We Try Before You Buy: 16 Conscious Buys We are Blown Away By

Our We Try Before You Buy series aims to take the stress out of shopping and eliminate the number of post office visits you make each month to return failed online orders. We test new-season buys and styling ideas so you don't have to. Here, we're letting you know what is actually worth investing in.

This week, it's Fashion Revolution Week, which is a movement which has for the past six years been calling for an improvement in sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. Sustainability is the word that is mentioned the most to me when I've met with brands, retailers and designers this year, however, it can still be difficult to shop consciously beyond the obvious forward-thinking labels like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood. So when calling pieces into the office to borrow for this conscious We Try Before You Buy, I was prepared for a real challenge.

This industry certainly has a long way to go—I struggled to find many options on the high street, and it can be still difficult to have clear transparency on how pieces are made. However, there were 16 pieces, either ethical or sustainable, that our team were genuinely really impressed by. Below you'll find many of the brands that are leading the way with innovative technologies and a refreshing approach in so many aspects of their business.

Keep scrolling to shop the conscious jeans, dresses, trainers, heels, jewellery and many more items our editors wanted to highlight this Fashion Revolution Week.

Mother of Pearl Dress


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"Mother of Pearl is living proof that you can create more sustainable clothing and still be entirely creative, daring and trend-driven. Their No Frills line (a more sustainable offshoot of the mainline, although they're making great strides across their entire business) is spectacular—full of wedding-guest and summer party gems as well as cool pieces for work. What's more is that you don't feel a single item scrimps on feeling luxe or well-designed. To all the brands creating token, boring sustainable tees out there, look and learn!"—Hannah Almassi, editor in chief

Susan Caplan Jewellery


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"I've never seen the point of buying something new that looks vintage. I'd much rather have the real deal! Some brands specialise in bringing these pieces together and Susan Caplan's archive is nothing short of incredible—you can find affordable vintage jewellery as well as investment pieces."—Hannah

Vintage Bag


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"I bought this bag on Etsy last summer and have used it nonstop for parties, events and weddings ever since. I initially searched for it because beaded bags were trending and I knew this wasn't a new idea—the vintage ones have the most character and, of course, contribute to a more circular economy."—Hannah

Topshop Vegan Shoes


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"I'm still undecided as to how I feel in regards to vegan (basically plastic) shoes. On the one hand, I totally understand some peoples' feelings towards leather and its impact on the animals farmed for it. On the other, I worry that a major influx of plastic shoes is also detrimental to the global environment. So the way I look at it is this: If you love something and will wear it on repeat for many, many seasons to come, invest. If you're buying something that you know, deep down, is essentially a one-season wonder. Stop! As for these particular sandals from Topshop they are so surprisingly comfy and elegant, I'm convinced."—Hannah

E.L.V. Denim


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"Acid wash would normally not be my jam, but these E.L.V. Denim immediately caught my attention. Not just because they look incredible, but because the fit and quality feel so luxurious, even for a simple basic like a pair of jeans. I'm also so into fact these have been constructed from pre-loved jeans and turned into something entirely new for someone else (read: me) to wear on repeat."—Alyss Bowen, social media editor

Vegan Dr Martens


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"I'm actively trying to make conscious purchases where I can, and these vegan Dr Martens are probably my most-worn purchase this year to date. They go with everything, the leather has worn in so well and spoiler: They didn't hurt at all when first wearing them (something I know any Dr. wearer will want to hear!)."—Alyss

One Vintage Velvet Jacket


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"Okay, I've just died and gone to '80s heaven. I couldn't be more excited that Browns have launched their own vintage collection made from antique textiles and relics, all of which have been redesigned and reimagined to create one of a kind pieces. With its decadent velvet fabric and elaborate embroidery, I'll wear this stunning jacket from the line with jeans and heels and prepare to feel a little bit like Kate Moss out for cocktails (if I do say so myself)."—Joy Montgomery, acting assistant editor

Filippa K Sunglasses


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"I never would've thought that sunglasses could be an accessory you could buy sustainably, but Filippa K has just proven me wrong. Made from plant-based eco acetate with a renewable resource origin, you'd never know these babies were biodegradable from their feel or fit. I'll happily wear these all summer safe in the knowledge that my style isn't compromising my sustainable aspirations.”—Joy

E.L.V. Denim


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"Sometimes, it's the small things that make all the difference, and ELV Denim is proof that you can find stylish and flattering denim that also ticks the sustainable box. With their high-waisted fit and wide legs, this pair will look just as good dressed up with heels as they will with trainers and a tee at the weekend.”—Joy

Phine Recycled Bracelet


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"This bracelet is right up my street, thanks to its chunky chain and simplicity—oh, and also the fact that it's handmade from recycled 925 sterling silver. It's just what I need to elevate a plain shirt or summery dress."—Joy

Mara Hoffman Knitted Dress


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

Mara Hoffman is one of the leading names in the sustainable fashion movement, as each piece in her collection is manufactured as responsibly as possible. This sleeveless rollneck dress is made from 100% natural undyed organic cotton, and it's one of the comfiest things I've worn in quite some time.

Esthe Organza Dress


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

"Wearing something like this is undeniably fun, but what makes it feel even better is knowing that it has been produced in line with the Ethical Trading Initiative, meaning someone hasn't been take advantage of (or worse) in manufacturing such a dreamy dress. Esthe is a small company producing limited ranges from a factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, and they also work with suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of their choices. Princess moments don't get better than this!"—Hannah

Ninety Percent Body and Nanushka Shirt


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

Ninety Percent is a really interesting brand in the sustainable and ethical sphere, as it uses eco fabrics (this tie-dye body is made with 95% Tencel) and pledges to share 90% of its distributed profits between charitable causes.

Like Hannah, I have mixed feelings about vegan leather, as now, this tends to be more of an ethical choice than a sustainable decision. However, Nanushka is a brand that explores sustainable production too. Sandra Sandor, the founder, previously explained to me about how she creates the brands signature vegan leather: "Sustainability is a concept close to my heart, as it's very important that we take care of our planet and we protect it for the next generations. Vegan leather is part of this process. The vegan leather we are using isn't just buttery soft, but it's also sustainable because it completely cuts out the most toxic part: the tanning process. I find it important that we make our clothes long lasting and find new methods to reuse them. That's why I always try to take the most care with all my pieces."

J Brand Eco Wash Jeans


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

Jeans are a particularly harmful product for the environment and J Brand is one of the labels making real strides in terms of sustainability. The wash of these jeans uses 99% less water than the usual denim production process.

Good News Shoes


(Image credit: Emma Spedding)

I feel like I get an email a week about a new sustainable trainer brand, and Good News sneakers are one that has really stood out to me. These trainers feature recycled rubber soles, organic cotton and a recycled eco-lite footbed, and according to the brand's bio, they try to be mindful of the environment by "decreasing our carbon, chemical and water footprint, whilst caring for the people who make our shoes." Now that's a mission statement I can get on board with.

Next up, see our guide to the most sustainable fabrics you can buy.

Emma Spedding