Throwaway fast fashion is a huge problem for people and for the planet. Every week, 13 million items of clothing end up in UK landfill, and the textile industry is thought to contribute 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, things can really be too cheap to be true, with clothes manufacturing linked with modern slavery and exploitative working conditions around the globe.
To help us break our fast fashion habit, Oxfam has launched Second Hand September – an initiative encouraging people to pledge to only buy second hand clothing for 30 days or more. Here are some of our top tips for buying second hand and mending and reworking what you already own:
Shop and swap
Charity shops: Generally they’re back open following the national lockdown, and bursting at the seams with everyone’s clear outs. There may be a one-way system and no changing rooms, but you can often find a brilliant item that someone is too busy or generous to list for their own benefit. What’s more, the money you spend is going to a great cause, which may have missed out on a lot of income earlier in the year.
Vintage shops: Vintage shops pride themselves on stocking quality clothing for resale – items from another era that have made their way back round into 2020 fashion. A bit more pricy than the average charity shop, but a great way to find a really unique piece.
Swap: Your friends might be as tired of some of their clothes as you are of yours. Why not swap a few items for a bit of a refresh? Or look for a local ‘swishing’ event, where attendees bring along pre-loved clothes to exchange, often in return for donating to a chosen charity.
Depop/Vinted: Two similar apps that sell a range of pre-loved high street, novelty and vintage pieces – with a simple to navigate, attractive design. Plenty of people will have been clearing out recently so it’s a good time to find something new to you.
Ebay: Selling old and new, make sure you turn on the ‘Auction’ buying format to find second-hand clothes, often for a really low price. Practice a few times to learn when to place that winning bid.
Facebook Marketplace: A great place to trawl for kids’ clothes, school shoes and bundles containing a few hidden gems. No postage, just pick up locally.
Repair and rework
In house repairs: Lots of companies out there want your clothes to stand the test of time. For example, Patagonia and Finisterre offer repairs for their clothes and wetsuits, and at Rapanui you can send back your worn-out T-shirt to be re-spun, meaning nothing is wasted.
Upcycling: There is also plenty you can do at home to mend and upcycle your clothes. Are the knees worn out in your jeans? Try patching them or turning them into shorts instead. Fed up with some of your shirts? Find a template online and make some reusable face coverings – like these options from the WI.
Beyond September, continuing to resist the urge to buy items driven by fleeting trends can make your own wardrobe greener and help tell the fashion industry that it needs to change. Together let’s prevent clothing going into landfill, reduce the marketplace for ‘too cheap to be true’ suppliers, and focus on a more sustainable fashion future.
Want to find out more?
Here are some great further resources on environmental and ethical issues in fast fashion, as well as how the industry can change for the better:
- The True Cost – documentary focusing on environmental issues and workers’ rights.
- To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? – hard hitting book by ethical living journalist Lucy Siegle.
- Can Fashion Ever be Sustainable? – A BBC Future article that takes an in-depth look at environmental issues surrounding clothing, and how to shrink your fashion footprint.