Slow Down Fashion

“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them” some wise fashionista once said.

“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them” some wise fashionista once said.

I discovered the wonders of second-hand clothing when I was a teenager. I was working at a frozen yogurt shop on White Rock beach right next to a building called “The Antique Mall.” In this strange collection of shops in a rickety building was a second-hand clothing store curated by a woman I assumed at the time was about 95. And, wow, did she ever have marvelous taste.

From her store and into my closet went a black bouclé coat with leopard print cuffs and collar, an over-sized bowling shirt from the 1950s with a name tag on the chest that read “Fred”, a pair of bell bottoms from a long-defunct Canadian denim brand – you get the idea. I spent portions of my tiny minimum-wage paycheck from the yogurt shop on fun vintage clothing.

I loved the store because I could afford everything in it (well, except for some of the beautiful rhinestone pieces behind the counter) and it also suited my grunge/lounge lizard aesthetic. The clothes were cool and I was developing a style based on the discovery of unique and well-made clothing that I still have today.

It wasn’t until years later I realized buying used – and quality – clothing is good for the environment. Somebody once said that when we throw anything away, it must go somewhere because there is no such thing as “away.”

It turns out buying second-hand clothing is a bigger trend than ever these days. While some, such as my teenage self, seek it out as an affordable option, most others are going the second-hand route for reasons of sustainability.

It’s “a huge gesture of activism to buy secondhand,” Maria Chenoweth told the Guardian newspaper this week. The chief executive of the Traid, which is a UK-based charity that aims to stop clothing from being thrown away, was interviewed for an article called “Don’t feed the monster! The people who have stopped buying new clothes.”

She added that it’s a necessary choice for those who “do not believe in damaging the environment and perpetuating this consumption and waste.”

She’s not exaggerating. The UK – home to fast fashion brands such as New Look, ASOS and H&M – ranks clothing as having the fourth largest environmental impact after housing, transport, and food.

Stephanie Campbell is the woman behind Love Your Clothes which was launched in 2014 to help change the way UK consumers buy, use, and dispose of their clothing to reduce the environmental impact.

“Every year an estimated 430,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK,” according to Love Your Clothes. “There is absolutely no need for any clothing or textiles to make its way into a bin…” The number of new clothes sold is rising, according to the Guardian. “1.13m tonnes in 2016, an increase of 200,000 tonnes since 2012.”

Earlier this week, the UK’s parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee recommended that producers should be charged a penny-per-garment fee to fund a $45 million per year national clothing recycling program. You know fast fashion is an epidemic when the government is looking at applying a Fashion tax!

Our shopping habits in Canada are similar. But just because we have more space, doesn’t mean we should pack it with more landfills!

We’re really happy to hear the news about the fashion tax as cheap clothing is not meant to last. Fibres are not easily decomposed and the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters of clean water (lots of water is used by factories and the toxic chemicals from garment production is dumped into nearby rivers and oceans. Don’t believe us? Check out how much pollution jeans cause. This article also recommends some sustainable denim brands).

The UK and Europe is always one or two steps ahead of North America in terms of fashion. Looks like they are when it comes to changing the way many think about sustainable fashion, too.

If you’d like to get started on your second-hand store exploration, here’s a handy list for those who are in, or regularly visit, Vancouver.

Love live quality AND sustainability!