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The Secondhand Fashion Revolution and How It Contributes to Sustainability


How Sustainable is Buying Preloved Fashion?

With the significant rise of fast fashion over the past few decades, many people around the world have become accustomed to constantly buying new clothes as their first choice when shopping. While customers can’t be totally blamed for falling for eye-catching trends and buying new and branded fashion at very tempting price points that appear to save a lot of money, there’s no denying the massively negative impact on the planet that large fashion brands have had in the span of just a few years.

The constant and unnaturally speedy rate at which fashion is being turned out, alongside the rise of unethical online brands with a wider reach, is creating excessive waste that people nor the planet can keep up with, and it’s becoming a much larger problem as the years go on. Because of this, the sustainable fashion movement has been getting more traction, with customers and many fashion companies looking for alternative ways to create higher quality clothing at a lower cost for the environment and fashion workers.

While sustainable brands are doing a lot in the effort to save the world from the disastrous effects of the fashion industry, it can be difficult for many customers to go shopping at these brands exclusively due to money constraints and access to such brands around the world. Luckily, however, secondhand fashion has remained a steady, if not growing, appeal in the market, with many people turning to buying vintage at thrift shops and searching for preloved fashion online. 

Here are just a few of the benefits of shopping for secondhand fashion and how you can shop for secondhand clothes in the name of a more circular economy and sustainable future in fashion.

The Benefits of Shopping Secondhand Fashion

While it’s definitely more convenient to buy from brands with massive shops and loads of items on racks, it’s important to know what kind of company and brand you’re supporting and how they treat the planet and its people. While there are a lot of sustainable fashion brands out there for you to support, here are some ways buying secondhand helps in the fight against waste and unsustainable brands.

Reduces Fashion Waste

Fast fashion brands around the world produce fashion at an unnatural and alarming rate, so much so that landfills are becoming overwhelmed with mountains of fashion pieces that have rarely or never been worn. Even your personal wardrobe is contributing to this waste, as most people throw out their used clothes instead of selling or donating them.

Buying secondhand as your first choice gives life to old clothes, creating a circular economy of clothes that gives each fashion item a longer lifespan and our planet a bit more breathing room.

It Preserves Natural Resources

The creation of fashion by large brands involves the overuse of natural resources. Big brands and their factories regularly harvest cotton and other natural materials under unfair circumstances and use excessive amounts of water, fertilisers, pesticides, and various toxic chemicals in their production process.

Buying secondhand fashion means that the energy and natural resources that went into creating these pieces have already been used, so you’re not creating a demand for new items that require additional energy or deplete even more natural resources.

It Saves Money

One of the greatest personal benefits of buying and selling used clothes and older fashion is how much more money you save versus buying new fashion from large retail and fashion brands. You can often find such items on resale, overrun stock, in a thrift store, or even through sellers giving them away online or in garage sales. 

You can often find that such fashion is being sold at 50% or less than their original price tag, so buying secondhand instead of from big fashion brands as your first choice is a smart move and can save you so much more money in the long run.

It Supports Smaller Sellers and the Local Economy

Many renowned fashion brands heavily rely on the exploitative use of garment workers around the world. These people work in hazardous conditions and barely make any money for creating the fashion consumers love to wear.

Aside from helping the planet and stopping support for brands that utilise exploitative conditions in the name of sales, you can also help independent people who sell their preloved items or those who have turned selling old clothes into their own small company. 

Supporting local stores that sell older fashion – from vintage to those sold by familiar brand names – helps support a more sustainable marketplace within your own country and creates a localised circular economy.

Finding Unique and Higher Quality Clothing

One of the most satisfying parts of buying secondhand other than its sustainable aspect is how you can dress yourself up in amazing pieces you wouldn’t be able to find from big brands. While big brands sell many versions of the same item, many resale shops sell a variety of fashion items from all over the world and give you a much wider and more interesting range than anything you’d find from a big name brand. 

Whether you’re keeping a lookout in London or are on vacation somewhere else on the planet, there’s always more than one marketplace where you can search and bag cool items that really suit your own brand at a price that rarely any customers would say no to.

How and Where You Can Buy Secondhand Clothes

Now that you know just a few of the benefits of supporting secondhand, you may be wondering what your options are. Whether you’re looking for a used item from a brand you like or want to join communities that are dedicated to secondhand and sustainability online and in real life, here are the best and most accessible methods to support the circular economy.

Thrift Shopping

Buying from thrift shops is hardly new, but the rise of fast fashion has pushed a lot of buyers into this gem of a marketplace. Donating and buying from these shops allows you and others to buy brand name items at a significantly lower price, and these places also give life to items that would have otherwise been thrown away, despite being in good condition.

Thrifting is one of the most sustainable ways to find brand name pieces without going to these brands directly. Before giving your money to unsustainable brands for trendy items, consider heading to your local thrift store to see what they sell and discover items you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Vintage Stores

While thrifting is the most accessible way to shop sustainably, vintage shops are also great places to find older and harder to find items. While often higher in price, vintage shops sell pieces that are incredibly rare and are specially curated for specific tastes. If there’s a particular way you enjoy dressing that big brands don’t cater to, what you’re hoping to find may be hidden in a vintage shop near you.

Online Resale

Buying online is an amazing new way to shop for used pieces and connects buyers all over the planet directly to sellers and vice versa. Customers can simply scroll through their online marketplace of choice like eBay, Etsy, and more to search for affordable secondhand items, whether they come from a brand you want to buy from but do not support directly or you’re just looking for cute pieces on resale.

The best thing about online resale is that you can join communities that are dedicated to sustainably buying online and in reality, as well as help connect you with sellers and fashion options in another country.

Final Note

Many of us love fashion, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the only planet we live on. We should encourage people to give fashion a new life and a second chance every time it’s possible so we can avoid all the unnecessary waste and exploitative workplaces that large brands generate. 

We should encourage people to contribute and support the circular economy of secondhand, and continue to support every untapped marketplace, whether physical or online, that dedicates itself to sustainable fashion and lessened waste.

Ellora Sharma

Ellora Sharma is a 26-year-old fashionmonger from Leeds. She discovered her love for fashion through the many intricate and flashy designs found in the Bollywood films she religiously watched when she was younger (and continues to watch to this day). She has since developed an affinity for colourful and distinctive clothing, and loves to experiment with her style on the daily. She wants to help others find the same kind of joy and fun in clothing as she has.

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