Joe Fresh Light Short on the left, $14.40 USD. Alternative Apparel Rayon Twill Shorts on the right, $68 USD.

For this week’s Conscious Fashion Swap, I’m trading all of the Joe Fresh products that usually made their way into my closet for Alternative Apparel fashions!

****************************IMPORTANT UPDATE***************************
When this post went up yesterday, I was unaware of any online retailers of Alternative Apparel other than their own website. Alternative Apparel does not ship outside of the United States via their website.

However, I’ve found out that an online retailer, Manhattanite, sells a limited run of Alternative Apparel and ships worldwide. Great news!

The Decision to be Conscious 

It was in April, during Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week, that I decided to become more conscious about my fashion purchases. That week co-incided with Earth Day, as well as Fashion Revolution Day: the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Disaster. And so there was no better time for me to reconsider the ways in which I consume fashion and contribute to a system of exploitation.

And it’s has not been an easy decision for me. Since then, I have not spent any money on fashions besides buying some fashionable finds at a Value Village sale and a pair of resale Zara shoes from Twice. But this weekend really brought it home to me just how difficult this decision will be for me going forward.

Going on a road trip for the weekend, I picked up my sister from Yorkdale Mall. And despite it being way too crowded, it is a beautiful place. You walk into this modern-day palace: this monument to first world excess and consumerism, and it puts a spell on you. It’s light and bright and filled with the most expensive and sought after goods available. It’s full of beautiful, well-dressed people. And all of that together makes you want all of the things.

Saying no to that part of me — the survival instinct that wants everything — is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I don’t want to tell you that switching to Conscious Fashion is easy. It’s not. But that doesn’t make it any less important.

Joe Fresh

Conscious Fashion Swaps | Switch Joe Fresh for Alternative Apparel
Just a few of my past Joe Fresh finds…
bye bye, JF!

The Rana Plaza factory collapse highlights why it’s important. But as horrible as that incident was, and as much as I’d like to point fingers at brands who source from Bangladesh like Canadian fashion favourite Joe Fresh, the event is a headline-grabbing example of the myriad atrocities that happen in the pursuit of low-priced goods and services.

Don’t get me wrong. Until a couple months ago, I loved Joe Fresh. I would peek at their website weekly, just to see what was new. I was addicted to the fact that they offered fashion-forward goods at bargain basement prices. Their brand meshed so well with my mix of fashionista and frugality. And it’s the same for many of us across Canada — we are known for our thriftiness. And now the brand is making huge inroads into the states.

But the brand’s fast fashion business model means that you don’t really know what you’re buying.

Alternative Apparel

However, pursuing Alternative Apparel’s website, and especially their about pages, you can find out exactly what you’re getting. Organic materials, eco-blends of recycled fabrics, and cotton and alpaca wool responsibly sourced from Peru (alpaca is music to my ears — since I’m allergic to wool). All of the info available on their pages is amazing for an analysis paralysis info-addict like me. I want to know exactly how my goods are produced from the very first stage, and alternative apparel offers this information to me.

And the goods they offer are lovely. Comfy basics and quirky prints abound. And they have an activewear section complete with sports bras — a rarity among sustainable fashion lines. They also have some really interesting designs, like this hoodie.

But like I said, it’s not easy being green (or conscious). Compared to Joe Fresh’s low prices, you might get some sticker stock ($14 versus $68 is quite a difference when you’re on a tight budget). I believe that it can be worth it to buy fewer, better quality items. But this takes careful planning and a huge shift in perspective on fashion.

The other difficulty is availability. Joe Fresh still operates in geographically a small area — only Canada and the U.S. However, Alternative Apparel does not ship internationally at all, so you can only buy their clothes if you live in the United States. You can inquire about international retailers, but I suspect they might be limited.

It’s a bit of a catch-22. I want to be able to access fashion that is sustainable. But as soon as small, sustainable brands begin to distribute widely, their business model can become unsustainable. So what’s the solution? It’s the refrain you’ve heard many times: buy local, buy resale. Those are the options that are truly sustainable.

Have you heard of Alternative Apparel before? What other ecochic or fair trade fashion brands are you in love with? Let me know in the comments!

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