How thrifted clothing can counter the fashion industry’s growing problem
I think it’s fair to say that the fashion industry has a problem with sustainability – and now is the time for a much-needed intervention.
With environmental destruction and pollution being a part of our daily lives, there is a growing sense of collective responsibility to address this climate emergency.
The damage as we know, has been a result of unsustainable practices, including the wide use of plastics, landfills, non-renewable energy, scarce resources, and more. This real threat to our environment, however, has been met with many encouraging interventions. Supermarkets have turned the tide on single-use plastic bags, eateries are ditching plastic straws, and more people are re-evaluating their own habits.
Being such a huge contributor in our environmental devastation, it begs the question: Is our love for the latest fashion trends and bargains destroying our planet? And, how can us fashion lovers indulge in our passion more sustainably, without sacrificing on style? Well, here is where thrifted and vintage clothing come in!
So what about the fashion industry? I hear you ask. Well, it certainly has a lot of work to do. In 2018 the industry was responsible for producing 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas, using 1.5 trillion litres of water, and with the United States alone, generating over 15 million tonnes of textile waste. The worst part? We’re continuing to produce a growing figure of 17 million tonnes of new textiles each year. This excessive rate of textile production will only exacerbate our climate crisis in years to come.
Reassessing our views on second-hand clothing
The lifecycle of our garments has become shorter than ever before. This is a direct consequence of the linear, fast fashion industry, which has boomed since its emergence in the 1980s. With most trends lasting just a season, it’s easy to get carried away, buying clothes which are ultimately destined to retire to the back of our wardrobes. As a society, we are indulging in an endless and everchanging turnover of fashion trends. We value quantity over quality, at the expense of our suffering planet. We must re-evaluate our consumption.
The joy of the hunt
Rethinking how we consume fashion can be intimidating. The fashion lovers amongst us know that style is not just the clothes that we wear. It’s an important part of how we choose to express ourselves to the world around us. It is deeply ingrained in cultural identities, and the thought of restricting our consumption patterns can present an internal moral conflict.
This shift however, does not mean we need to compromise on our passion. Importantly, we shouldn’t feel pressured to make drastic changes overnight. Moving toward a more sustainable wardrobe is a process, and yes, this process can be fun!
Not only does the disposable fashion industry generate mass waste and exploit its vulnerable workers, it also simply takes away from what should be a joyful and creative experience – that buzz when you dig out your new favourite coat in a charity shop, or that one in a million piece that you just can’t wait to get home and style. Second-hand clothing shops are a treasure trove! The joy of the hunt makes finding our new purchase all the more exciting and rewarding. All this fun whilst actively reducing textile waste!
When we are met with an overwhelmingly fast turnover of clothing, it’s difficult to be inspired. Luckily for us though, there are so many wonderful shops, apps, and sites that we can explore, trading preloved, thrifted clothing. They will certainly spark creative inspiration!
My personal favourites are Depop and Rokit, and some of my most treasured pieces have even come from auctions on eBay! Preloved does not have to mean tattered or boring. It simply means that this garment has not finished bringing joy to wearers just yet.
Whatever your personal style, there are so many second-hand pieces out there to choose from. The most exciting thing is, that by switching to a more sustainable fashion consumption, we become mindful in this experience. Through being more mindful of my own spending habits, I now find myself thinking more deeply into my purchases. I often ask myself: Will this item bring me joy? Will I actually wear this piece? If the answer to both these questions is yes, I will go ahead with the purchase in confidence.
Adopting this mindful approach to buying clothing not only reduces waste and saves us money, it again, makes this experience more special. It allows us to truly cherish and appreciate our clothing by breaking the cycle of mindless consumption.
With more consideration going into our purchases, we can now choose more wisely the clothing we invest in. As a ’50s fashion lover, I utterly adore vintage fashion; the quality and craftsmanship, their alluring history, and their timeless style. Not only can you find one-of-a-kind treasures that you’d never see on the high street, but you are also becoming a part of the item’s heritage. This is my personal favourite part of buying vintage. I love knowing that others before me have cherished this garment. It is a sentimental experience that simply cannot be replicated by the mass produced, exploitative products of the fast fashion industry.
Remember, clothing should be made to last, so don’t shy away from an investment piece. Quality trumps quantity.
The circle of life
As we are all aware, our planet is suffering tremendously. We must break the linear cycle of ‘think, make, waste’ and instead, replace it with the mantra: ‘rethink, reuse, recycle‘.
Next time you are clearing out your closet, why not donate your unwanted clothes to a charity shop? Or sell them online for some extra cash? And if these clothes are no longer wearable, why not send them to a textile bank? All of these small changes that we can make can have a massive impact on our environment.
So, enjoy the hunt of second-hand treasures. Become more mindful of your purchases. Give your unwanted garments a second chance at life.
Be a fashion hero.
Written by Isabella Noulton