If you’re struggling to move away from fast fashion, you might want to try a bahn mi.
Let me explain.
When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to give veganism a try. I was independent, preparing my own food, and living in Denton, an amazing Texas college town rife with vegan and vegetarian joints. It was going to be easy- right? I made a plant-based Pinterest board, stocked up on hummus, and got to it.
A mere two weeks in, I was ready to call it quits. There was something essential about food, something I hadn’t bothered to factor into my meal planning, green smoothies, and cauliflower steaks. Food is more than nourishment. It’s emotional. I was missing the experiences I used to have as an omnivore, like diving into a bowl of my favorite pistachio ice cream after a train wreck of a day. I missed the salty, savory, greasy first bite of a burger. I missed my favorite foods, like the roasted Israeli chicken thighs my boyfriend took a month to master, or cheesy, homemade pizza on a movie night. Nothing felt like a good alternative for those flavors and textures and experiences.
Don’t get me wrong- the majority of the food that I ate hadn’t even changed. I’ve always loved a sheet pan of roasted veggies, or a massive, colorful salad. It was the alternatives to my favorite foods that were the hardest. I missed the food that felt like me, but reducing my carbon emissions and not eating animal products also… felt like me. So I was stuck.
The Missing Piece
Out with friends one night, I hopped in line at a Vietnamese truck everyone was raving about. I scanned the menu, ordered something I could eat, and didn’t expect much.
Then it arrived- my tofu bahn mi. Believe me when I say that first bite brought tears to my eyes. It was so. good. Everything I’d been missing was there in that salty, savory, greasy first bite. It was a substitute on par with the original. (Maybe even better!) This spicy, crunchy, faux-meaty sandwich filled that omnivore void. Then, I knew that I could do it.
Any time we make a conscious decision to avoid something we used to love, be it meat, cheese, sugar, (or exes!), we miss it. We can’t help it. There’s a reason you see dozens of recipes for eggplant based queso and black bean burgers. A good substitute can stop a craving for a guilty pleasure right in its tracks.
Forgoing fast fashion feels the same way. Even if we’re ready to make a leap into ethical shopping, we can’t help but look back lovingly at the brands that used to fill our closets. Because clothing isn’t just a necessity. It’s emotional. It’s art. It’s our style. And that is deeply personal.
That’s why I want to help you find your style bahn mi- the brand that checks your conscious clothing boxes, but also… feels like you.
I’ve researched ethical and sustainable brands and found some with comparable styles and prices to a variety of fast fashion brands, each with wildly different aesthetics. Whether you’re a chic J. Crew queen, or a West coast AE babe, I’ve found your new favorite (conscious!) brands. Click on the images to take you right to the source.
Amour Vert: So Fresh, So Clean
Amour Vert is a US based company committed to cleaning up fashion’s act. (Their name means Green Love in French!) They use low-impact, non-toxic dyes, manufacture their garments in America, and try to adhere to a zero-waste policy. Additionally, they’re incredibly picky about their fabrics: their cotton is 100% organic, their Merino wool is from Woolmark approved stations, their polyester is from 100% recycled materials, and they use carbon neutral lyocell. In partnership with the US Forest Service, the brand pledges one planted tree for every purchased tee.
Aesthetically, Amour Vert will make the hearts of die-hard J. Crew fans beat a little faster. Classic stripes, feminine silhouettes, dainty florals, and crisp linens give this ethical brand its timeless, preppy feel.
Style Saint: Sexy Staples with Saintly Stats
Style Saint rewards shoppers with feel good figures: gallons of water saved, ethical hours paid, and yards of sustainable fabric used. They use natural fibers like silk, flax, and wool that biodegrade much more quickly than synthetic fibers. Also, they boast wages 2000% higher on average than fast fashion brands are offering their garment workers. A seamstress myself, I’m especially grateful to Style Saint for educating consumers on just how long it takes to construct that breezy lace dress or boxy tee.
The vibe of Style Saint lines up with the sexy, modern pieces at Express. For the gal with an edge, this is the one stop shop for workwear, basics, and special pieces.
Pact: For Conscious Cozies
When I was in school, my mom and I used to hit the Old Navy back to school sale to stock up on cute basics. Old Navy has a huge nostalgic place in my heart, and it’s one of the fast fashion brands I’ve missed the most. When my friend showed me Pact, I got that same rush I used to get when I shopped with my mom. All the cute dresses! All the comfy tees! All the cotton undies!
Pact is one of the most affordable conscious brands out there, which is incredible, considering that they’re Fair Trade Certified. They use organic cotton to make every basic a gal (or guy!) could ever need. Patterned sundress? Check. Black leggings? You betcha. A really cute henley that your bf will live in? They’ve got that too. Seriously- check them out.
Accompany: Statement Pieces with Something to Say
Raise your hand if you, at one point, thought that Anthropologie was Fair Trade or sustainable.
Now raise your hand if you knew that the Certified B Corp (!!!) version of Anthro existed in the form of your new favorite brand, Accompany.
Rather than a fast fashion brand striving for the look alone, this incredible company curates pieces that are either artisan made, Fair Trade certified, or benefitting a philanthropic cause. They also prioritize impeccable design, which is apparent in the intricate details and drool-worthy textiles. Here, you’ll find timeless show-stoppers you’ll cherish (and get plenty of compliments on!) for years to come.
Marine Layer: Good Never Looked So (Cali) Cool
Beach babes need a clean beach, and Marine Layer is doing their part to avoid waste by utilizing a custom textile that uses a recycled beechwood and sustainable, self-sufficient production. The result, they say, is a tee so soft it feels like one you’ve been wearing it for years. I’m dying to stop by their location in the Domain to see for myself!
Marine Layer also releases a tee each season which benefits a charity with each purchase. In the past, they’ve designed adorable national park tees (still available!), and this season, they have a minimalist Pride shirt. For each tee, $15 goes to the represented national park or to the Trevor Project. (To be fair, AE also has a line of Pride tees this spring, and 100% of proceeds go to LGBT+ charities. Just something good to note!)
Ultimately, finding ethical brands you connect with is a huge part of your conscious fashion journey. I’d love to hear what brands make you feel the most true to your style and self! If you’re still on the lookout, take a look at Kasi’s comprehensive ethical shopping guide to find your perfect fit.
All images from the retailers’ websites.