10 Ways To Shop Ethically

by Juliette Donatelli

Shop Ethically and bring a greater awareness to your gift-giving this season.

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We invite consciousness into so many aspects of our lifestyle. We fill our cabinets with all-natural cleaners, we buy organic from the farmer’s market and we care about what we put on our skin. But what about our clothing?

Bringing awareness into your fashion shopping habits is not as daunting as it may seem. In fact, shopping ethically is fun, and ultimately, by doing so, we look good and do good.

Here are 10 easy tips on how to shop ethically.

1.   Shop Ethically by Being Timeless

Amber Valletta, supermodel and ethical fashion activist behind Master & Muse (masterandmuse.com), says she always asks herself these questions before going through with a purchase: “Is this a timeless piece? Will I keep it for years? Do I love it? Can I take care of it and make it last for years?”

“These are great questions to start with when thinking about buying responsibly. They will provoke thought and ask you to be more discerning,” she says. Plus, a closet based on timeless pieces means less outfit contemplation in the morning when you are running late!

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 2.  Shop Ethically by Thinking Price Per Wear

A $400 dress might seem pricey, but considering price per wear can turn that price tag on its head. If you wear the dress 50 times each year for five years, you are paying $1.60 each time you wear it. If you buy a dress for $30 and wear it only twice, that’s $15 for each wear. Buying higher-quality clothing turns out to be less expensive once you calculate the price versus how many times you actually wear it. Plus, if you spend more on a piece you’ll be more inclined to take better care of it, and it will last even longer!

3.  Shop Ethically by Supporting Smaller Brands

Smaller brands don’t have the resources to produce in bulk or waste materials, and oftentimes production happens locally. Seeking out smaller brands is a great way to shop ethically. Plus, smaller brands create more unique and original clothing to nourish the individual in you!

 4.  Shop Ethically by Shopping Specialty Boutiques

Simply staying out of megastores and fast-fashion chains can do wonders when on the path to shop ethically. Instead of the mall, try shopping at local specialty boutiques. Boutiques often curate a selection of higher-quality clothing, and carry indie or smaller designer brands.

 5.  Shop Ethically by Looking For The Source

Where clothing is made can tell a lot about the garment’s history, and it’s easy to find out because every clothing item has the attached information right there. “If it is made in one of the hot spots for labor or environmental issues, then you might want to rethink your purchase. Hot spots are places like China, Bangladesh and India to name a few,” says Valletta. But if the garment is made in the U.S., your purchase is supporting the local economy and even upholding the strict environmental regulations many worked hard to put in place.

 6.   Shop Ethically by Going Online

There are a handful of beautiful online boutiques that have done all the vetting for you. Browsing these shops, you can be certain that anything you buy will be ethically made, and they often go the extra mile to detail the brand story for you! A few of our favorites sites include A Boy Named Sue (aboynamedsue.co), Modavanti (modavanti.com), Ethica (shopethica.com) and Master & Muse (masterandmuse.com). Each online store is filled with ethical fashion right at your finger tips.

 7.  Shop Ethically by Giving Back

Look out for companies that give to, or support, a social cause. Usually they are proud of their efforts and detail the story on the hangtag or in their brand statement. For example, a company might work directly with indigenous communities preserving their craft or give a percentage of their sales to charitable organizations. Jill Heller, owner of ethical fashion styling company and consultancy The PureThread (thepurethread.com), says her clients “love to hear the story behind who is benefiting from their purchase.”

 8. Shop Ethically by Buying Second Hand

Buying second hand is one of the most ethical ways to shop because you are reusing something that already exists. Plus, the treasure hunt and price slashes can be half the fun. “I have amassed a beautiful collection of rare, luxurious and unusual clothing and jewelry that I most certainly could not afford to have otherwise,” says Ariana Boussard-Reifel, the owner of online vintage store, Mode Marteau (modemarteau.com), who believes shopping vintage is the icing on the cake of a sustainable lifestyle.

 9.  Shop Ethically by Owning Your Style

Figure out what your staples are. What pieces can’t you live without? Are you always wearing a T-shirt and jeans or pencil skirts and blazer? Re-evaluate your closet based on your own lifestyle needs and not trends. From this foundation, you can bring that strategy into a store every time you shop.

 10.  Shop Ethically by Making It Organic

Buying organic cotton is a way to know your purchase is making a positive impact. “I look for organic fibers that are made without using pesticides or fertilizers,” says Greta Eagan, eco stylist and author of the ethical fashion guide, Wear No Evil (Running Press). Organic cotton does not use any toxic chemicals in the farming methods, so it’s gentler on you and the planet. “Check the tag on the inside,” says Eagan. “It will give you information on the makeup of the fabric.”

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Photo credits: photo by Alexi Lubomirski

Photo captions(in order of appearance): Amber Valletta, supermodel and founder of Master & Muse, masterandmuse.com

From Top: Sweater and skirt, aboynamedsue.co; Shoe, modavanti.com

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