March 4, 2021 - Ethical & Sustainable

Sustainable Fashion Trends for 2021

Ethical and sustainable fashion trends 2021 recycle clothes

Over the past few years, there has been an increased desire for ethically and sustainably produced clothing as consumers become more conscious and aware of the negative impacts caused by ‘fast fashion’.

According to the Business Research Company, it is estimated that the global ethical fashion market will grow to USD $8.25 billion by 2023.

Unpredictable natural disasters and events, such as the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 killing 1,135 people, the New Delhi garment factory fire that killed 43 people in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic, has also increased demand for ethical and sustainable clothing.

Support small independent retailers during Covid-19

Consumers are actively supporting transparent eco-fashion brands that adopt sustainable practices and care about the people who make their clothes.

Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have also chosen to shop locally, from small independent businesses, rather than larger fashion retailers.

The global pandemic has helped slow the speed of fast fashion. Production in the Far East came to a halt in early 2020 when Chinese factories closed their doors. Large fashion retailers canceled orders and refused to pay their suppliers for existing contracts.

Garment workers worldwide lose jobs clothing retailers cancelled orders COVID-19 pandemic

The shops of mainstream fashion retailers are hugely overstocked, as they had to close their doors to the public and depend largely on online sales instead.

Global lockdowns have given many people the opportunity to take some time out, step back and reflect on what’s most important in life. Small designers and brands have been able to compete more easily with large fashion retailers making it a more equal playing field.

The pandemic has also caused large fashion brands and retailers to reconsider their current practices and work on becoming more environmentally friendly.

This is because consumers have become more socially conscious and are concerned about protecting the environment. They are more likely to spot when companies are ‘greenwashing‘ too.

The sustainable fashion industry will continue to emerge post Covid-19. Continue reading to learn more about the latest sustainable fashion trends in 2021 and how ethical fashion is becoming more popular than ever before.

Why Sustainable Fashion?

You may be wondering what sustainable fashion is all about and how it can have a positive impact on the planet.

According to this insightful blog by Green Dreamer, “sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly.”

Sustainable clothing brands consider the environmental impact in every stage, from the initial design, development, and sourcing of raw materials through to production, shipping, storage, marketing, and sales. Their main aim is to minimize the impact on the environment whilst helping their consumers do the same.

Sustainable fashion trends 2021 reuse recycle reduce

For example, sustainable fashion brands may choose to use recycled, natural, and organic raw materials over synthetics, like polyester, acrylic, and nylon, which release millions of microfibers when washed.

They might also use renewable energy such as solar power in production and have adopted practices to eliminate waste. Find out how you can join the sustainable Fashion Revolution movement!

Ethical fashion, on the other hand, focuses on protecting the welfare and rights of garment workers. 

Ethical Clothing & Fashion Trends Emerging in 2021

The current year is forecast to be an exciting one fashion-wise with ethical clothing brands and local stores taking over.

Working from home outfits and comfortable clothing such as loungewear, sweatpants and pyjamas have become more popular as the pandemic has majorly influenced our style.

There is less of a need to buy new clothes, which is increasing responsible consumption and encouraging more sustainable fashion choices.

Average British women hoards £285 clothes they never wear Fashion Revolution

(Credit: Fashion Revolution)

Here are some trends that we see emerging in 2021 that you can look out for:

Upcycling Old Clothes

Due to events being canceled and lockdown measures in place, there’s been less of a need to buy new outfits as more time is being spent at home.

By creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe, with quality items that are made to last, you can easily save money in the long term. Instead of purchasing a brand new outfit for each occasion try to reuse items already in your wardrobe to create ‘new’ styles.

If you’re desperate to wear different clothes that aren’t your own, why not borrow (or swap) from a friend or relative, purchase second-hand clothing from charity or vintage shops (when they re-open), or trade and swap second-hand clothing using phone apps such as Loopster or Swopped.

Borrow or swap second hand clothes sustainable clothing tips

You could even try renting an outfit instead! These are all guilt-free (and often cheaper) alternatives to wearing something new without harming the environment.

Purchasing (or exchanging) second-hand clothes is a great way to help reduce material wastage and plastic pollution as you’re preventing the garment from ending up in landfills.

By increasing demand for pre-worn clothing, you can help to reduce over-production by large fashion retailers, which is consumer-driven.

Upcycling is also a great way to transform old items in your wardrobe into something brand new. If you enjoy being creative and have some spare time, then this could be a great option for you.

95% discarded clothing can be recycled or upcycled Fashion Revolution sustainable fashion fact

Read our blog to learn how to upcycle old clothes for lots of great ideas and inspiration! You can also take clothes that can be mended to a tailor or seamstress to help prolong the product’s life cycle.

It is not good practice to donate your unwanted clothing to charity shops unless they are high quality and in good condition. Charities are not able to cope with the vast quantities of donations (caused by poor quality ‘fast-fashion’).

The majority of items charities receive cannot be re-sold so they end up being dumped in developing countries, which has destroyed local textile industries, as there is no need for skilled workers to make new clothes.

Unwanted clothing sustainable fashion

It’s much better to donate your unwanted clothing to friends or family members or put them in textile recycling bins.

Digital Ethical Fashion – Online Shopping

In 2021, more and more people will shop online as well as locally. Sites like Etsy, encourage and support handmade items and ethical trends which are far more sustainable!

Online shopping has been a growing sales platform for a while now but it has really boomed since the start of the pandemic.

Due to lockdowns, social distancing measures, and international travel restrictions, there have been far fewer fashion shows, as many have been canceled.

Future fashion shows uncertain after coronavirus empty catwalk

Fashion designers and brands have opted for digital fashion shows instead to reach their target audience online. In some cases, 3D fashion designs and virtual models have been used instead of real-life models.

Fashion brands have been forced to adapt to using digital technologies in order to remain competitive in the marketplace and stay in touch with their target customers.

Digital fashion shows are a lot more sustainable and will be increasingly popular in the future.

Size, Shape, Skin Tone, Age, Personality – It Doesn’t Matter!

The year 2021 will showcase a more inclusive language from brands incorporating more diversity into their products, from wider size ranges, models, visual marketing, and merchandising. Fashion brands will use models that look different and are more relatable to their customers.

More inclusive diverse models 2021

Some fashion retailers already allow their customers to visualize what an item of clothing will look like on different body shapes and sizes on their websites before customers decide whether to purchase or not.

Don’t Let Unrealistic Deals Fool You

If you would like to buy brand-new clothing, it’s best to carry out some research beforehand to check if you would like to support the chosen brand or retailer.

The online fashion retailer BooHoo is a good example of this as they were caught using sweatshops in Leicester, UK, during the first lockdown.

It’s also a good idea to avoid ‘fast-fashion’ trends and deals that look too good to be true. How can a t-shirt be cheaper than the cost of a coffee? Low prices often mean poor quality materials have been used and the garment workers have been paid very little.

Actively look for brands that care about the materials they use and the people that make their clothes, instead. There are lots of great blogs and phone apps that can help with this such as Good on You.

How to wash African print shirt care label

It is also advisable to read the care label before you buy to check if the materials are sustainable as well as how and where the garment has been made. Learning about different fabrics is really useful for this.

For example, animal by-products such as fur and leather should be avoided to stop animals from being killed for fashion. There are great sustainable alternatives such as recycled rubber or plant-based materials like pineapple leather.

2021 Will Be a Year of Vibrant Colours, Patterns & Sustainable Styles

Get ready for a fun year full of color, ethical shopping, kindness to the planet, and more! Sustainable clothing has traditionally used plain and natural colors with classic, timeless designs to make it easier to create a capsule wardrobe.

However, there will be a rise in the use of vibrant colors and bold patterns to make up for the difficult, depressing, and disappointing 2020/2021 caused by Covid-19.


Models wearing men's African print shirt and women's African print pencil skirt by Kitenge


Kitenge’s colorful and comfortable women’s African print clothing and African menswear are all about having fun and are certainly in line with this sustainable fashion trend!

Kitenge’s Range of Ethical African Print Styles 

Explore Kitenge’s range of ethically produced African wax print clothing, beautiful ankara fabric designs, and stylish accessories lovingly handmade by their team of talented tailors in Tanzania, East Africa.


Authentic African wax print fabric designs by Kitenge Store


Kitenge’s sustainable made to measure clothing collection reduces material waste as all garments are made to order. Their high-quality, custom-made clothing is handcrafted to fit the wearer perfectly and made to last for years and years to come.


African menswear tailor making made to measure shirts by Kitenge Store Tanzania Men's green blue African print shirt long sleeves model wearing


All fabric offcuts, after clothing production, are recycled by making accessories like bow ties or donated to local artisans and schools for art projects.

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