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Group of festival attendees
10 Apr
Group of festival attendees

Festival Style, Done More Sustainably

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What is festival fashion and where does it come from? And why are so many people talking about its problematic aspects? Here, we explore fast fashion’s influence, overconsumption, and cultural appropriation, plus, the brands offering more sustainable alternatives for those committed to dressing for the occasion.

What does festival fashion even mean?

Cast your mind back to one of the most famous festivals of all time—Woodstock 1969. The three-day, generation-defining event in upstate New York was immortalised in photos that have come to serve as the ultimate festival style inspiration.

Think flares, bandanas, beaded headbands, fringed jackets, crop tops, denim, crochet, swathes of tie-dye, and psychedelic prints. At the time, these styles reflected the politically charged, protest-driven hippie movement, but today they’ve trickled down to symbolise the broader genre of festival goers, and an annual summer trend.

You can see the enduring influence of Woodstock in Kate Moss’ style at Glastonbury in the early 2000s, and later, Vanessa Hudgens and the Kardashians at Coachella, who heralded a new era of celebrity and influencer-driven festival style. When Coachella kicks off the northern hemisphere’s festival season in April, brands waste no time bombarding us with festival-inspired edits, and almost always, they hark back to what people were wearing at Woodstock.

Festival style, the fast fashion way

The annual onslaught of festival edits is a striking reminder of the extent to which fast fashion encourages overconsumption and excessive production. At the time of writing, fast fashion brand Boohoo had an astounding 746 products, starting from as low as £3.00, in its ‘festival’ category. These clothes echo the styles noted above, including flares, crop tops, crochet and psychedelic prints, only none of them are made with the peace and love ethos that Woodstock’s attendees were looking to embody when they dressed for the original event. Boohoo isn’t the only one—the likes of SHEIN, Forever 21, and Temu have festival fashion filters, categories or tags on their websites, too.

Most items from these brands are manufactured at an alarming rate with little regard for people or the planet, and are destined to fall apart before next year’s festival rolls around. And that’s another issue—the lack of longevity in these clothes means they quickly end up in landfill, and so the cycle repeats, and more ‘festival clothes’ are consumed.

Cultural appropriation in festival fashion

The clothes worn by Woodstock attendees could undoubtedly be considered culturally appropriative today—there was an abundance of prints and fabrics from India, and beaded fringed clothes, like the jacket Jimi Hendrix famously wore, which connoted Native American dress. But as festival style has become increasingly popular in the last two decades, the misuse of cultural symbols and crafts has reached new and more overt levels.

One of many examples of cultural appropriation in festival attire is feather headdresses, which have become notably associated with the trend. But this style of headwear—also called a war bonnet—holds great spiritual and political importance in several Native American communities, including Cheyenne and Lakota. For a non-Native person to wear it as costume, and at the profit of a fast fashion corporation, is considered deeply offensive and only perpetuates colonialistic and oppressive attitudes towards Native American communities.

Some organisers are taking action to limit cultural appropriation within their festivals—after a petition in 2014, Glastonbury added Native American-inspired headdresses to its list of prohibited items for traders. Another UK festival, Shambala, has issued guidance on avoiding cultural appropriation at its event, particularly concerning fashion.

And while festival attendees are more clued up about this than ever before, fast fashion brands continue to churn out appropriative styles for entertainment and dress-up purposes, with little consideration for their origins or the people they might hurt in the process. Ultra fast fashion brand Temu, for instance, currently offers Native American-inspired beaded and feathered garments as festival attire.

How to dress more sustainably for festivals

All this isn’t to say that you can’t wear a pair of flares to a festival. But it’s important to keep in mind the trend’s origins and current landscape of overconsumption and cultural appropriation. If you’re planning to attend a festival this summer or are inspired by the late 1960s aesthetic that influenced Woodstock, then there are a few ways to dress more sustainably for it.

Shop your wardrobe

First, look at what’s already in your wardrobe—are there things you can combine or customise to achieve the look you want? If you’re already a 1960s style-connoisseur then you’ll likely have some good options to choose from. If not, then don’t forget that the original festival fashion was rooted in a movement of creativity and acceptance, and while ‘60s looks still play a key role in the trend, in modern times festival style should be considered as an opportunity to mix things up and try fun—perhaps unconventional—outfits, whether they hark back to the era or not.

Find second-hand options

We highly recommend heading to second-hand and vintage shops before buying new things. This is a great option for shopping more sustainably because you’re diverting clothes from landfill and giving them a second life, but also from an all-round perspective—you’re more likely to turn up to the event in something no one else is wearing, and perhaps even something from the 1960s itself.

And remember: wherever you find your festival clothes, take care to consider the meaning of the items you wear. Ask: What is the original purpose of the item? What would it mean to take the item out of this context? Have the people whose culture from which the item originates directly benefitted from its purchase?

Buy from ‘Good’ or ‘Great’ brands

Lastly, if you do decide to buy something new, make sure that it’s from brands working in a more sustainable way than the fast fashion giants we mentioned above. Below, we’ve listed some brands rated ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ in our directory that have been popular with readers for festivals. Our suggestions include brands making durable bags that’ll hold everything you need for a day in a field, robust boots comfortable enough to stand (and dance) all day in, and items that will keep you dry if the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Nudie Jeans

Rated: Great
Nudie Jeans musical note embroidered shirt

George shirt – Ships internationally from Sweden

Nudie Jeans designs 100% organic cotton clothes and is transparent about its production. The brand also offers a free repair service, resells second hand products, and even recycles worn out items. This embroidered shirt is made from Fairtrade organic cotton and couldn’t be more fitting for a weekend of music.

Find the perfect fit with the Virtual Size Guide on the product pages.

See the rating.

Shop Nudie Jeans.

Shop Nudie Jeans @ Farfetch.

Shop Nudie Jeans Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great
MUD denim jeans

Moore jeans – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans is all about sustainability. Not only does it offer a repair service, but it also provides a rental service where you can lease a pair of jeans for up to a year. MUD Jeans uses a combination of GOTS certified organic cotton and post-consumer recycled cotton. These substantial denim jeans are perfect for a day outdoors.

MUD Jeans are available in a range of sizes, usually from W25 L30-W33 L32 for women and W28 L34-W36 L34 for men.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

Christy Dawn

Rated: Great
Christy Dawn Lou Lou jacket

Lou Lou jacket – Ships internationally from the US

Festival nights can be cold, and Christy Dawn’s reversible, quilted jacket will be great for keeping warm and cosy. The US brand rates “Great”, making it a fabulous long-term addition to your wardrobe.

Find the clothes in standard sizes XS-XL, or shop the Extended and Petite collections.

See the rating.

Shop Christy Dawn.

WAWWA

Rated: Good
WAWWA clothing black sweatshirt

Organic cotton sweatshirt – Ships internationally from the UK

UK brand WAWWA puts the Earth and its inhabitants first by creating organic, fair trade, and vegan-friendly clothing with a positive social impact. It uses lower impact materials, non-toxic dyes, and reuses its offcuts to minimise textile waste. A thick and warm sweatshirt like this organic cotton one from WAWWA is essential festivalwear, after all—who knows what the weather will bring. It’s printed to order and has a simple design that means you’ll be able to wear it for plenty of casual occasions in the future.

Find the range in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop WAWWA.

TAMGA Designs

Rated: Good
Someone dancing in neutral maxi skirt by Tamga.

Amethyst Maxi Skirt – Ships internationally from the US

TAMGA Designs offers tops, skirts, dresses, and accessories made from lower-impact fabrics. This full-length maxi skirt is made from more responsible viscose and is ideal for keeping cool at warm-weather festivals and events.

TAMGA Designs’ range is sized from XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop TAMGA Designs.

Purusha People

Rated: Good
Black Purusha People dress

Dark Pansy mini dress – Ships internationally from the US

Offers

Someone wearing a lavender tie-dyed crop top and bottoms by Purusha People.

Purusha People – Site-wide (US)

Ignite inspiration for your wardrobe with these limited collections fashioned from plant fibre-based Tencel. Enjoy free shipping on orders over $200. (Available in the US only) (Ends: 7 MAY)

Shop now

Purusha People creates comfortable clothes for hiking, yoga, lounging, and everything in between using lower-impact materials and non-toxic dyes. This soft and stretchy swing dress makes for ideal festivalwear because it’s so flexible, not to mention that 1960s silhouette.

Find most items in sizes XS – 4X

See the rating.

Shop Purusha People.

Afends

Rated: Good
A pair of black denim shorts by Afends.

Organic Denim Shorts – Ships internationally from Australia

Denim shorts are a festival staple, and Afends’ organic-cotton denim shorts will be a mainstay in your wardrobe long after the event. Afends is an Australia-based fashion brand leading the way in organic hemp fashion, using renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact.

You can find the full range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Good Guys

Rated: Good
Black vegan cowboy boots by Good Guys.

Lucky High Top Vegan Boots – Ships internationally from France

Good Guys creates cruelty-free shoes for women and men, founded and designed by Marion Hanania in Paris. Through Good Guys, Hanania aims to create the perfect cruelty-free, made in Europe closet, where no animal product is involved, and the production guarantees fair trade working conditions. These vegan western boots are made in Portugal and are perfect for dancing all day in.

Find most shoes in EU sizes 36-46.

See the rating.

Shop Good Guys.

Shop Good Guys @ Immaculate Vegan.

Veja

Rated: Good
A pair of black high top canvas sneakers by Veja.

Nova Canvas Sneakers – Ships internationally from France

Veja is a French brand designing fair trade footwear, and is also a responsible fashion pioneer. The brand uses lower-impact materials, like GOTS certified cotton. Veja pays its co-operative cotton growers and rubber tappers between 30% and 100% above the world market price. By not advertising, Veja is able to invest more money into strengthening its practices.

You can find Veja shoes in women’s EU sizes 35-46, and men’s 35-47.

See the rating.

Shop Veja.

Shop Veja @ LVRSustainable.

Shop Veja @ Threads 4 Thought.

Shop Veja Kids second hand @ Retykle.

Nisolo

Rated: Good
A pair of black leather Chelsea boots by Nisolo.

Carmen Chelsea Boots – Ships internationally from the US

Nisolo is a US brand that prioritises living wages throughout its supply chains while also working to combat climate change. These Chelsea boots are versatile and robust enough for the muddy demands of a weekend-long festival.

Find the boots in US sizes 5-11.

See the rating.

Shop Nisolo @ Made Trade.

Shop Nisolo.

Parker Clay

Rated: Good
A light tan coloured bucket bag by more sustainable brand Parker Clay.

Topa Mini Bucket Bag – Ships internationally from the US

Parker Clay is a US-based brand looking to create a future without exploitation by bettering lives and communities in Ethiopia. The brand has partnered with Ellilta Women at Risk program, fighting to bring women out of prostitution by providing a more stable income and safe working environment. Parker Clay also helps preserve traditional Ethiopian techniques, materials, and styles, ensuring that this fast-growing country is able to remain close to its beautiful roots. This minimal mini bucket bag is a good size for festival essentials.

See the rating.

Shop Parker Clay.

O My Bag

Rated: Good
A black leather bum bag by O My Bag.

Beck’s Bum Bag – Ships internationally from the Netherlands

O My Bag merges style and a more responsible approach, creating vintage-inspired bags like this practical bum bag, which is made from lower-impact, high-quality materials. The Dutch label also uses lower-impact and non-toxic dyes in its products.

See the rating.

Shop O My Bag.

ARTICLE22

Rated: Good
Gold engraved bangles by ARTICLE22.

Love All Around Bangle – Ships internationally the US

Every piece of ARTICLE22 jewellery is locally handcrafted in Laos using recycled materials from Vietnam War bombs, plane parts, military hardware, and other aluminium scraps. This bangle is inscribed with translations of “love” and beautifully symbolises a key sentiment of Woodstock 1969, where festival fashion originated.

The range, including the Love All Around Bangle, is available in sizes S-XL.

See the rating.

Shop ARTICLE22.

Raven + Lily

Rated: Good
Cream and gold leaf earrings by Raven + Lily.

Zia Double Leather Leaf Earrings – Ships internationally from the US

Made with love and locally-sourced leather from Northern India, these earrings will add shimmer to your festival outfit. Raven + Lily supports local female artisans to create handmade jewellery, bags, and homewares. This US brand’s products are more responsible and empower communities through fair wages, healthcare, and education.

See the rating.

Shop Raven + Lily.

Shop Raven + Lily @ Cerqular.

Spell

Rated: Good
Spell beach towel

Pomelia towel – Ships internationally from Australia

Spell is an Australian fashion brand inspired by far-off places, vintage treasures, and childhood memories. Its clothes are proudly designed and sampled in Byron Bay, and produced responsibly in factories around the world. The brand’s flouncy dresses will be great for festivals, but we also love this jacquard towel, which will come in handy for sitting on the grass with friends, and for picnics long after the festival.

Most garments are available in sizes 2XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Spell.

Faithfull the Brand (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start
woman wearing Faithfull dress as well as flay lays from second hand retailer Vestiaire Collective

Faithfull the Brand is an Indonesia-based collection of effortless pieces designed to be versatile and easy, made with the modern traveller in mind. The brand rates 'Good' on the labour and animal welfare fronts, but still needs to use better materials and reduce textile waste. By buying Faithfull the Brand second hand you're helping keep clothes out of landfills.

See the rating.

Shop Faithfull the Brand Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Levi’s (Pre-Owned)

Rated: It's A Start

Levi's is committed to producing quality, hard-wearing products, and it continues to make strides with regards to environmentally sustainable production methods. This includes its Waste<Less range, made from 20 percent post-consumer waste.

See the rating.

Shop Levi's Pre-Owned @ Vestiaire Collective.

Editor's note

Feature image via Canva, 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 love to recommend some of the best more sustainable brands rated "Good" or "Great". We also encourage shopping pre-owned as another great way to reduce the impact of our fashion choices.

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