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gal-dem’s guide to sourcing the perfect fashion gift with zero guilt this Christmas

Zainab Mahmood offers up six sustainable brands for the fashion-loving, ethically conscious loved ones in your life.

16 Dec 2020

Many people who find joy at Christmas would agree that giving and receiving gifts isn’t the most important aspect of it. However, I hate to admit it, tangible items, especially when they’re gifted, can hold significant sentimental value. Although I don’t do Christmas, my sister-in-law is a great gift-giver. Whilst she shows her love in many other ways, I still love having a small collection of jewellery and accessories that she has bought me over the last 12 years. 

But sadly, most fashion brands are built on a model of colonialism, which means that labour exploitation is cemented within their supply chains. This year, fashion brands have not only left millions of garment workers unpaid and destitute due to not paying up for cancelled orders, but have shown performative solidarity with Black folk during June’s Black Lives Matter protests. Not that I want people to have trust issues, but you really shouldn’t trust fast fashion brands or the billionaires that own them. 

You’d think this would prompt people to research and invest in brands that put people over profit instead, but unfortunately we’re not there yet. Fast fashion shopping habits jumped by 46% during the first lockdown in the UK. Frankly, I was terrified. Come Black Friday, Pretty Little Thing does a 99% off sale, so dresses were selling for as little as 4p. Enter more terror! 

This statement is not meant to shame anyone who can only buy clothing from fast fashion brands due to cost, size, or lack of local, affordable second hand options. Rather it is to inspire more privileged consumers to vote for a fairer fashion industry with their coin, and time-rich consumers to call the corporations out. 

If I’ve left you scratching your head wondering how you’re going to sort your Christmas gifts for your fashion-loving pals and family members, not to worry, I’ve got you covered. And if, like me, you struggle with the pressure of gifting, why not save this guide for another time? Whether it’s for a wardrobe update for yourself or a small unexpected gesture for a loved one, I’m sure you’ll love getting to know these UK-based, ethical fashion businesses giving the finger to the exploitative brands.


Sancho’s is a Black woman-owned ethical fashion and lifestyle marketplace – a one-stop shop for discovering and supporting a myriad of different brands catering to the variety of people you might be gifting. Size inclusivity is an important consideration for me when deciding whether to buy something new from an ethical fashion brand and recently Sancho’s has been totally transparent in an Instagram post about where they’re at with it. Small businesses can’t necessarily cater to everyone when they’re new, but they can definitely be upfront about their progress and intentions.

The Dress Change

The Dress Change is a Black woman-owned online clothing and accessories swapping service. If you’re gifting someone who, like me, enjoys experimenting with their sense of style with a large variety of clothing, the £9 monthly elite membership is a great option. It allows five swaps per month with the opportunity to attend exclusive London-based events.

The Nines Vintage

The Nines Vintage is a Black woman-owned online vintage jewellery seller. I purchased three vintage gold-plated chains from The Nines’ collaboration with Retold Vintage for the price of a single piece of new gold-plated jewellery from that cult brand that sponsors all the influencers. With vintage necklaces and earrings, you don’t even need to worry much about sizing or the classic styles not being someone’s taste.

Sorry It’s Vintage

Sorry It’s Vintage is the most affordable vintage clothing store I’ve seen on Instagram. The respective personal styles of sister owners Sara and Rabia, which we get to see when they style up pieces for sale, are a refreshing departure from fast fashion trend-led Instagram style. As a fellow British Pakistani myself, I love that they celebrate their style heritage and are bringing vintage to a Pakistani audience. Find them on Instagram, Depop and at Wembley Park Market in London. 

Birdsong London

Birdsong London is a size-inclusive fashion brand whose garments are made by brown migrant women in London for a living wage. There are plenty of t-shirts and jewellery pieces under £50 available to order now, but Birdsong’s bread and butter is timeless blouses, skirts, dresses and jumpsuits made-to-order for minimal textile waste in UK sizes 6 to 30. Why not let your loved one choose whether they want a block colour for an everyday staple or a bold print for a special statement piece?


Garmi is a Brown woman-run brand of accessories made of second hand South Asian fabrics –  perfect to gift someone who loves to accessorise if you’re on a budget and unsure about clothing size.

Your local charity shop

Why not reinvest in your local area by rummaging through your local charity shop? There shouldn’t be any shame in second-hand gifts and brand new items aren’t even that hard to come by in charity shops. If your local area isn’t cutting it, check out the shops in affluent areas like Notting Hill in London (if you can get to them in a Covid-safe manner), or Traid’s Depop page to shop from the comfort of your own home.

If none of these brands tickle your fancy, consider subscribing to Aja Barber’s and Remember Who Made Them’s Patreons to continue learning about the fashion industry and how we can stand in solidarity with garment workers.