The fast fashion industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to climate change.
Producing clothes is an extremely environmentally destructive act releasing an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere each year. That is a larger carbon footprint than that of the international shipping AND aviation industries combined!
'Of the 100 billion items of clothing sold every year, each is worn an average of only 7 times before it is thrown away'.
Fast fashion is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the last twenty years, the production of clothing has increased by 400%. Moving factories to developing countries have allowed fashion brands to cut corners to make clothes cheaper and at greater speed. Companies have led us to believe that we constantly need new clothes, a new trend, a new look. Of the 100 billion items of clothing sold every year, each is worn an average of only 7 times before it is thrown away. Fashion has become too fast. We buy items we do not need or want, wear them once and throw them away to begin the cycle all over again. We cannot allow fashion to continue at this speed. We need to slow down.
Luckily, there is no better time to reconnect with the meaning of slow and sustainable consumption than Second-hand September.
A campaign first launched by Oxfam in 2019, Second-hand September encourages individuals to take a stand against fast fashion by challenging us to wave goodbye to fast and furious purchases for 30 days, focusing instead on buying second-hand items.
Second-hand and preloved fashion is a powerful way to fight and protest against climate change. By choosing to buy an item of clothing that someone has already worn and loved, we are choosing to re-wear and re-use garments that are already in circulation rather than supporting the production of new clothes. Extending the life of an item of clothing for just 9 more months can reduce its environmental impact by more than 20% - never mind the avoided emissions of not buying new!
Clothing that is new to you is not only good for the planet, but it’s also good for people. The majority of fast fashion is produced in developing countries, often in sweatshops, mainly by women and children, and almost always for very little pay. Reducing the consumption of fast fashion items is a powerful way that we can use our power as consumers to take a stand against these poor production conditions and send a signal to brands that we demand and expect better standards.
'Second-hand and preloved fashion is a powerful way to fight and protest against climate change'.
So, we know why we need to focus on buying second-hand clothing but if you don’t know where or how to start, it can be a daunting task. But fear not; Trashion is here to help! I’ve been buying only second-hand clothing for the last 4 years and in the process, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to shop second-hand like a pro. And now I’m going to pass my 4 golden rules onto you – just in time for Second Hand September!
Rule 1. Change the way you think about shopping.
Second-hand shopping is a very different way of approaching shopping than the conventional method. Items in second-hand and charity shops are often one-off pieces. You have to be patient and understand that the item you had in mind might not be in your size, your preferred colour, or even in the shop at all! It’s helpful to adopt a browsing attitude when you drop in and out of local second-hand, vintage and charity shops. Look frequently to have a quick scan and see if there are items that you like or are drawn to. Once you realize you won’t always find exactly what you want when you want it, the hunt becomes a lot easier. If you do need something specific, apps like Depop and eBay are your best friend. Use the search bar to be as specific as you like and you will more than likely find what you need.
Rule 2. Delete all distractions.
Delete those fast fashion apps on your phone. Unsubscribe from newsletter and promotion emails. Unfollow brands on Instagram. When I first gave up fast fashion, this was the only way to make sure that I was not tempted to re-indulge every time I opened my phone or checked my emails. It seems extreme, but sometimes one has to do what one has to do!
Rule 3. Shop your own wardrobe.
Second-hand shopping is great but there is nothing like rediscovering an item of clothing stuffed at the back of your wardrobe that you had long forgotten about! Now and then, I like to spend an afternoon sorting through and shopping my own wardrobe. I stick on some good music, grab a full-length mirror and have a bit of fun with new outfit combinations I haven’t previously tried. The satisfaction of finding a new outfit from the clothes you really have provides some next-level serotonin.
Rule 4. Be kind to yourself.
Remember –you’re only human and all you can do is your best! I used to beat myself up a lot, especially at the start of my sustainable fashion journey, if I so much as considered going into Penny’s but that’s not a helpful narrative (and we all need to buy a new pair of socks from time to time). Second-hand September is a nice challenge because there is an endpoint. If you get past the 30 days with no-new clothes – well done! And if you’ve only made it 10 days, also well done! Climate action requires that each of us do what we can, when we ca. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so let’s play the long game.
These rules are not exhaustive but I hope they help you on the path toward sustainable-fashion enlightenment. At the end of the day, fashion is a very personal thing and shopping is a personal experience: it comes down to what you like and how you feel, so if you find that the way I do things doesn’t work for you – don’t worry! Once you focus on shopping second-hand when and where possible, you’re on the right track.
For those of you who feel like you want to learn more about the fashion industry and where it fits into the climate change picture check out The True Cost and Textile Mountain documentaries. Some of the best books for supported reading are Fashionopolis, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion and Clothing Poverty. You can also head over to my Instagram account - @traashion – where I am (sometimes, usually, when life allows) sharing information and tips on what a fast-fashion-free lifestyle looks like.
Join us for second-hand September! Use the #secondhandseptember and share your journey.