While its been a good six months since I’ve bought any new clothes, I hadn’t ventured into the realm of second-hand until quite recently… But I immediately realised how much I love it!
After watching ABC’s War on Waste, I vowed that I would never buy brand-new clothes like I used to (often and from unethical brands), and thought that second-hand clothing would be a good alternative to fast fashion. After all, Australia alone throws out 6000 kilograms of textile and fashion waste every 10 minutes, and wouldn’t vintage clothes be more authentic when they’re second-hand anyway?
Well, I’m about to tell you exactly why you should join me in rejecting our obsession with trends and unethical fashion, and embracing pre-loved (Earth-loving) clothes!
Reason #1: Its great for the environment
As I said before, the fashion industry creates a tonne of waste; so much waste that I count buying second-hand clothing as one of the best things you can do to Reduce Your Ecological Footprint.
Modern fashion is rife with problems. Clothes that contain artificial materials such as polyester shed micro-plastics (tiny plastic fibres) when they’re washed that make their way into the ocean, clog waterways and are consumed by animals at all trophic levels. Dyes and other chemicals used during manufacturing can be toxic and bio-accumulative, having devastating effects on ecosystems.
Unfortunately, natural materials aren’t innocent either. Cotton production requires a very high amount of water and often heavy use of pesticides. According to WWF it takes 2700L of water to produce one cotton t-shirt!
With all this in mind, it seems that making the right choice is impossible. However, by shopping second-hand, we can help to reduce the demand for clothes production and use what we already have.
Reason #2 It helps to fight sweat-shop labour and inequality
How are companies able to churn out mass amounts of clothing, with constantly changing designs at super low prices (and free shipping)? The answer is cheap materials and cheap labour.
The fast fashion industry is a major contributor to sweat-shop labour across the developing world, and its not just the obvious retailers you might be thinking of. Adidas, Victoria’s Secret, GAP. Urban Outfitters and H&M (among many others) all use sweat-shop labour.
Workers in sweat-shops often have little-to-no rights within their workplace, have unfair wages, work unreasonable hours, and may work in unacceptable conditions or be forced to work without toilet breaks. Sweat-shop wages most often don’t pay a living wage, and employees can be forced to stay in their position due to a lack of funds and rights. Women make up about 85 – 90% of sweatshop workers, so this is also a matter of equality. Child labour is often used in agricultural components of the fashion industry (such as picking the cotton for that t-shirt).
When you only buy second-hand and reject the trends that the brands say you must have, you are supporting the women and children who are being abused by the fashion industry.
Reason #3: Your wallet will thank you
Without a doubt, buying second-hand clothing is much cheaper than buying new. Since many op-shops receive their items as donations, you aren’t paying for the production and you aren’t paying for the middle-man.
I visited a local Vinnie’s last week and picked up a two shirts, two skirts and two dresses for a total of around $40. That’s just over $6 an item! One of them was a black velvet dress that I am now obsessed with. At another store I found a pair of black Italian-made leather heels for only $30. At the end of the day several of the pieces I had bought had the original tag still attached. (Thanks, mum, for a magical day.)
I used to love buying new clothes and still consider myself a fashion lover, and buying second-hand clothes doesn’t mean I have to forgo this love. The fact that everything is so much cheaper means I can embrace it even more!
Reason #4 You’ll find yourself becoming more mindful and appreciative
After a while of ignoring the sales, banners and ads (if you’re anything like me), you’ll find yourself appreciating the clothes you do have a lot more than before. What was just another skirt will become a sentimental wardrobe staple. You’ll become more aware of the toxic ideas spread by fashion advertising about what beautiful should look like. You’ll become more critical of the sales rack, remembering the fish with stomachs full of plastic and the underpaid workers huddled over their sewing machines. By separating yourself from the world of fast fashion, you’ll only gain more motivation to reject it.
And anyway, your clothes will actually be vintage.
Image source: glitterbloem.tumblr.com