The greatest compliment I’ve ever received was being stopped by a total stranger outside of Vogue House, where the fashionistas of the publishing world are often seen dashing around, to be told that she loved my style and where did I get my skirt from?
Scope on Hertford Street in Coventry city centre was the answer. I’d picked up the pleated silk maxi the day before for just £2 and was feeling pretty smug with this new-to-me bargain as well as the classic grey marl sweatshirt I’d purchased at the same time.
Not only did I get change from a fiver, the skirt and jumper also contributed to my goal to dress positively, i.e. to wear clothing that tries to do good rather than harm to the planet and its people. I’m not alone in my mission. Interest in eco, ethical and sustainable fashion is growing all the time and there are simple ways that you can get involved.
Reasons to love vintage and charity shops
I regularly check out charity shops. Used clothing, whether labelled second hand or vintage, is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your wardrobe. Giving new life to someone else’s unwanted goods is the antidote to fast fashion.
Browsing the hotchpotch rails may be annoying if the gem you uncover isn’t in your size but you get to shop without worrying about the dangerous conditions and poor pay of the person who made the clothes or the environmental impact of the garment’s production and distribution.
What’s not to like about a clean conscience and a unique look?
Yet sometimes second hand doesn’t quite hit the spot. It can take a lot of time, and a lot of luck, to be able to dress well purely in charity shop and vintage goods.
Online indie brands
However that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your environmental and ethical concerns. Now more than ever it is possible to buy new clothing that treats both the planet and its people fairly.
As with most things in life, the internet is an amazing resource for anyone interested in sustainable fashion. Whatever your look, you’ll find ethical independent brands selling online (if you’re not sure where to start, check out tags such as #ethicalfashion and #fashionrevolution on Instagram and Twitter).
But the World Wide Web is not the only answer. Amazing clothing with a positive impact is available much closer to home too.
Positive Outlook is a local men’s and womenswear company that can boast both ethical manufacture and sustainable sourcing – and like many good things in Coventry, they are based in FarGo Village.
Owner and founder Harvey Broadbent began developing the concept for the brand while still at university. Now the company combines clean modern design with clean principles.
What I particularly love is Positive Outlook’s breadth of social and environmental responsibility. Some firms offer fairly traded goods, others organic materials, but it is rare to find one that ticks all the ‘good stuff’ boxes.
That’s what Harvey has managed to achieve, although while chatting to him in the store I learnt that he’s still not completely happy – the search is always on to find more ways to do good and do better.
This is particularly admirable when you look at all the accolades that Positive Outlook has already accumulated! As well as being certified vegan and PETA approved, the clothing meets other environmental standards such as certification regarding safe use of chemicals.
Positive Outlook’s use of bamboo is significant too. This biodegradable material is more ecologically sound than cotton, which needs vast quantities of water to grown and often requires use of harmful pesticides too.
The people who make Positive Outlook clothing are treated well. The brand only works with Fair Wear Foundation approved manufacturers, ensuring that workers receive a decent wage along with safe and fair working conditions.
No animals were harmed in the creation of these clothes and no children were involved in the making of them.
There is something truly inspiring about going into a store and the guy behind the counter being able to tell you about the supply chain for how the products arrived there. There’s no compromise on style either.
I was so obsessed with wanting all the things that I almost forgot to ask questions I went in with. The look is perfect for the current athleisure trend but these pieces surpass the vagaries of fads and fashions. They are timeless garments that you’ll want now and wear forever.
This is responsible consumerism in action – right on our doorstep in Coventry.
Written and photographed for Native by Rae Ritchie.