Johanna Rumphorst

The pandemic has made sustainable fashion more important than ever. The majority of people have honed and perfected their online shopping during the lockdown, but do you know what happens after you return clothes you bought online? They get thrown away. In recent years a lot of high fashion brands were accused of throwing out returned clothes, or even burning them. That is not the only issue that the pandemic has shed light on. Many of the leading brands have cancelled orders for over $2 billion worth of clothes that had already been produced due to COVID-19. This has left millions of workers in countries like Bangladesh unpaid.

The concept of sustainability has clashed with the traditional world of fashion for a long time. The fashion industry survives by providing its consumers with new trends with a speed that leaves buyers overwhelmed and results in the problem we all know as ‘fast fashion.’ High fashion brands are producing clothes at such a high speed that fashion has reportedly become the world’s second most polluting industry, only beaten by oil. For further context, the textile industry is producing more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined!

The difference between ethical and sustainable fashion

Many people confuse ‘sustainable fashion’ with ‘ethical fashion.’ Although both are unquestionably linked, sustainability in the fashion industry refers to the impact of the production of clothing on the environment. Luckily, sustainable fashion is now a part of the growing brand and design philosophy and movement towards environmentally-friendly fashion. We have to create a system that can be supported by consumers considering the human impact on the environment and our social responsibility.

Ethical fashion concerns the way clothing is made – where the cotton was grown, how animals were used and how the workers are treated in the factories or fashion houses. Ethical fashion describes everything from the quality of working conditions, the effect on local communities and the positive sustainable impact that the product has on the environment.

How to shop more sustainably

What you can do as a consumer? The answer is very simple – shop from brands that support sustainability. That way, you can follow new trends without supporting the catastrophic impact on the environment and the people involved in the process. You could also shop in one of Sydney’s many vintage and charity shops to buy pre-loved pieces. There are a number of brands acknowledging the issues and adapting their businesses to create change. Buy clothes that not only look good but also make long-term economic sense. These following brands are big on sustainability and 100% fashionable.

Lost Stock Box

The team at Mallzee created Lost Stock. You get at least three items of clothing chosen for​ you, with a massive 50% discount off that supports workers and prevents waste. Each order supports a worker and their family for a week and their target is to help 100,000 workers and their families. First, you have to select if you want to receive women’s or menswear, then answer a couple of questions about your style. You’ll receive a minimum of three pieces based on your style preferences – these clothes have been stocked by top high street brands and would otherwise be headed for landfill.


Proclaim is an inclusive ethically lingerie line. The founder, Shobha Philips, started Proclaim​ because she was incredibly tired of never being able to find a “nude” that matched her brown skin tone. The soft fabric is made from 100% post-consumer plastic water bottles. You’ll definitely want to keep Proclaim on your radar!

Spell Byron Bay

Spell i​s making some of the world’s most beautiful bohemian clothes, and they are also an ethical and sustainable brand. Their 2025 plan is laid out in detail on their website, comprising supply chain transparency, sustainable fibre use and environmentally conscious dye and printing practices. This Byron Bay label also partners with Canopy, an organisation set up to ensure brand’s cellulose-based fibres like viscose, rayon and tencel are not contributing to the deforestation of ancient or endangered forests. 

Dinosaur Designs

Australian label Dinosaur Design​ is a great sustainable brand, founded by Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy. The team designs and hand makes pieces using low-energy methods from a product derived from a waste material. They have beautiful pieces for your home but also jewellery.