In this day and age, with fast fashion dominating the fashion industry, it can be difficult to shop sustainably. I usually turn to H&M, Garage, and Zara for a quick closet revamp, even if my conscience suffers a bit.
But over the last few months, I’ve chosen to say no to the overwhelming Instagram ads stuffing trends down my throat and instead turn my gaze to more sustainable alternatives. Below is a list of a few of my favourite shops — ranging in price, location, and style — that will make you and the planet feel good.
Kotn: 754 Queen Street West
With a flagship on Queen Street, Kotn is perfect if you’re looking for nice, long-lasting basics, sweaters, or some structured trousers and blazers. It focuses not only on the environment and the biodegradability of its products but also on creating jobs, better infrastructure, and the education of the communities they are a part of.
The company is currently a certified B Corporation Voted Best for the World with the fourth highest B Impact Score of apparel brands in North America. Although not the most affordable for casual shopping, Kotn is ideal if you are looking for something sophisticated and high-quality if you have a bit of money to spend.
Girlfriend Collective: Online with third-party distributors in multiple locations
Girlfriend Collective is a godsend when it comes to sustainable, deliciously soft loungewear and activewear. It believes in ethical and environmentally conscious manufacturing, using material made from recycled water bottles, fishing nets, fabric scraps, and other waste. Additionally, it only works with factories certified by SA8000, an international certification standard that ensures organizations pay their workers fair wages and maintain humane working conditions.
Even though it requires a bit of saving up to afford Girlfriend Collective products, it’s a good choice — if you’re like me, I would much rather buy one pair of good leggings than splurge on five cheaper ones that won’t last a squat.
Ran’s Closet: 322 College Street and 747 Queen Street East
A personal favourite of mine, Ran’s Closet has everything from leather jackets and baby tees to oversized jeans and grandpa-core sweatshirts. Although it does offer some new pieces, its real area of sustainability comes from its secondhand and vintage sections. It conveniently has a storefront close to campus, and though its prices vary widely, you can find cheaper options in its secondhand section.
Exile Vintage: 60 Kensington Avenue
A gem in Kensington Market, Exile Vintage has what you need to fulfill your retro, trendy Pinterest dreams or your Halloween costume’ needs. Seriously, I have walked out with two pairs of jeans for my boyfriend, a Coach purse, and a jacket for under $150. Prices vary considerably, and it does require patience to get through the racks, but with a bit of time and determination, you can leave with some previously-loved designer clothes or a band t-shirt that doesn’t leave your bank account crying.
Value Village: multiple locations for shopping, 1319 Bloor Street West for donating
A classic for secondhand shopping, Value Village has it all and more. This is my go-to when I don’t have a real shopping objective in mind, but I feel like browsing and seeing what the universe has in store for my wardrobe.
The store is very accessible with multiple locations and price friendly, and even has a promotion that allows you to donate your clothes for a 20 per cent discount that can be used at any of its locations. Beware though: its quality assurance is not the best, so make sure to always check for stains and holes! But for the most part, these stores are full of hidden treasures.
U of Thrifts: @uofthrifts on Instagram
Last but certainly not least, we have our very own U of T thrift store! Selling used accessories and apparel, this baby boutique runs through Instagram and schedules pickups at users’ convenience. U of Thrifts’ student owners manage all sales and deliveries.
In an interview with The Varsity, the two creators of U of Thrifts, Yan Qing Lee and Chloe Loh, explained how they “hoped to provide convenience, safety, and accessibility in buying second-hand clothing, and… encourage and increase the sustainable choices available for students like [them], in fashion.”
Shopping at U of Thrifts is a great opportunity to not only be more sustainable but also support other fellow students. Prices vary, as do the items they offer, but are overall very budget-friendly.