OPINION: Why buying second-hand clothes should never go out of fashion

Grab a bargain, save money and help save the environment buy buying second hand clothes

Grab a bargain, save money and help save the environment buy buying second hand clothes - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant visual creator Kate Wolstenholme says we need to think about where our clothes come from all year round

I hate to put a downer and add another issue to the pile, but whilst we’re in a sticky spot, let’s talk. As we start October, Oxfam’s Second Hand September, where they asked people to only buy second-hand for a month, ends.

But we still need to talk about fast fashion.

I recently told a friend that it would take 13 years to drink the water needed to make one T-shirt and a pair of jeans (as quoted by Oxfam) and she was completely shocked. As a dog is not just for Christmas, slow fashion is not just for September and we cannot afford to ignore these polluters any longer just because it’s not being highlighted by a charity.

I briefly touched on this in my last opinion column and, at the risk of becoming a broken record, I wanted to re-visit it after a new digital clock was revealed in Manhattan’s Union Square last weekend. The clock, created by Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, shows how much time is left before the damage to our planet is irreversible.

If major action is not taken, we will live with extreme weather, famine, water shortage and many, many more catastrophic impacts. On Monday, at 1:30pm the time stood at seven years, 101 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds. We all have a responsibility to act in a way that is doable for each of us. The clock is ticking.

Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter on our planet, behind oil. Avoiding fast fashion is by no means easy for everyone (I am certainly far from perfect, but I am really trying now I know the facts), nor is it doable to boycott it 100% of the time. Ethical fashion brands are expensive and not always size inclusive, and second-hand shopping is time-consuming and limiting. However, if you are in a position where you are able start to utilise these sources in a large percentage of your wardrobe, why not try? Thereby saving the equivalent weight of the Empire State Building in clothes going into landfill each year (that is just the UK).

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In order for fast fashion to produce garments at the rate and quantity it does, environmental and ethical corners are cut. Here’s some more facts:

A truck full of clothes is sent to landfill every second – polyester takes more the 200 years to decompose.

Microplastics come off clothes every time they are washed, which end up in our oceans.

Only 2% of people working in the garment industry earn a living wage and, as seen by the garment factory which collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 1,334 workers, many are in unsafe conditions.

Fast fashion is the second largest polluter of clean water, through use of toxic chemicals in the process.

The amount of clothing we consume increased by 60% between 2000 and 2014, with the rise of a new fashion season almost every week.

So how can we adapt? Well, who doesn’t love a charity shop? A top for £2, a dress for £3? It’s a no brainer (if you have the time and the patience and often the sewing skills). Vintage stores are a little more expensive, but they have done the searching for you. Kilo sales throw up some fantastic bargains and so does the Depop app.

Supporting local makers and artists making their own clothes to order from sustainable fabrics has many positives, you just have to dig out your favourites. (Morwenna Farrell is a great one for a statement tee). As well as this, small, transparent, ethical fashion brands are great if you want to spend a little more.

Then there is simply buying fewer, better quality clothes and keeping them for much, much longer. Our appreciation for our wardrobes needs to grow and I am finding the hunt for pieces much more fun and rewarding than before.

Prince Charles recently stated that the climate crisis: “is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”, as he called for action during Climate Week.

Thank goodness Bake Off is back to comfort us through all of this.