The landscape for many businesses has changed in recent years. Businesses had to survive multiple lockdowns and, now recently, the tightened purses of consumers in the current climate of inflation. Once considered a niche sector, vintage and second-hand clothing businesses have grown in popularity as many consumers turn away from fast fashion. Consumers have more options for clothing than ever before. No longer restricted to the physical high street, thanks to eCommerce payment systems, many sustainable clothing businesses have been able to transition online. There are many reasons why more consumers are looking to buy greener. Whether it be as a response to the impact of fast fashion has on the environment, the working conditions of the garment makers, or purely due to the desire to buy better quality and long-lasting garments.
Summer of love and sustainability
Reality giant, Love Island, threw its hat into the sustainability ring this year by partnering with eBay. This was the first time the show had promoted sustainable fashion. Consequently, the week of the show airing in June 2022 saw the searches for ‘sustainable brands’ hike 614%. Sustainable fashion was given a platform. The SMEs on eBay’s site were given this same platform by extension. Since Love Island’s move away from fast fashion, retail tycoon Marks and Spencer have launched their sustainable alternative. Working with Hirestreet, shoppers can now hire out capsule wardrobes. The costs of this service start at £39 for a capsule wardrobe for five days.
Renting is a trend in the fashion industry that has also become popular. 1 in 10 under 35s have experimented with rental services. This service is beneficial for special events such as weddings. Rather than purchasing an expensive garment to wear for the occasion and never again, renting is a viable and sustainable alternative. It allows you to wear a garment for the day rather than contributing to the shocking statistics around clothing waste.
The average garment is only worn seven times before being thrown out. It makes the cost per use extortionate and further argues the need for rental services. Rather than buying a special occasion garment for a few wears, rent one and then allow it to be re-worn rather than meet its fate in a landfill. The Telegraph recently reported that more than 70 items of clothing are thrown away from the average wardrobe every year. This amount of clothing waste is astronomical and sustainable approaches to fashion are necessary.
The average garment is only worn seven times before being thrown out.
Second-hand clothing apps have grown in popularity in recent years. Depop and Vinted have taken the second-hand clothing climate by storm by providing services that allows you to buy and sell clothing easily. Social media mogul Facebook has also seen a rise in users selling and buying clothing on Facebook Marketplace. Services such as these allow consumers to buy greener without the higher prices often associated with sustainable clothing. As a society, we know we are able to purchase garments for cheaper than the cost of a meal deal in supermarkets. Why would a society facing price hikes spend more on clothing?
Cheap clothing has become normalised and is an integral part of many households. In Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, author Dana Thomas writes: ‘If a T-shirt costs £5 then everyone along the supply chain was squeezed – the farmers, the factory owners, the workers, the shippers’ created a production line of underpaid workers. Thomas concludes, ‘if the price is too cheap to believe, it’s too cheap’.
Many of us believe that every new occasion requires new garments. That outfit repeating is the gravest of fashion faux pas. Well, to that, we say no more. We as a nation must do better in this war against fast fashion and its environmental impact. The average Brit buys more new clothing items yearly than any other European country. This translates to, on average, 40 – 60 new clothing items per year. We are significant players in the contribution of clothing waste. Britain has earned itself the bronze in the largest exporters of second-hand clothing. According to findings from MIT’s Observatory of Economic Complexity, we are third behind the United States and China.
Shop locally, shop sustainably
It is easier than ever to shop sustainably. Second-hand and vintage shops are no longer a maze of clothes bursting off rails. You can now find businesses that seem to mirror high-street retailers aesthetically. Businesses that comb through, collect and present beautiful pieces. They have made it simpler for consumers to find and invest in long-lasting, good quality, and one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing. Not to mention that shopping locally in these businesses cuts on shipping, a significant polluter found in the fast-fashion process.