Leather and fur are easy to identify, but unsustainable and unethical production methods are hidden within the seams of the most popular brands. 

Oftentimes tags and labels don’t provide customers with the essential information that allows them to make informed decisions. The fashion industry is challenging, because the materials may be inherently vegan, but the production methods far from it.

Inhumane treatment of employees and unsustainable environmental practices are dominant for many affordable “fast fashion” brands. Polyester fibers threaten our oceans, chemicals used in cotton farming result in devastating health problems for farmers, and the affordability of the products leads to higher rates of textile waste. This is all while the factory workers are being paid nominal wages.

It can be frustrating to try to uphold ethical values while also maintaining a professional and personal style on a budget. On a basic level, by choosing to purchase second-hand items, consumers can reduce their impact and not support large corporations that ignore basic human needs and environmental concerns.

However, it is important to understand that thrift shopping is not a perfect solution. Polyester fibers will still pull away from clothes while they are being washed. Wash these items infrequently (hello jean freezing trend). Even when thrift shopping, it is best to look for items that are made with natural fibers (such as cotton or canvas). Another solution is to purchase a wash bag that catches the polyester fibers. http://www.patagonia.com/product/guppyfriend-washing-bag/O2191.html

Additionally, being a conscious consumer means purchasing new items sparingly and trying to repurpose broken or worn pieces as often as possible. For example, a shirt that has holes in it can have a second life (well, third life) as a wash rag.

Pay close attention to the materials list to avoid purchasing anything you aren’t comfortable with (leather, suede, silk, etc.)

Luckily for RVA residents, Richmond is the home to many thrift stores. Additionally, online platforms have made second-hand shopping easier than ever.

Shops Worth Checking Out in Richmond:


Ashby: Ashby is filled with modern styles for young men and women.

Goodwill Second Debut: has a range of styles for young and mature adults, men and women. Business and casual clothing are plentiful.

Clover: has gently used clothes for babies and children

Short Pump

Clothes Mentor: has business casual and business formal clothing options for women.


https://slowre.com/pages/consignment – This online shop only resells vegan, organic, and sustainable pieces. It is pricy for consignment, but the items are humanely produced and eco-friendly.

https://www.thredup.com/ – This online shop is geared toward reducing waste while keeping up to date with more modern styles at a really good price. The packaging and customer service was also a plus!

As a consumer, it is important to not be overwhelmed, but to strive to make improvements when possible. Stay thrifty friends.

How do you shop ethically on a budget? Share your tips for better living in the comment section below!

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