Fast-fashion is slowing down as consumers realise the growing trend of repairing their clothes and buying from charity shops.
Charity shops have seen an increase in sales over the last year and continue to thrive as more and more consumers choose to boycott the high-street’s clothing retailers altogether. The recent surge in ethical buying is a great bandwagon to jump onto if you want to limit your carbon footprint, help other people or just save some money!
We may be enticed by new styles and special offers this spring but buying second-hand clothes from charity shops is becoming increasingly popular. Consumers are coming to the realisation that fast-fashion is one of the most environmentally-taxing industries, after housing, transport and the meat and dairy trades. Renewing clothes from charity shops and recycling or gifting unworn garments is therefore the fashion world’s form of veganism. Making a few easy changes to a materialistic lifestyle will reduce demand for fast-fashion and thereby improve working conditions for manufacturers and help protect the earth. Having just experienced the warmest February on record, it is more important than ever before to monitor our impact on the climate.
Reducing unnecessary splurging habits is just one way we can help the planet while saving some money too. The UK fashion industry is worth a staggering £32 billion since the average Briton buys 26.7kg worth of (new) clothes per year which is more than anyone else in all of Europe. As a nation we then discard over 1 million tonnes of clothes, around 235 million individual items, every year to landfill. This extortionate level of waste could be prevented if more of us were more mindful of our purchases – if we don’t really need it and we don’t really love it, then we really shouldn’t buy it. By exerting a little self-control, the demand for “fast-fashion” will decrease, lowering greenhouse gases, water and air pollution, as well as surplus water consumption.
As for the forgotten clothes already in our wardrobes, these can be renewed, reused or recycled to cut down the amount sent to landfill. Swapping clothes with friends or at local ‘swap-shops’ is a fun way to extend a garment’s lifespan and gain something different without spending anything. The Marlborough Theatre in Brighton hosts various clothing swap-shops and their next one is a “Fat Clothes Swap” on Sunday 7th April. More information can be found on their website or Facebook page.Events like this are noticeably increasing in frequency and popularity, with something thrifty for everyone. Another easy way to prolong the lifetime of your clothes is to wash at a lower temperature and avoid using a tumble dryer. An item of clothing typically lasts just over two years in the UK, but this is easily remedied by taking better care of what we buy.
For instance, you can get creative and revamp tired-looking clothes into something new. If a jumper has a loose thread or a small hole it can quickly be stitched up and renewed. Tattered jeans can easily become cropped or even a pair of shorts for example. Any leftover fabrics can be used to embellish other clothes and allow you to experiment with style and learns some sewing skills! Charity shops like Oxfam are catching on to the upcycling trend by taking on seamstresses to regenerate some of their items, giving their clothes a much more personal and unique look.
If stitching isn’t really your thing then you can easily recycle unwanted clothes or donate them to charity. A few retailers like H&M sometimes offer vouchers in return for a bag of unwanted clothes for recycling but there are always clothing bins in the city too. For clothes are still in good condition, there are some 11,200 charity shops in the UK that can ensure your clothes will go to a new home rather than landfill. Donating is also an effective way to tackle that ‘floordrobe.’
Buying from charity shops is also a much more sustainable and ethical form of consumerism, and their success has recently swelled, partially as a result of Marie Kondo’s newfound fame. The Netflix star has propelled a surge of decluttering in homes, leading to a sudden boom in donations to charity shops. Now it is easier than ever to find things like clothes, books, decorations and even items of furniture which are often in ‘as-good-as-new’ condition but don’t cost nearly as much as they would in a high-street shop. It’s like a permanent sale! Ditched denim, shunned shoes, even worn wedding dresses are all hidden gems waiting to be rediscovered and worn again. (They’re also a great place to get used books for uni!)
I was fortunate enough to find some unworn heels from Irregular Choice for less than £26 during one of my charity shop hauls. I’ve also picked up a couple of summery dresses, a playsuit from Pretty Little Thing, and a brand new shirt originally from Pull & Bear, each costing me less than £9. These are now some of my favourite items.
The growing popularity has allowed some charity shops to become more commercial. Oxfam for instance has even started making their own ethical products like tea, hair accessories and has their own online store, offering high-quality goods but through ethical and cleaner means.
Similarly, instead of shopping from online brands, turn to sites like eBay, Depop, or the university’s own Market Place. Sometimes websites like these even offer things for free, giving you a better deal than any student discount! High-street clothing is cheap to manufacture and many brands and retailers have come under scrutiny for underpaying staff or using sweatshops – even in the UK – but in refusing to buy from a retailer directly, there is no risk of contributing to companies that use sweatshops or harmful production processes.
The high demand for fast-fashion means that companies are unsurprisingly driven for profit and have little incentive to care for their workers or the environment. Most consumers are aware of this but the competitive prices, constant sales and flashy advertising are too enticing to refuse. Because fashion plays such a huge role in climate change, MPs have proposed a range of incentives to encourage businesses to be more proactive about their environmental impact as well as the notion of a 1p tax on clothes that would go towards recycling schemes. While these schemes are still in debate, we have the ability to make a change today.
Fast-fashion is incredibly detrimental to the planet; clothes last a little over two years on average, either because they wear down or we simply get bored of them; demand for fast shipping pollutes our oceans and harms underwater life; the manufacturing processes are often unethical and unclean.
A lot of us (myself included) are guilty of buying new clothes while there are pieces in our wardrobe that we have had for months but never wear. Swamped in capitalist advertising, we are a very materialistic, throwaway culture.
Buying from charity instead of big-name brands, swap-shops and recycling or renewing clothes is the solution. Not only will the simple change drastically save money, but it will also make us appreciate our clothes more while limiting the stash of unworn garments in the dark corners of our closets. Buying second-hand clothes is a retail therapy that makes everyone feel good and is quickly chasing fast-fashion off the catwalk.