By Molly Fitzpatrick
No doubt fashion weeks are a spectacle of glitz and glamour, a creative explosion of everything weird and wonderful about fashion. But fashion week is also a powerful event, granted these couture designs probably aren’t to many people’s taste or budget, but it has the power to completely shape what comes onto the rails of the high street.
For this reason, exactly, fashion week should be a platform where promotion of sustainable and ethical fashion is at the forefront. And as the dust settles on fashion weeks around the world, it’s clear that this year more than ever, sustainable fashion took center stage.
We live in a world where the line between need and want is extremely blurred if not invisible, this is certainly the case when it comes to the clothes on our back. We treat clothes as if they have a ‘use by’ date. No longer thinking before we buy, not about whether we really need the item, or about its environmental impact on the planet, and we definitely would rather not think about the children who sewed the 5000 beads onto our new ballerina flats.
The fashion industry revolves around seasons; we buy new clothes and throw old ones away like we’ll be able to do it forever. We treat clothes like they’re disposable, but with it taking 2,700 litres of water to make your average t-shirt and the clothing industry estimated to be the second largest polluter in the world, do we really need another t-shirt to add to the pile in our wardrobe just because it’s a slightly different shade of off-white?
We’d all love to be able to shop only sustainable fashion lines, and although some high street shops have come out with their own sustainable lines, the truth is sustainable fashion can be pricey. So for me, shopping in charity shops and second-hand shops is the best option. Why keep producing clothing when there’s already so much good quality and stylish clothes already on the planet?
So here are my five tips for shopping in charity and second-hand shops!
- Go regularly: This is key to finding pieces you love. I’m not saying you should go thrifting every day, but choose maybe three second-hand shops you know are reliable and pop in every time you’re passing by. New stock in many charity shops is added daily, so the more often you go, the more likely you are to nab a vintage or designer item.
- Have patience: I used to go into Oxfam, look at one rail, see only things my granny would wear and get completely disheartened. But if you want to find something good you have to work for it. It may be time consuming but go rail by rail through the entire shop, take your time to look at every piece and think ‘how could I wear this?’. Don’t be afraid to look in the men’s section, my sister once found a sheepskin aviator jacket worth around €500 new in the men’s section, and it fits her like a glove!
- Have your phone at the ready: You never know what designer clothes you might come across, and you don’t want to miss out on a quality piece just because you didn’t recognize the label and you don’t want to pay 20 euro for a t-shirt that ends up being from a high street shop. Remember it’s often volunteers pricing the clothes so don’t expect you’re always getting value for money and do your own research.
- Don’t be fooled by €1 racks: Who doesn’t love a good bargain, but don’t fall into the ‘even if I only wear it once it was only a euro’ trap. Think, do you really need it, don’t buy it simply because it’s a euro. Will it just end up as waste? If so don’t buy it! Also often the euro rack are clothes from Dunnes and Penneys, probably not the best quality.
- Be open minded: One of the great things about vintage and second-hand is that it’s highly unlikely that someone will show up in the same thing as you. But you have to have an open mind going in, never go looking to find a particular piece or a list of things you need to get because chances are you won’t find it. Keep an open mind, try things on and who knows, you may come out with something you never would have imagined you’d wear!