makers, Manchester’s Craft Centre, celebrates locally-found ingenuity. Spanning textiles, prints, sculpture, jewellery and art disciplines, you can speak to the designers directly to learn more about the design process including the materials they use.
Manchester Craft And Design Centre - Oak Street, Manchester, M4 5JD
What’s any Manchester shopping list without mention of Affleck’s Palace? Northern Quarter’s four-storey vintage emporium has stood as a beacon for creativity and alternative fashions for more than two decades. Inside, find more than 70 outfitters selling a colourful (sometimes bonkers) mix of apparel, food, cosmetics, alongside multi-coloured condoms and Star Wars figurines to name a few. That’s the beauty of the place, it’s a shopping experience entirely unique to Manchester and encourages shoppers to experiment with personal style. Filled with many vintage and thrift stores, Afflecks Palace also encourages, whether inadvertently or not, sustainable and eco-friendly shopping. Instead of buying new clothes, update your current wardrobe at the on-site t-shirt and denim printers or create your own jewellery in the large beads stall.
Afflecks Palace - 52 Church Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1PW