If you’ve been reading my column for the past few months, you’ll know that I’m a big cheerleader for sustainable brands and mindful consumption. I haven’t shopped at Zara in over 3 years but from time to time, there are a few high street stores that I do the occasional bit of shopping in, but I follow a very specific criteria.
In the past, it wasn’t as easy to find stylish, sustainable high street brands and if I’m totally honest, they’re still not as accessible as they should be, but there have been a few improvements. Pricing is a huge factor in how a lot of people choose to shop and when you shop from a more ethical brand, the price is going to a bit higher than your standard fast fashion label. There are several reasons for this, but in summary, these brands normally follow a similar framework of paying their workers fairly, producing their garments using natural fibres, making fewer units of each garment and thinking about the span and end of a garment’s life. Now, more than ever, price is a driving force for how people shop and I want to make sure that you have the tools to shop well on the high street, using these tips.
As much as many high street brands may not have all of these true ethical standards at their core, I do believe that there are a few places you can shop within a more reasonable price tag and still get great quality clothing, that will last you forever. Here are the stores I still shop from:
Ahhh good ole’ M&S. From underwear to knitwear, this store never ceases to amaze me. They have worked hard to change their offering over the years (newsflash, it’s not just for your nan anymore!) I love their basics, they make good cotton t-shirts to last and I have to say that some of the older St Michaels (remember that?) tailoring I have in my wardrobe from the late 90’s are some of the best blazers I own.
For the office, M&S is a great place to head to if you want smart, but also trendy pieces that you will be reaching for season after season. Another great reason to shop at M&S is that they have now expanded their brand range and offer some incredible contemporary and smaller (and ethical) brands too, so it’s a win-win.
Much like M&S, John Lewis has worked hard to adapt their fashion offering to make it more trend-led. For me, JL is peak adulthood vibes, and if you don’t know what I mean, try saying, “I bought this from John Lewis” to someone and watch their reaction!
On a recent mooch around the store looking for some styling inspo, I came across a whole collection of fabulous ethical brands like Albaray (this coat is gorgeous), Hush and Baukjen, all available in store and with a great size selection. One of the most annoying things about online shopping isn’t being able to get a feel for the clothing so I love to try pieces IRL, and with JL embracing more and more digital brands, it’s easier than ever.
I feel like COS is a controversial one for me to discuss. Among the ethical fashion community, any brand in the H&M Group is generally frowned upon due to their supply chain practices and greenwashing. I’m not saying I shop in there often but the main reasons I would consider shopping from COS are the fabrics used and the quality of how the clothing is made.
If you follow sustainability queen, Andrea Cheong, on TikTok you will know that she started a series called the Mindful Monday Method where she goes into different stores and reviews their clothing. She has reviewed COS on a number of occasions and on the whole, she has pretty positive things to say. I spend time searching for good fabric composition (avoid poly blended clothing) and avoid trend pieces, sticking to those classic, well constructed items that I know will last! This jumper is 100% cashmere and it was incredibly soft, if you take care of items like these properly, they will last you for a fair few years.