Used clothing often gets a bad rep and you can blame it on the current fashion climate. With the cycle of fast fashion constantly churning out new clothing, trends, and fads on a daily – or even, hourly – basis (I’m looking at you, Missguided), it’s not surprising that we, as consumers, are programmed to crave fresh fashion. Yet, as we all know by now, this insatiable sartorial appetite is not doing us or the planet any good.
In fact, fast fashion’s detrimental effects on the environment have been widely documented of late. From the Stacey Dooley’s acclaimed BBC Three documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, to the government’s Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry finding that imposing a 1p tax on fast fashion items could generate £35 million for recycling schemes, fast fashion has been dealt a dressing-down. Yet people are still dressing in fast fashion.
As the committee’s chair, Labour MP Mary Creagh claimed during the 2018 Global Fashion Conference, fashion shouldn’t cost the planet. And It doesn’t need to. Yet, as figures show, it does, quite badly, in fact.
According to the Environmental Audit Committee’s final report into the sustainability of the fashion industry, UK shoppers buy more clothes per person than any other European country. This mass over-consumption leads to people disposing of 300,000 tones of textile waste each year that either goes straight to landfill or is incinerated.
This harrowing trend cannot continue. As the UN recently declared, we have only 12 years to change our ways before the effects of climate change become irreversible and curbing our clothing consumption is a challenge that’s long overdue.
But don’t fear, while the future of fashion may look bleak, there are small changes we can all implement that make a big difference. American resale company Thredup recently published a report that looks promising. According to the report, we’re buying twice as much clothing and wearing it half as long, but all of that is about to change. The report states that millennials and gen z are driving the rise of second-hand fashion – go us. But that’s not all, while 64 percent of women have bought or were willing to buy second-hand clothing in 2018 – nearly a 10 percent rise from 2017 – Thredup predicts that the second-hand fashion market will surpass fast fashion within the next 10 years. Hurrah.
Sartorial appetites are set to slow down then, it seems. And extending the lifecycle of clothing is the one step you and I can take to make this prediction a reality. Re-wear, re-use, re-sell. It’s as simple as that – really.
Thredup states that if everyone bought one pre-loved garment over a new item in 2019, it would save 449 million pounds of waste. An immense saving for something so simple. You on board? Good. Because there is still a long way to go, particularly with changing the stigma surrounding second-hand.
Staggering statistics from a survey conducted by waste management company, Business Waste reveal that while consumers are interested in buying second-hand clothing, just like the proliferation of fast fashion on Instagram, influencers and big brands still hold power over purchases.
Although 80 percent of respondents stated that they would be happy to purchase pre-owned garments from high-street stores, this dropped to 62 percent when asked if they would buy from charity shops. It seems that conforming to the fashionable norm is holding people back from shopping second-hand then as 94 percent of respondents would be encouraged to buy used clothing if celebrities did. But why not lead the change and become the influencer instead of the influenced?
Forget all of your pre-conceived notions about pre-owned garments. Now is not the time to be picky, the planet depends on it. Yes, of course, sustainable brands are a thing, and if you’re in the market for some new sustainable garms on a budget, check out our nifty brand directory to get you started. But, unfortunately, sustainability often comes at a price. And good – in order for garment workers to be paid fairly for their work, the price has to be inflated. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the sustainable revolution.
Second-hand clothing is the answer to shopping sustainably on a budget. Still enticed by fast fashion? Fair, I get it, I am too. Yes, we all love a bargain and I too fall victim to sales, who doesn’t? We’re only human. Now more than ever, sales seem to be almost constant, which is a worrisome indicator of the sheer amount of clothing produced by retailers packaged up as a pretty enticing treat. But instead of buying directly from the brand and partaking in the mass-produced trade of the high-street, a swift Ebay or Depop search can satisfy your cravings too.
Don’t feel bad about it, if anything you’re saving the clothing from piling up in landfill. It may be made from polyester, but it’s pre-loved and that’s better than brand new. Not only will it be ticketed at an affordable price, re-using is an efficient way to do your bit. Once you’re done? Recycle or re-sell, it’s a simple change that will do the world of good; the statistics don’t lie.
Soon, second-hand and up-cycled clothing could be readily available on the high-street. So no longer will shopping second-hand be harder that fixating on fast fashion. While ASOS and Urban Outfitters currently stock vintage collections, ThredUp reports that by 2020, nearly nine in 10 retail executives plan to tap into the resale market. Fittingly, H&M Group’s high-street favourite & Other Stories is to trail the online sale of vintage clothing in Sweden. If it’s successful H&M has plans to expand this initiative in the future. Here’s hoping.
I for one have a self-proclaimed love for second-hand scores, specifically of the vintage kind. Hunting for vintage treasure always feels a thousand times more rewarding than treating yourself to a cheeky cheap purchase. What’s more, as fast-fashion is focused on fads its clothing is ephemeral, while vintage is timeless. And it’s re-sell price? That won’t falter either.
Vintage stores and charity shops may conjure up musty smells of decade-old rejects from Grandma’s wardrobe for some but dispel all those negative connotations as they are treasure troves ready and waiting to conjure up a treat.
Take this vintage peasant blouse for example. I purchased the white embroidered number back in 2015 from a vintage store and I love it even more today. It is a spring/summer mainstay for me, so much so that the fabric has ripped slightly but not to fear, no need to throwaway – dare I say that, recycle – a little make do and mend will patch it back up in no time. The blouse reminds me of the ones worn by Kate Hudson’s character Penny Lane in the film Almost Famous. It meets its perfect match in the form of denim – even better if the jean is pre-loved too – and works as well in 2015 as it does in 2019. Another plus of buying vintage, it surpasses trends.
I make no secret of my penchant for vintage Levi 501s. I personally believe they are the best jeans out there. If you’re searching for that faultless fit then look no further; Ebay and vintage stores are your go-to and whilst the perfect pair can be hard to come by, when you’ve found it, you won’t look back. Really, they’re that amazing. For me no high-street jean comes close in comparison. Considering it takes an estimated 1,800 gallons of water to produce the cotton required to make a singular pair of jeans, if you’re gonna do denim, better to make it vintage.
In terms of sustainable fashion, second-hand doesn’t solve all of the problems caused by the overproduction of fast fashion, those garments still exist. Yet extending the lifestyle of clothes by preventing them from ending up in landfill and polluting the planet is a starting point and one that we all afford to get behind.