07 Apr

What Is Minimalist Fashion? And Is It the Key to a Happier and More Sustainable Lifestyle?

Minimalist fashion means having a minimal amount of clothes in your wardrobe that feel right and bring joy. It’s said to be key to a happier and more sustainable life. Keep reading to discover how to start your minimalist wardrobe, as well as our favourite brands if you are looking for some initial minimalist staples.

Minimalism: rejecting the chaos of fast fashion

The perils of fast fashion are well known. Widespread water pollution through the use of cheap and toxic dyes, mountains of textile waste, the ubiquitous use of fossil fuel-based materials such as polyester, the pressure on cotton farmers… the list goes on. Out of this chaos, a trend is emerging that rejects all that—minimalism. It’s time to ask: is a minimalist wardrobe the key to a happier and more sustainable life?

It’s not just fashion that’s gotten out of hand. The ills of fast fashion really just mirror the global thirst for more stuff at cheaper and cheaper prices. This is fuelled by advertisers pushing consumerism at every opportunity, which research suggests can increase levels of anxiety—think FOMO and “keeping up with the Joneses”.

If you are sitting there feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of keeping up with technology, cars, or fashion, and don’t know what to do about it, stay tuned. There is a growing trend in opposition to consumerism and fast fashion, which touts benefits such as more time, decreased stress, as well as better financial health and sustainability. And the best part is, we can all do something right now that will impact our overall happiness and footprint on the planet.

What is minimalist fashion?

If you’ve heard of Marie Kondo, then you might already have an idea of what minimalism is. Minimalism is about stripping back the unnecessary, leaving only the things that provide you with real value and joy. Minimalist fashion means having a minimal amount of clothes in your wardrobe that feel right for you and bring joy.

Minimalism is the antithesis of the modern consumerist narrative—and for good reason. In a global marketplace that wants you to consume more and more, minimalism says “Hey! Have you ever thought about intentionally having less?” Less debt, less clutter, less stress, less stuff. The upshot? Less debt and stress for you, and less valuable resources being extracted for stuff you don’t really need. How to get involved, you ask? Start with your clothes.

Slowing down fashion and keeping a minimalist wardrobe

Slow fashion is the fashion industry’s niche minimalist subculture. Instead of shopping vigorously to keep up with weekly trends and disposing of clothes after one wear on a Saturday night aka financially exhausting and extraordinarily wasteful, the ethos is “buy less, choose well, make it last”.

My entry point to minimalism and slow fashion was through my wardrobe. Back when I first started my minimalist journey some 4 years ago, I went through each and every item of clothing I had and either donated, threw away, or kept them. I offloaded about 80% of what I owned and it felt liberating (and that was just the first time). This process literally re-wired the way I think about buying things and the stress associated with consumerism. I now seek quality sustainable items or thrifted items over sheer quantity. If I don’t see the shops for months on end, who cares?

If I am going to bring something new into my life I have to love it. To this day I have not missed one single item I have given up, because the lightness that comes with purging excess clutter is simply life changing. I invite you to try it… like, now. Follow my process to get you started. Keep only the items that make you feel amazing when you wear them. But before you go and get started, here are some tips.

How to start your minimalist wardrobe

If you are looking for one of the best internet resources out there to help you on your minimalist fashion journey, look no further than The Minimalist Wardrobe. This group of fashion bloggers has all the tips and information you need to inspire you on your journey. Check out their articles for step-by-step guides to creating your minimalist wardrobe. But before you jump up in, keep these five tips in mind:

  • There is no magic number of clothing items (or any items for that matter) to achieve a minimalist wardrobe
  • Minimalism is about fine-tuning your own personal style and the only rule is to rid yourself of excess
  • Minimalism doesn’t have to be monotone. Keep it colourful and versatile
  • Don’t just send your unwanted stuff to landfill. Thoughtfully donate, sell, or gift it first
  • Bask in the empty space and gratitude that flows into your mind and spirit…seriously

Minimalist blogs we love

If the idea of owning less gets your juices flowing, you may find these three blogs of value (there are hundreds out there but these are the ones I read in the beginning): The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, Be More with Less. Alternatively you can try the 30 day minimalism game and get minimal with a friend for some friendly competition, or for those still more interested in the fashion side of things, check out Project 333.

Some staple minimalist fashion brands

These brands implement fair practices for their environmental, ethical, and animal impacts, and are great starting points if you are looking for some minimalist staples to round out your existing pieces and thrifted pieces.

Armedangels

Rated: Great

Affordable, ethical, and on-trend. Germany’s Armedangels gets a "Great" rating overall from us. The brand covers all the basics for women, men, and kids. Armedangels' quality and long-lasting pieces are made from eco-friendly and certified materials, like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. The brand also adopted the Fair Wear Foundation Code of Conduct to protect its workers abroad. Its products are available in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Armedangels.

Shop Armedangels @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Armedangels @ Earthkind.

Shop Armedangels @ Veneka.

Kotn

Rated: Good

Certified B Corp Kotn is based in Canada and works with local NGOs on the ground at the Nile Delta to provide every child in their farming communities with quality education, and to help close the gap of low literacy rates amongst communities. With every purchase, not only will you adorn a beautifully made shirt, but also help fund school infrastructure, materials, and salaries for teachers. Find Kotn in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Kotn.

Dorsu

Rated: Great

Based in Cambodia, Dorsu creates everyday basics and key signature favourites that form the core of any conscious wardrobe. You can find the full range in XS to XL.

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Shop Dorsu.

The Classic T-Shirt Company

Rated: Great

The Classic T-Shirt Company is a US brand that creates premium tees and ethical t-shirts with luxury and integrity. All of its products are GOTS certified organic cotton and it does not use any animal products. The Classic T-Shirt Company’s range is available in US sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop The Classic T-Shirt Company.

Shop The Classic T-Shirt Company @ Urbankissed.

CARPASUS

Rated: Great

CARPASUS is a Swiss menswear brand that makes fine shirts, ties, socks, and pocket squares. CARPASUS uses GOTS certified cotton and manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint. It also traces its supply chain and ensures workers are paid a living wage. Find most products in EU sizes 36 to 46.

See the rating.

Shop CARPASUS.

Unrecorded

Rated: Good

Unrecorded is an independent clothing brand from the Netherlands that represents a new wave of unisex brands that are rebelling against the nature of fast fashion. Unrecorded is passionate about style, and produces apparel using eco-friendly materials. Its range includes items that are all year round essentials suitable for any wardrobe, available in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Unrecorded.

Mila.Vert

Rated: Great

Mila.Vert offers timeless, minimal, and chic clothing, adding sophisticated details that give the garments a modern feel. The Slovenia-based brand wants to make desirable clothing, avoiding the ethical and environmental issues that the fashion industry represents. Find the garments in sizes XS-XL, or make a custom fit order free of charge.

See the rating.

Shop Mila.Vert.

A.BCH

Rated: Great
Asian woman wearing red sleeveless skivvy dress by A.BCH.

A.BCH is a Melbourne-based, Australian-made fashion label for individuals who care about garment provenance. It utilises renewable, organic, and recycled materials. Find the range in sizes XS-XL, or customise to fit you.

See the rating.

Shop A.BCH.

ASKET

Rated: Good
man wearing black asket t-shirt

ASKET has been creating timeless wardrobe essentials since 2015 with revolutionary sizing and fair pricing. The brand disregards seasonal collections, cuts out all the middlemen, and only sells directly to you—putting its entire focus on building a single permanent collection. Find the range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ASKET.

Outland Denim

Rated: Great

Outland Denim makes premium denim jeans and clothes, and offers ethical employment opportunities for women rescued from human trafficking in Cambodia. This Australian brand was founded as an avenue for the training and employment of women who have experienced sex trafficking. Find most of the brand's range in US sizes 22-34.

See the rating.

Shop Outland Denim.

NAE

Rated: Good

NAE is a Portuguese footwear, bags, and accessories brand using innovative materials to create goods with “No Animal Exploitation”. Its sustainable materials include recycled PET from bottles, OEKO-TEX® certified microfibres, recycled car tyres, natural cork, recycled thermoplastic, and even pineapple leaf fibre. Find most of the shoes in sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop NAE.

Shop NAE @ Staiy.

Shop NAE @ Urbankissed.

Proclaim

Rated: Good

Los Angeles-based Proclaim makes beautiful bras, underwear, and basics from eco-friendly materials like recycled plastic bottles and TENCEL. Its designs come in three shades of "nude", building inclusivity into the brand. It also ensures the people in its California factory earn a living wage, and visits suppliers regularly. Find the range in sizes S-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Proclaim.

Honest Basics

Rated: Great
woman wearing sustainable white t-shirt by honest basics

Honest Basics is a GOTS-certified basics brand based in Germany. It's on a mission to make sustainable fashion accessible to everyone, by keeping prices low, making quality basics that everyone has in their wardrobe, and constantly improving the sustainability of its products and supply chain. The range is available in sizes XS-L.

See the rating.

Shop Honest Basics.

Shop Honest Basics @ Urbankissed.

Knickey

Rated: Great
knickey sustainable underwear set

Made in a Fair Trade Certified factory, Knickey’s organic cotton underwear sets are some of the best in the sustainable market. Taking it a step further, the brand has also partnered with an NYC non-profit to recycle old undergarments, turning the fibres into insulation and rug pads. Sending in your old undies will not only help cut down on the amount of fibres that wind up in the landfill, but it’ll give you the freedom to buy new, eco-conscious sets. Find most items in sizes 2XS to 3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Knickey.

ISTO.

Rated: Good
Three people linking arms and wearing a cream, olive, and navy sustainable sweaters from ISTO.

ISTO.’s mandate is simple: create clothes to transcend the seasons and work as staple items in your wardrobe all year round. It has one single collection and pursues quality over quantity to try and make its items permanently available. It uses organic and natural materials, and is incredibly transparent in showing you the true cost of your clothes when you go to purchase a piece for your wardrobe. The range is available in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ISTO..

Colorful Standard

Rated: Good

Colorful Standard is a Danish clothing brand that makes organic fashion essentials for men and women. The brand doesn't care much for seasons or trends, instead, it creates timeless and long-lasting products to avoid the downward spiral that is over-consumption. Find most items in sizes XS to 2 XL.

See the rating.

Shop Colorful Standard.

Toad&Co

Rated: Good

Toad&Co is a US brand that creates socially and environmentally committed womenswear and menswear that is equally suited for the rigours of the trail or the tavern. Most items are available in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Toad&Co.

Editor's note

Feature image via Mila.Vert, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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