Participate in ethical fashion even when you can hardly pay rent.

3 ways to participate in ethical fashion when you can hardly pay rent.

Let’s not beat around the bush: ethical fashion is more expensive. The cost of ethical fashion represents the true cost of a garment, where no one...

3 ways to participate in ethical fashion when you can hardly pay rent.

Written by Jasmine Mayhead.

“I’d love to participate in ethical fashion, but I just can’t afford it.”

Let’s not beat around the bush: ethical fashion can be expensive. The higher cost of an ethical fashion garment represents the true cost of a garment, where people and the planet have not been exploited in the making of it. But no matter how much you know about the truth behind the fashion industry, or how passionate you are about workers rights and sustainability, when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, have an extremely limited budget or have other things to spend your money on, a $5 Kmart shirt will probably be the more appealing option.

The truth of the matter is, we aren’t all in a position to purchase $300 dresses. Sure, it’s all well and good to say “consume less”, “swap out quantity with quality“, etc, etc, but sometimes even this is a stretch.

So, if you’ve been struggling to shop with your values without overloading yourself with even more financial stress, here’s how you can participate in ethical fashion without the hefty price tag.

1. Rent & Swap

We are convinced the future of fashion is renting. We’re happy to stay in a stranger’s house (Air BnB) and jump in other people’s cars (Uber), and we should all be ok with the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes, right?

As seasoned renters ourselves, renting gives you the thrilling experience of wearing something new without paying hundreds of dollars for it. The compliments on wearing something new and ‘expensive looking’ still flood in, and the fact it’s not even yours gives you your own little exciting secret.

Swapping clothes at clothes swaps or with friends is another way to participate in a happier fashion future, too. We must remember that ethical fashion doesn’t just refer to how the garment is made, but also how it embodies the idea of clothes that last, are loved, and don’t end up in landfill. Swapping clothes with friends or attending formal clothes swaps, gives old clothes new lives and creates fresh happiness from fresh wearers.

Where you can rent:

New Zealand:

Oh Rent Me

Designer Wardrobe


Glam Corner

Yarn Yarns (Melbourne Only)


The Clothes Library

The Volte

Lana (Maternity friendly)

Rent A Dress

Her Wardrobe

Your Closet

Dress for a night


Stitch Fix (Maternity friendly)

Rent The Runway


2. Email brands and tell them what you want

If you’re passionate about ethical fashion but cannot necessarily afford to ‘vote with your pocket’ to show your support for a positive fashion industry, there’s another way you can make change at a deeper level.

Email mainstream brands who you wish you could buy from, but don’t (yet!) align with your values. Ask them where their clothes are made and who makes them. Enquire about their worker’s rights, treatment, and workplace standards. If we, the consumers, team up to demand change, they’re more likely to listen.

For an email template to make your brand impact easier, head to our example here.

3. Get back to basics

Stop buying trends and start buying trend-defying basics. Whether it’s a pair of quality-made denim jeans, a timeless ethically-made top or a jacket that has been designed for versatility and durability, buying basics and staple pieces for your wardrobe will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Purchasing the most beautiful handmade, organic linen dresses is not the only way to change the fashion industry. It’s important that we embrace the circular economy of renting clothes, contact brands directly to let them know we demand better, invest in wardrobe staples, and spend our dollars on companies making conscious efforts to change.

If you’re feeling intimidated by the sale signs that still say $150 for a dress, you’re not alone. And you know what? You aren’t excluded from the world of ethical fashion because of it (we don’t have an ethical discounts page for nothing).


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