Fast-fashion fallout: ‘I was being led by trends and had a wardrobe of really low-quality clothes that made me feel like I had nothing to wear’
As a society, we are becoming increasingly aware of the harmful effects of fast fashion on our planet. While we get bombarded daily with social media ads and discount codes, our craving for a good deal is waning. The way we shop is changing, and for good reason. According to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, the fashion industry was responsible for 8-10pc of global carbon emissions in 2019. This is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined in that year.
eanwhile, here in Ireland, more than 225,000 tonnes of textile waste is disposed of each year. Recycling these materials would reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions by more than 300,000 tonnes per annum. This is equivalent to taking almost 50,000 cars off the road.
Understandably, there has been a move toward second-hand and vintage shopping, and the circular fashion economy has exploded. Rental platforms such as Greens Are Good For You are sustainable success stories, giving people the option to wear an outfit once for a special occasion without harming our world. Online fashion platforms like Depop have successfully targeted Gen-Z shoppers, and shopping second-hand, whether through charity or vintage stores, is making social accountability cool.
This month, Oxfam is once again running its Second Hand September initiative, which encourages shoppers to buy only second-hand items for the entire month. However, navigating the world of pre-owned can be tricky. Rails of mismatched clothing can be an overload on the senses and, without a plan, finding a vintage gem can feel unattainable. Yet people make it work and have created awe-inducing wardrobes from used fashion.
We asked three Irish pre-loved aficionados for their best advice when it comes to shopping second-hand. From their top tips for shopping vintage to their favourite stores, their advice is a foolproof guide to making better choices in the long term.
‘Quitting fast fashion forced me to figure out what my style was’
“It started with a new year’s resolution,” says environmental activist Fionnuala Moran about the beginnings of her second-hand story. “I went vegan in 2018 and was trying to make my lifestyle more sustainable. A friend of mine said to look at my fashion consumption. Then I watched the documentary The True Cost. I was shocked and disgusted at the fashion industry and made a resolution to quit it. I haven’t looked back since and have had a ball learning more about sustainability.”
Moran says that quitting fast fashion made her lean into her personal style. “It forced me to figure out what my style was and what I wanted to wear and what made me feel good,” she says. “I was being led by trends and had a wardrobe of really low-quality clothes that made me feel like I had nothing to wear, which wasn’t the truth at all.”
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Moran believes there is a misconception that shopping sustainably is more expensive and says this couldn’t be further from the truth. “I have been blown away by the value,” she explains. “I have found incredible, high-quality pieces at tiny prices. Clothing from other decades is so much better in terms of how the garments are made.”
Moran also loves the story that comes with buying second-hand. “It feels like you are wearing a piece of history,” she notes. “I found one of my favourite pieces in Hamlet’s Vintage in New York. It is a gorgeous white faux-fur coat, and every time I wear it, I feel like Mariah Carey.”
If starting to buy from charity and second-hand stores, Moran advises to make a day out of it. “Make it an event,” she says. “I plan out the specific day, dress up, and treat myself to a cocktail. It feels like a real treat. It’s fun, and clothes shopping should be that way.”
‘I was a slave to the sale. I believed I needed a new outfit for every occasion’
Writer and presenter Fionnuala Jones says that, for many years, she was hooked on shopping. “I was a slave to fast fashion and a slave to the sale,” she explains. “I always liked the idea of second-hand and the idea of vintage, but when I was younger, I was very much a person that believed I needed a new outfit for every occasion. Then, as I got a bit older and grew into my style a bit more, I decided I needed to overhaul the situation. Like why was I spending so much money on these clothes?”
To find her way out of the fast-fashion frenzy, Jones decided to go cold turkey and create a challenge for herself. “I wanted to see if I could do it,” she explains. “I started by looking at my own wardrobe and how I could rewear certain pieces, and then I moved to charity and vintage shops.” Since making the move, Jones hasn’t looked back, and is currently two years fast-fashion-free.
Her main advice to those who want to start their own second-hand journey is to delete the temptation. “Unfollow them on Instagram, unsubscribe from the newsletters,” she advises. “If you don’t have it in front of you, there is less chance you will get sucked in. Out of sight, out of mind.” She also advises people to try all avenues. “Try rental, or swap items with friends and family,” she notes. “Then Finders Keepers, Studio Minti and Thriftify are some great places to shop.”
And her hero second-hand find? “A red 1980s power suit,” she says. “The quality is incredible, and any time I wear it, someone always asks where I got it. I think that’s a great sign.”
‘I love one-of-a-kind pieces. I have a collection of vintage kimonos’
DJ Billy Bunzari has always been a vintage and second-hand devotee. “For me, I loved that I could find one-of-a-kind pieces that were totally different,” he says. “You need to have a good eye, and charity shops are great at cultivating your style. I’ve always been drawn to them, and I can’t pass a charity shop without going into it now. I also love well-made, good-quality clothing, and vintage clothes are just better in general.”
When it comes to shopping, Bunzari describes himself as “conscious”. “Because of the prices, it can be easy to buy for the sake of it,” he explains. “But that kind of defeats the purpose for me. I need to really love a piece. When shopping second-hand, you need to learn how to put things back too.” One of Bunzari’s favourite pieces to buy vintage is kimonos. “I have a collection of kimonos,” he says. “Whenever I travel, I have to pick one up. My favourite was a kimono from The Harlequin, which is a Dublin vintage shop that has moved online. It is absolutely amazing. The colours, the materials — you can tell that there is work gone into it. It feels like pure luxury.”
Bunzari understands that shopping second-hand can be overwhelming at first. He advises others to look online instead of physical stores. “It can be done from the comfort of your own home, and you can see the pieces clearly,” he notes. “It’s less daunting. In store just may not be for everyone, so look to the likes of Thriftify, eBay and Rêverie. If you want to shop from physical shops, go at off-peak times and not on weekends. My biggest piece of advice is to approach it without expectations. You are there to browse, not buy.”
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