Shopping renewably and locally has never been more important. Now more than ever, we are relying on fast fashion. I too, am guilty of ordering countless lockdown parcels – but it’s also now more than ever we should be looking for a more sustainable way of clothes shopping.
A circular economy focuses on eliminating waste and reuses resources we already have. It is something that has benefited the fashion industry greatly in the past, and could further help now, and in the future.
Already we are seeing a step in the right direction. My home city, Sheffield, has many reworked vintage shops, and brands are following suit. Urban Outfitters, established their own ‘Urban Renewal’ brand which upcycles and refreshes vintage clothing for modern markets. Taken from their website, ‘Urban renewal is UO’s way of making old new again’. Having this on an online website gives us easier access, while this is not the same for many vintage shops.
Urban Outfitters use their huge platform to advertise the value of reusing clothes, which is something that local shops, like Sheffield-based Mooch, cannot do. While it is good that bigger corporations are using their platform to inform and educate about sustainable fashion, smaller businesses do not share the same platform and so the message of shopping locally in this instance is so important. As while corporations like Urban Outfitters are extremely well known and can sustain themselves and employees during the global pandemic we find ourselves in, local vintage stores cannot.
This is the downfall of many vintage shops: they’re cut off from the online part of the normal economy, let alone contributing to the circular economy we’re striving to achieve. As a consumer, I understand the easiness and convenience of online shopping, from sizing to colours and models for reference, whereas in vintage shops that isn’t the case.
Like Urban Outfitters, accessible brands should copy the renewable clothing system, offering online shopping as well as instore.
Unlike Urban Outfitters, clothing brand Zara uses recycled and recyclable paper for online deliveries, a clever initiative which needs to be quickly adopted to reduce the amount of plastic waste created by deliveries and parcels alone.
However, with online shopping, another negative comes in the form of fast fashion – the idea that clothing is produced rapidly in order to keep up with the latest industry trends. Even reworked clothing is subject to this, and clothes, as well as packaging which is often not biodegradable, are wasted. This also raises the long argued debate of different brands using sweatshops, and the harmful impact this has on the workers as well as the environment.
Vintage clothing stores not only create a better environment for consumers to shop in, they also create more jobs within the fashion industry and create no new demand. Time spent making clothes will now be halved reworking them and reusing what we already have will cut down on waste. Reworking an item of clothing is also not specific, and something anyone could do. Meaning everyday shoppers could DIY their own ‘vintage’ clothes out of neglected and unworn outfits – we could all be our own fashion designers, even if it means turning a t-shirt into a vest top.
This mindset has been trending during the pandemic, on social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, with guides on how to recycle old clothing, and turn it into something that fits with current trends. Also, on these platforms, there has been a bigger influence and trend from America, as young people share their hauls from thrift stores and flea markets, which is something that has had an impact on myself and other young people.
While the current circumstances mean we must shop online, thankfully it will not be forever, and the end is already in sight. Bearing that in mind, the message of shopping locally resonates too with fashion. With the reintroduction of reworked and vintage clothing, it not only is better for the environment but also creates a more diverse fashion industry, and a better relationship with the fashion industry and consumers. To go and physically look through a vintage store, is better than to browse online, and as shoppers, we should embrace this more so than an app.
Until a more sustainable version of online shopping comes, either through recyclable packaging or more upcycled clothes, shopping in person and shopping sustainably is the way forward.