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Why it’s so hard to find plus-size, ethical AND affordable clothing and where to find it

Finding ethical plus-sized brands can be a difficult task, but finding plus-size, ethical brands which are cheap is practically impossible. Brands that do offer cheap clothes are often fast fashion companies like Shein that not only are terrible for the environment and have questionable production methods but have also been accused of stealing designs by Black creators. Then there are plus-size or ethical brands but they usually cost an arm and a leg. So what do we do?

It is often suggested that everyone should try shopping with smaller, local businesses who are more ethical in terms of production and consumption. However, it isn’t possible for everyone to shop at their local small businesses when the prices are high and may not offer sizing that goes further than XL (or L in some places). For those who live in poverty, this is a major issue, especially since the House of Commons found that 11.7 million people in Britain were in absolute poverty, meaning that a whopping 15% of the country are in a position where shopping for even basic clothes isn’t possible.

So we set out to find cheaper, ethical brands which cater to people of all sizes and let me be the first to say that this wasn’t easy.

Ethical brands

According to The Branding Journal (2018), an ethical brand refers to a company whose products, services and activities are:

  • Morally correct (although morals can change from society to society, these generally relate to looking after the Earth and those that inhabit it)
  • Do not harm people, animals, and the environment
  • Contribute to society in a responsible and sustainable way
Why former Everlane employees have banded together to speak out about the  company's culture | Modern Retail

Most ethical brands are not attainable for the everyday person’s pocket but we did find a couple of mid-range brands that we thought deserved a shout out. A more everyday ethical brand is Everlane which offers “The Organic Cotton Crew” t-shirt. This is a basic staple in many wardrobes, and it costs £23. The top goes up to a size XL which translates into a size 14-16 on the brand’s site. Another option is “The Mockneck Bubble Top”, another simple wardrobe staple that costs £62 while again going up to a size XL. Understandably, ethically produced clothing is pricier because of their ethical status and production methods. Yet, this doesn’t solve any predicament for those who are over a size 16, need a basic t-shirt and can only pay perhaps £5 but wish to be ethical in their purchases.

Plus-size, ethical brands

Looking over to ‘plus-size’ ethical brands, Birdsong London goes up to a size 30 in its clothing. One of our favourites, the “Dress in Protest Organic Cotton Tee” is unisex and goes up to a size XXXL. This costs £26. While this is a fantastic size range, £26 is a lot of money for many.

For a lot of us, buying on-trend clothing that is affordable and accessible can mean shopping at Pretty Little Thing, New Look, Primark, and Shein. Personally, I cannot afford £65 for some leggings, and it is difficult to justify this when the products could be the price of a week’s worth of shopping. While ethical brands are doing the right thing in making their products better for the environment and they are supporting workers, we must see that shopping sustainably is suited to those who are on higher incomes.

Green Tencel Crochet Crop Top | Birdsong
Olive Tencel Crochet Top from Birdsong London

Cheaper ethical plus-size brands

In researching for this article, I did find a few brands that tick all the boxes. These brands offer trendy clothing at the same time as offering clothing for varied styles.

Pour Moi uses a variety of materials, including recycled polyester in its clothing. It also offers recycling and re-use initiatives; however, Pour Moi only goes up to a size 22.

I have good news for Primark lovers because they have just started a wellness range called ‘Primark Cares’ offering ethically sourced and environmentally friendly clothing. It hasn’t quite reached all stores across the UK but it is something to look out for, I have a feeling this will be my go-to.

Primark wants to become more sustainable (and introduce e-commerce?) |  RetailDetail

H&M has also been boosting its ethical status as of recent, with its traffic-light system, and it also offers plus-size clothing. In H&M’s ‘Conscious’ plus-size line, there is the “H&M+ Cotton jersey cropped top” which goes up to a XXXXL (32-34). While these are great options to go for, there isn’t enough variety. Even though we are trying to cut out huge levels of mass consumption, there still needs to be more than three brands that are ethical and offer cheaper clothing for plus-size women (and everyone who is plus-size).

Another brand that checks all the boxes is NA-KD. NA-KD is one of Europe’s top 20 fastest growing companies, breaking new records every month and showcasing themselves as one of the world´s leaders in fashion and e-commerce. They claim that they are committed to being 100% ethical and all orders are climate-neutral, they even have ‘pre-loved’ section on their website. NA-KD sizing goes up to a UK 26 in most items and the pricing is very similar to ASOS.

What is obvious is that none of these brands are perfect. The problems expressed in this article need to be addressed and as a society, we need to be doing more to make sure that everyone can access clothing. While we need to focus on providing clothing for all, we must also acknowledge that large scale consumer purchasing isn’t good for the working class or the eco-system. Governments need to be doing more in supporting ethical brands and providing clothing for everyone while at the same time everyone needs to address the issues of mass consumption and capitalism in the over-production of products, sustainable or not. So who’s with me? WE WANT CHEAP, ETHICAL, PLUS-SIZE CLOTHING!

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BEFORE YOU GO...Have you read: Women’s charity founder: “Return of Taliban will leave women vulnerable to traffickers"
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