Quick Guide for Shopping Affordable, Sustainable Denim
June 21, 2019
Denim is the material that uses the most energy and water. Fast fashion denim can be cheap, but it’s usually very poor quality and bad for the environment. But don’t worry, you can still buy affordable denim that’s also sustainable.
Where to buy affordable, sustainable denim?
The best places to buy affordable and sustainable denim:
- Local thrift stores
- ThredUp (US + Canada)
As you can see, there aren’t many options for buying affordable, sustainable jeans. But honestly, if you check out these sources, you’re probably going to find something you like. Some of these are so inexpensive you won’t believe it!
How to Shop Sustainable Denim on a Budget
I know when you first transition to sustainable fashion, the prices of denim is the scariest of all. That’s because fast fashion brands have pushed their prices so unreasonably low that sustainable brands just can’t keep up with.
Let’s face it, if you want to buy a pair of jeans that has a lower environmental impact, contains a smaller amount of chemicals, and was made by fairly-paid workers, you have to pay more. And you should pay more because that’s what real denim costs!
However, let’s be realistic, not everyone can pay $100+ for a pair of jeans.
Even though it’s worth mentioning that sustainable clothes will last you longer, so you have to buy less which is going to save you money (and time!) eventually.
But don’t worry if you’re not in that situation right now! You can still be sustainable on a budget and you don’t have to compromise on style either.
The most positive impact you can have on the environment and on your credit card balance is by shopping second-hand. Second-hand clothes can be super cheap, especially if you go to charity shops. My favorite jeans are from thrift shops and none of them cost more than $10! Thrifting is also the most sustainable option because you can give a second life to a garment that might otherwise end up in a landfill.
But thrifting takes a lot of time. The stock in charity shops can be hit or miss and usually it’s a miss, especially if you’re trying to buy something very specific. For example, finding the perfect gray, high-waisted, loose-fit pair of jeans is very unlikely.
If you’re looking for something specific, you should still check out the thrift stores because who knows, maybe you’ll have a lucky day. But if you haven’t found anything good you have two options.
First of all, you can wait. I know it sounds weird in this day and age when we want everything and we want it now. But honestly, how urgent it is for you to buy that pair of jeans? You can check the thrift store over and over until you find what you were looking for. It takes more time, but you’re going to save money on the jeans.
The second option is to invest in a little more expensive but good quality denim. You have to spend a little more than usual, but hey, it’s an investment. The quality of these jeans makes them more durable, and you’re still going to end up saving money in the long run compared to fast fashion denim. If you’re not convinced yet, check out my blog posts about the quality of fast fashion clothes and the quality of expensive clothes!
But enough talking, let’s start shopping! Here are the places I’d look for affordable and sustainable denim in this exact order!
Buying Denim Second-Hand
Local Thrift Stores
Thrift stores and charity shops can be goldmines. Sure, it takes more time and effort to go there and sort through everything to finally find something that fits, but you can save so much money! It is certainly the cheapest denim you can buy starting at only a few bucks.
You can find some great stuff on Depop as well. They have more in style items and it is still very inexpensive. However, you can’t try on the clothes and you also have to pay for shipping.
ThredUP is only available in the US and Canada. I would shop there all the time if I lived there. ThredUP sells second-hand clothes from a lot of brands, including a great selection of sustainable brands. And buying sustainable fashion second-hand is double sustainable! You can find jeans on their site starting from $2!
Asos Marketplace is my favorite place to buy vintage clothes online. There are a lot of sellers who stock vintage or upcycled Levi’s for a reasonable price. And the fact that the whole process goes through Asos makes everything so much easier as you don’t have to communicate with the seller individually (unlike on Depop for example). The price of a pair of jeans starts under $10.
Affordable Sustainable Brands
Everlane has the most affordable sustainable jeans starting at $68. Don’t get discouraged by the price, these are really comfy and high-quality. I have my Everlane jeans for more than 6 months now, I wear them every week, and they are still in perfect condition.
Everlane is very transparent about its pricing. If you scroll down to the bottom of a product page, you’ll see a breakdown of how much each item costs to produce compared to its price and the traditional retail price for a similar item.
Reformation has the trendiest sustainable jeans. They are more expensive than Everlane jeans, but I wanted to include them for two reasons.
The first one is that if you haven’t found your perfect denim item in the shops I mentioned above, this is the place to go! Second-hand stores neither online nor offline can’t guarantee a stock you like. At Everlane you can find great denim, but they only have basics. If you’re looking for something more trendy or unique, Reformation is a great brand to check out!
The second reason I include them is even though their jeans cost about $100 which is quite a lot, you have the option to pay in four installments with Afterpay in the US.
Denim for Free?
This post is about buying affordable denim that’s also sustainable, but what if you could score a new pair of jeans for free! These two tips are worth mentioning because they are the most frugal and most sustainable ways.
Upcycling is not as difficult as it sounds! Sure, you can make a patchwork denim jacket from old jeans and it would look amazing. If you have the skills, great, do it!
But you can upcycle without even having a sewing machine!
You can just cut the leg of a pair of jeans you don’t wear anymore and boom, you have new denim shorts! Or cut the arms of a denim jacket to make it into a vest!
If you can sew a little, your opportunities are endless and you can find awesome inspiration on Pinterest.
Swapping is also a cool idea if you want to freshen up your wardrobe. Get together with your friends, tell everybody to bring the clothes they don’t wear anymore, and exchange them! You can donate the items that don’t find a new home to a charity shop.
Where to buy affordable ethical fashion in Europe? Armedangels and People Tree are the best brands to shop for affordable ethical fashion in Europe. They are perfect alternatives to fast fashion brands with similar styles, a little higher prices, but way better quality.
Is Levi’s a sustainable brand? Levi’s has taken some steps recently to reduce its environmental footprint and to distinguish itself from fast fashion. They aren’t considered sustainable yet, but their jeans are so durable, I wouldn’t say they’re unsustainable either.
Written by Csilla Herbszt, a sustainably stylish fashion blogger living her vegan life in Switzerland. You should follow her on Instagram!