In this blog post, we explore the benefits of shopping second hand for us and the planet, and share our tops tips on how to be a savvy second-hand shopper and donate responsibly!
It’s #secondhandseptember, a campaign started by Oxfam to encourage people to avoid fast-fashion and buy second-hand clothing.
We LOVE secondhand! We are all about investing in core wardrobe staples and bulking out the rest of our wardrobe with beautiful second-hand pieces all year long!
Unfortunately, second-hand clothing can come with stigmas, but we want to share with the world that shopping second-hand doesn’t mean not being able to find what you want or settling for low-quality clothes in bad condition.
Lots of people have amazing quality clothes in their wardrobes, in great condition, but they just don’t wear them. Just think about all of those pieces you have in your wardrobe that you’ve only worn a handful of times - eek. One saying that we love is: ‘One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!’ and it’s true, just because we go off a piece of clothing doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it.
There is so much choice out there, whether that’s online via Depop and eBay or your local charity and vintage shops. You can also rent clothes, borrow them or find amazing pieces in clothes swaps.
WHY IS SHOPPING SECOND HAND SO MUCH BETTER FOR THE PLANET?
We love having fun and express ourselves with what we wear - life would be boring if we only wore the same thing every day. One thing that has helped change our mindsets to a slower, more sustainable approach to fashion, is thinking about whether we want something ‘new’ or just new to us.
Shopping secondhand means we can have variety in our wardrobes, experiment with fashion trends and find unique pieces that help us stand out from the crowd without it being at the expense of people and the planet.
We’re in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency, we can’t keep buying new. Overproduction is the biggest driver of the social and environmental impacts associated with the fashion industry - the UN says that by 2050 the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles given the growth in the global population (1). Yikes!
There are already SO many incredible clothes in the world, and unfortunately, although there are now many brands who are taking the slow fashion approach, they are outnumbered by the brands who are pumping out new collections like there is no tomorrow (and at this rate, there won’t be!!).
In 2015, the total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production were estimated at 1.2 billion tonnes annually of CO2 equivalent, more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined (2) . If a business-as-usual scenario prevails, the apparel industry’s impact will steadily rise over the next 15 years, reaching a projected 49% increase in climate change impact by 2030.(3)
You can read more about climate change and the fashion industry in our blog post Climate Change The Facts : How We Can Fix It
BUYING SECOND HAND ALLOWS US TO KEEP EXISTING CLOTHING IN THE LOOP
People are constantly buying more and more brand new clothes. Clothing production has more than doubled globally over the last 15 years, and in the UK we’re buying twice as much as we were buying 15 years ago (4). Lots of these clothes end up staying in people’s wardrobes, being thrown away into landfill or donated to charity shops. Although donating charity shops is a great thing, we can’t donate ourselves out of this problem. Charity shops being overrun with second-hand clothes and in his book Clothing Poverty, Dr Andrew Brooks describes how less than 30% of clothes donated to the UK, US and Canada get sold in local charity shops. Donations are also often low quality or broken clothes which means they can’t be sold on and end up being thrown away.
Unfortunately, we have steered further and further away from using natural, earth-friendly materials opting instead for synthetic, plastic-based fabrics. You can read more about this in our blog post The Fashion Industry Has A Plastic Problem. Although these clothes are durable and long-lasting, this also means that we have no idea how long many of these garments will be on the planet.
These materials are also not very easily recycled so it’s super important that we keep these pieces of clothing in the loop, and stop producing new pieces from similar materials.
Not only is it important to shop secondhand it’s also important to look after the garments we’ve got, and keep them in good condition so they last us as long as possible, or we can donate to charity shops, take to clothes swaps, lend to friends or resell knowing these clothes will actually get used and worn again. Read on to find out our top tips for donating clothes!
BUYING SECOND HAND IS AN AFFORDABLE WAY TO SHOP SUSTAINABLY
Buying sustainable fashion is more expensive than high-street for a variety of reasons. It’s worth it when you factor the investment in quality, materials and ethical production, but we know that not everyone can afford to pay this every time. Second-hand offers a variety of good quality clothing, at low enough prices that are accessible to everyone!
It’s only recently that the quality clothing has been replaced by fast, cheap ‘disposable’ fashion. This means that a lot of vintage clothing is made to last and you get a lot more wears for your money. Also as trends move in a circular way, you can probably find the exact copy of something you were looking for whether it’s 2 years old or 30 years old - start investigating, you might be pleasantly surprised!
To keep elongating the life of clothes as much as possible, we also need to look after our clothing better - invest in better quality clothing wherever possible so that we can. It’s all about making sure our clothing stays in the loop as long as possible!
4 TOP TIPS FOR SAVVY SECONDHAND SHOPPING AND SWAPPING
- Change your mindset. Instead of thinking of an item as ‘used’, why not focus on the fact that there is a story behind all second-hand items! Imagine all of the fun times that have been had in them.
- Be prepared to adjust an item if it’s not quite right. You might see something you love that is almost perfect but it’s too long, or it doesn’t fit exactly how you’d like. Could you take it to the tailors to be adjusted?
- Only buy what you need or something that you fall in love with. Think about what suits you, and what you’d actually get your #30Wears out of. Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you should get it! If you need an item for an occasion but know you won't wear it regularly, why not look at rental sites like Nu Wardrobe.
- Try not to regularly buy bigger sizes as ‘oversized’ fits, as this limited the options of people who already struggle to find nice clothes in their size whether that’s new or second hand.
We love this video that Alice Wilby and Bel Jacobs from Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action did for Oxfam https://youtu.be/qrpYoSgOf7o
4 TOP TIPS FOR DONATING CLOTHES RESPONSIBLY
- Remember that there is no such thing as away. Even if we are donating clothing, it doesn’t mean it cancels out the impacts of buying new clothing to replace it (yes, we’re talking to you fast-fashion recycling box campaigns). Charity shops are overrun with unwanted garments and often these end up being shipped off and dumped in other countries. The clothing that is ‘donated’ isn’t always suitable for the people who receive them and has played a big part in destroying the local fashion industry.
- Make sure items are in tip-top condition before donating. It’s not too tricky to repair items yourself e.g. fix buttons or fix holes etc. You could even take it to your local tailors to get it repaired and then resell it or donate it after that!
- Make sure clothing is washed and clean when you donate it.
- If an item is worn or unusable - don’t donate it and instead try and think of other uses for it - e.g. a t-shirt or a sheet could become a rag for cleaning or a duster. Some charity shops recycle fabrics, but it’s always worth checking first.
Remember folks, ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last!’ - Vivienne Westwood
We’d love to see how you style your Zola pieces with your favourite second-hand finds! Tag us in your #secondhandseptember looks on Instagram @zolaamouruk!