Stop supporting fast fashion, and get behind your fellow creatives instead! These stores and one-person shops are great places to find unique pieces you can wear with pride.
We're all starting to realise how damaging 'fast fashion' is to the planet, not to mention its role in developing countries with lax labour laws. Plus, purely from a selfish point of view, isn't it better to buy a few unique, well-made items that you can be truly proud to wear, rather than mass-made standard clothes that won't last long and just make you look like everybody else?
If you're looking for an alternative, what better way to support fellow creatives than wrap yourself up in their amazing work? These are one-off pieces, lovingly designed and crafted by independents, so you're certain to stand out from the crowd.
Some of our recommendations are sold directly by creatives themselves, while others are from larger stores that commission artists and illustrators to create unique designs for them. Either way, we're not talking about (occasionally uncaring) multinational chains but people who care about the planet and strive to lessen the environmental impact of the processes and materials they use.
1. McIndoe Design by Maddy McIndoe
Maddy McIndoe is a London-based designer and illustrator whose work is characterised by a love of colour, pattern and playfulness. Alongside freelancing as a designer and illustrator, she also runs a printed fashion brand, which aims to inject an element of joy into getting dressed in the morning.
Her latest collection features paintbox-bright prints inspired by a very 90s childhood. From tongue-in-cheek vintage juice cartons to patterns inspired by classic board games, these clothes are unashamedly cheerful. Paired with easy-wearing shapes and printed on 100% organic cotton ethically produced in India, this feelgood collection eschews seasonal trends in favour of aiming to produce keep-forever, lovable pieces that make people smile.
2. Humphries & Begg by Alice Begg and Robbie Humphries
Passionate about print, husband and wife duo Alice Begg and Robbie Humphries design boldly printed clothing for everyday living. And essentially, they're creating items they love to wear themselves.
Alice designs all the prints in a playful naive style, combining loose mark-making with bold colour combinations. These all begin sitting at the kitchen table with watercolours and a paintbrush. Inspired by a colour palette seen in day-to-day life, the shapes are loose and comfortable, statement but relaxed.
Alice then turns these patterns into repeats on the computer, and they're then screen-printed onto 100% natural fabrics by a team in Jaipur, India. Working in a clean, safe and pleasant environment are about 80 people, including tailors, seamstresses, block printers and screen printers, and a room of ladies working on embellishment. The methods they use means there are always minor imperfections, giving the clothes a uniquely hand-crafted, organic feel.
3. Aysha Tengiz
As she grew up in Turkey, it was the picture books from Aysha Tengiz's childhood that kept her sane and inspired her to become a freelance artist. Now based in London, her work retains those child-like qualities and is full of life, colour and playfulness. In her online shop, she sells shirts, scarves, jumpers and more, featuring her beautiful work, which is full of charming characters.
4. Lucy & Yak
Lucy and her partner Chris are two rebellious Northerners who quit the 9-5 in 2014 to travel the world, selling hand-made pouches made from pre-loved clothes on a Kiwi beach to get by. They've since gradually built up an online fashion business with a very different philosophy from the mainstream.
"Fast fashion brands often turn things from celebrity or catwalk trends into a ready-for-sale item in two weeks, encouraging people to only wear it once," they point out on their blog. "Our clothing is affordable for the quality, the sustainable fabrics and fair wages paid, but it is not cheap or disposable. Our products are made to last and to be loved for many years. They hold their value, meaning people will sell them on instead of throwing them away. We run a buy, sell, trade Facebook group to facilitate this."
The in-house print designers Natasha and Elspeth draw inspiration from everywhere, including vintage fashion, antique tiles, art exhibitions and photos of flowers in the park, to name just a few. Lucy and Chris also feature a Positive Change Hub on their site, featuring details of worthy projects for their customers to donate to. In short, this is a wonderful store run by wonderful people.
5. Lazy Oaf
Independent and based in London since 2001, Lazy Oaf is a design-led lifestyle brand with a history of doing things its own way. What started with hand-printed T-shirts sold from a stall in East London has become an established independent brand, celebrating creativity, collaboration and community first and foremost.
Inspired by a love of youth subcultures, streetwear, nostalgia and a sideways glance at life, the company has spent 20 years building a family network of creatives and collaborators and still has the DIY spirit that inspired it originally.
They put a huge emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility and take their time to design and develop the best products rather than flooding the market. To minimise waste, they produce a limited quantity of 150-250 of each style, often in partnership with artists and illustrators such as Laura Callaghan, Aga Giecko, and Charlotte Mei. They then launch them in their stores, on their app, and online in weekly or bi-weekly drops to keep things fresh and interesting.
6. Jumbo Press by Jake Lucas and Marta Font
Jumbo Press is a collaborative platform that aims to give artists a voice in various mediums. Founded in 2018 in Deptford, south London, by Jake Lucas and Marta Font, they've since decamped to Barcelona. It's best known as an independent print studio, but they also have a great line of limited-edition clothing in collaboration with some of the best creatives out there.
The styles are typically wild-eyed, cartoony and super-colourful: we particularly love the Swan Knitted Jumper by Catalin Chau, the Hawaiian Monster Girl Shirts by Joseph Harmon, and the Jumbo Socks by Pablo Orrego.
Independent designer Sophie Darling fell in love with screen printing about 20 years ago after completing a course at The London Printworks Trust in Brixton. And still today, she remains at her happiest in her print studio: "Silkscreens prepped, inks mixed, fabrics laid and out and endless possibilities ahead." Seven years ago, she started her eponymous business.
"I work with talented people in my local community, from pattern cutters to seamstresses, to create handmade, luxury garments where the print and pattern design do the talking," she explains. "We are not just about fashion. We are about print, expression and versatility. Trends, shapes or factories do not bind us. We are print-led, slow fashion on tailored silhouettes, designed for creatively minded, forward-thinking individuals who want from more their wardrobe."
Passionate about sustainability, Sophie is trying to do everything she can to go green and has teamed up with CarbonClick, which helps businesses fight climate change.
Palava is a little studio in London that makes "clothes for real women and children, who live, love and laugh. Real women with real bodies and real lives. Real women who forget their keys and who have that extra slice of cake with their tea. Real children who have muddy knees and wild imaginations."
In short, Palava celebrates living colourfully and creatively, and aims to bring an extra bit of joy to your day through their clothing. To do so, they collaborate with a range of independent creatives, including illustrator Ingebjørg Hunskaar, designer Rachel Richardson and printmaker Helen Murgatroyd. Even better, it's also a sustainable brand with a zero waste approach to its production.
9. Miss Pompom
Founded in 2013, Miss Pompom quickly became renowned for its vegan-friendly range of scarves designed by independent artists. It's since added loose-fitting jumpsuits, dresses, pull-on trousers and cover-ups to its repertoire. Inspired by the Memphis design movement and a love for knits, colour, print, and sustainability is at the heart of everything they do.
Working with GOTS-certified organic cotton for summer and vegan and ethical yarns for winter, they see sustainability and traceability at the brand's core. Their summer clothing is screen printed by hand in Jaipur, India, in a factory that values its workers and the planet, and their winter knitwear is made in a small family-run factory in Istanbul.
10. LĀU Clothing
LĀU is a project by Lisa Anderlini, an Italian designer with an eclectic background: a Master of Science in Architecture, a love of art and design, and an interest in the surreal world of maths. These varying experiences inspire LĀU, a metaphysical place where Lisa's watchwords of "strength, elegance and spirit" are described through abstract, dreamlike and timeless realities.
In short, this women's clothing brand, founded in 2011, demonstrates Lisa's love for geometry and art in all its expressions. Its designs are known for their irony, bold colours, oversized silhouettes, trompe l'oeil details and hints of sporty elegance. Alongside its seasonal collections, LĀU also collaborates with international artists and creatives such as Yeye Weller, Mireia Ruiz, and Kelly Knaga to create limited editions that will never bore you.
11. Noo Works
Nooworks is a woman-owned, women-run business focused on everyday wear. Describing themselves as "a small team with a lot of love", they make limited edition textiles in partnership with their favourite artists, such as Aga Giecko, Lydia Ortiz and Zoe Schlacter. Each season, they create a fun, flattering, wearable line based on a new radical theme. All their garments are produced in California, and they try to source all our materials in the USA where possible.
Another exciting find is OLOW, which describes itself as an "artistic adventure at the heart of a human and conscious project". It was created in 2006 in Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris, by Valentin Porcher and Mathieu Sorosina, two lifelong friends, and has been growing ever since. All production is based in Portugal where factories are family-owned and its partners ensure the well-being of its employees, and sustainable materials and production methods are used wherever possible, too. The icing on the cake is OLOW's collabs with various artists such as Alan Fears, Maggie Stephenson and Thiago Thipan. Lots to explore here.