What is Sustainable Fashion and How Does it Affect the Price?

We take a look at what sustainable fashion means and how much it affects the price of updating our wardrobes.

A green jumper with a label saying it's recyclable
(Image credit: getty)

Living sustainably is something we are all striving for. However, sometimes we’re overloaded with information and left asking how affordable a sustainable life is. 

The subject of sustainable fashion is an especially hot topic, and rightly so. According to OxfamIt’s estimated that more than two tonnes of clothing are bought each minute in the UK, more than any other country in Europe. That amount produces nearly 50 tonnes of carbon emission, the same as driving 162,00 miles in a car”.

But what is sustainable fashion? It can fall into up to 4 categories:

Slow Fashion

Choosing clothes that are well made so they have a long life span. For example, purchasing a jacket in a timeless style that’s good quality means you can wear it for years to come. Compared to fast fashion brands that make high-volume, low-quality and inexpensive clothes.

Ethical Fashion

Taking production, design, labour and materials into account. Ethical fashion is gentle on the environment through every stage of its production. It also ensures that people are paid fairly for their work.

Circular Fashion

Garments are produced in a way that is considered sustainable, but takes into account what happens to them when they are at the end of a lifecycle. For example, once a pair of ethically made jeans are no longer wanted they can be recycled either into another garment or sold at a charity/vintage shop. Therefore avoiding waste and pollution. 

Conscious Fashion

Encompassing all of the above. Rather than a type of garment production itself, it’s a message to consumers to consider the implications of what they buy, to research the company for good sustainable practices and to ask if the garments they buy are truly needed or if they can be recycled.  

How does sustainability affect the price?

clothes on a rail, with a close up of someone looking at the price tag.

(Image credit: getty)
  • Ethical fashion brands pay a fair wage.
  • Ethical fabrics are prioritised, such as organic cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, modal, organic wool and recycled materials. 
  • Ethical brands like to ensure the consumer knows their garments are sustainable and workers are treated fairly. They pay for certifications to prove this, and they cost money! 
  • Ethical brands don’t produce clothing in mass. Small-scale production means they can reduce waste. 

Is the sustainable option really worth it if I want to save money?

A woman looking at 2 different jackets in a shop

(Image credit: getty)

Obviously, it’s the best option in the interest of the environment. But sustainable fashion is an initially greater expense than fast fashion garments. However, the quality of sustainable fabrics and manufacturing means the fabrics are long-wearing and made to last. Fast fashion garments are only made to last a season, in most cases. Therefore it could be argued that the cost per wear makes sustainable fashion better value in the long term. 

But there are so many of us that can’t afford the high price of sustainability. Here are some ways that you can remain a sustainable follower of fashion on a budget. 


Charity Shops- According to GWI 32% of people buy second-hand clothing because it’s more cost-effective. But it also means you are saving clothes from the landfill! Head to charity shops on the high street and online.

Preloved Clothing Apps -  Preloved clothing apps are a simple way to buy both pre-loved and vintage clothing and accessories. They are growing in popularity which means there is more to choose from but act fast if you find something you love. 

Try clothes swapping - Get some friends together, bring the clothes you no longer wear and swap them with friends. Check out local community groups who might do this too. Clothes swapping is especially popular with parents who are buying kids clothes on a budget. Lydia Hartley, the founder of Don’t Shop, Swap say’s “Swapping clothes instead of buying them is more than just a sustainable way to refresh your wardrobe, it’s a smart financial choice”.

Upcycle clothes - Look through your wardrobe and find pieces you haven’t worn in a while. Maybe they just need a new lease on life but adapting or adding embellishments. Maybe they would suit another family member with just a few simple changes. Upcycling clothes needn't be complicated, you can even follow simple videos on YouTube - there are thousands! 

There are many other ways to be green on a budget, if you're interested in more helpful tips and tricks check out our Tips to Live Sustainably on a Budget

What is the future of sustainable fashion?

A rail with clothes hanging on it. A label states 100% organic

(Image credit: getty)

The interest that consumers are showing in sustainable fashion is putting pressure on brands and retailers. 

For example, H&M has announced plans to become more sustainable and lower carbon emissions by changing the fabrics they use in 2023. And Marks and Spencer say are “sourcing materials responsibly, like cotton. 100% of the cotton is from a more sustainable source that is better for people and the planet, including Better Cotton Initiative, Fairtrade, organic and recycled”. Sustainable fashion is the future. And even if, at times, the initial cost is higher, it’s cheaper in the long run and saves the cost of the planet.  So if you're interested in going sustainable we have discount codes for retailers that offer sustainably made clothing, such as Boden and Yours Clothing if you'd like to make shopping green more affordable.

Your wardrobe is just one of the many ways you can live more sustainably, but it makes a difference. 

Sarah-Jane Outten

Hi, I’m SJ. I’m an editor and content executive here at MyVoucherCodes. I started my journey here as a deals expert which gave me the skills to become a money-saving expert. You can find my tips and recommendations in various publications including The Sun, The Mirror, and The Telegraph.

I gained a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018, and I’ve put my writing skills into many projects since then. My portfolio at sarahjaneoutten.com includes my work with Cardiff Times, Buzz Magazine and more. 

I write poetry and short stories for pleasure and enjoy getting creative with watercolours and lino printing. I hope that I can merge my love of writing and art into a children's book in the future - watch this space!