It’s time to take a hard look at your shopping habits.
It’s 2021, and it seems that we,as consumers, fashion lovers and shoppers, are more aware than ever before of where the clothes we buy and wear are coming from and how they fit into our world when it comes to sustainability. We’re also becoming more conscious of the impact fast fashion has on our environment. It comes as no surprise that vintage pieces are also on the rise and in demand. This is because we’re looking for more sustainable ways to shop – and buying pre-loved items is one way to do that. For an item to be classified as vintage, it needs to be many years old. You can sell an item that’s a minimum of 20 years or older and is still good quality for a premium price, but pre-owned or secondhand clothing has more of a ‘used’ connotation. Definitions aside, we’re here to discuss the crucial relationship between vintage or pre-owned clothing and sustainability and how it can shape the very landscape of shopping.
Let’s look at the numbers. The fast fashion industry is one of the most lucrative and seems to be growing exponentially – from $25.09 billion in 2020 to $30.58 billion in 2021. This side of the fashion industry is generating hundreds of millions of garments each year, making it one of the most polluting industries globally and contributing 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Every week, we see new collections of newer pieces that foster an almost disposable mentality towards our wardrobe – what we love today we’ll have probably discarded by next week. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the fashion and textile industries ‘generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year, equaling just over 6% of total municipal waste (for context, plastics make up 13% of our waste stream). On average, 700 000 tons of used clothing is exported, and 2.5 million tons of clothing are recycled’.
This current way of thinking is detrimental to our environment and only fuels the fast fashion industry to become even faster, which isn’t sustainable. It’s extremely difficult to unlearn and reframe our ways of shopping. We need to take a good look at the cold, hard fact: fast fashion not only has an enormous impact on our planet; there’s a human cost too. Corporations make a profit from ‘throw-away’ culture, whilst the people who make the items suffer.
As consumers, we create the demand so we can affect change. One way to initiate this shift is to realise the pros of shopping for vintage or preloved garments, which we now know is less damaging to the environment and is sustainable. Repurposing and reusing clothing items means manufacturers use fewer polluting resources to make brand-new clothing, and it prolongs the life of an item and redirects it from land lls. It’s also fun, as you don’t have to surrender your sense of style to what’s currently in fashion. Vintage pieces are generally more classic and stylish than trendy fast fashion that usually has an expiry date.
Another positive is the fact most vintage pieces withstand the test of time: they’ve lasted this long so, therefore, are proven a top-quality item. This is (clearly) the opposite of what we see with fast fashion, which often lasts only a few washes before deteriorating. Ultimately, we want to invest in fashion that lasts.
Another wonderful advantage of shopping vintage and preloved is that it’s a more sustainable way to spend your coins. Now, I’m not saying items are less expensive because often fast fashion is tough to compete with due to its fallible cost and pricing, but you’ll wear these items for years, which increases their long-term value. As they retain their value, it gives consumers the option to resell – and, maybe, make a profit.
I’m not advising you never to buy new items; all I’m asking is that you combine shopping old and new. Or perhaps, before you buy that brand-new blazer, see if you can find a vintage one. Fashion is cyclical, so chances are you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for at a vintage store.