A guest post from Anna Cargan a buying second-hand clothes enthusiast from Build A Bundle. The sorts of clothes available on their online store are pictured throughout this article!
Disclaimer: I run a second hand (or as we call it, ‘preloved’!) children’s clothes website (Buildabundle, www.buildabundle.co.uk). So of course, I think everyone should buy preloved, for both kids and adults clothes! But why is it important?
Attitudes towards buying second-hand clothes have been shifting over the past few years. There used to be a real assumption that second-hand was only for people who couldn’t afford to buy new things. This led to a stigma, and many people wouldn’t have considered buying second-hand as a result.
But in 2021, that assumption has definitely disappeared! With influential fashionistas like Daisy Lowe sharing their trendy vintage fashion finds, high-end brands like Mignonette offering a buy-back scheme for their designer dresses, and even Carrie Symonds choosing to rent her dress for her wedding to the prime minister, second-hand is no longer second-best.
It’s no longer a solely financial decision either – it’s a lifestyle choice, which for many is influenced by environmental factors. With scientists warning of irreversible climate change to our planet, and the fashion industry being responsible for a huge amount of pollution, the planet needs us to be shifting away from constantly demanding everything brand new, and towards reusing and repurposing what’s already been produced.
Why choose second-hand?
Second-hand can also be a lot of fun, something of a treasure hunt to find items that aren’t always in the shops. We asked our own customers what their main reasons were for buying/selling preloved clothes and the answers were a great insight, here are some of them –
- “My little girl loves the fact that her ‘new’ dress has been on adventures first!” – How cute is this?! I love that people are bringing their kids up with this attitude.
- “Nice to know items you’ve chosen or been gifted get their full use and can make others happy!”
- “Giving sentimental pieces of clothing another cycle of memories (mostly for baby stuff)…I’ve seen a few orders with our son’s first baby outfits like my son’s coming home outfit etc and it fills me with joy knowing some other family will get joy from the outfit rather than it just sat in storage. It works the other way too, we like to know we’re giving other family’s clothing another cycle of memories.” – this is so true, and a lovely way to think of it.
- “The quality is exactly the same as buying new. They look as good and wear as well as buying brand new. Why would I spend on buying new when there is no difference” – also very true. When you think about it, clothes are only ever brand new for the very first wear – after that first wear, there’s often very little difference between them and something you’ve bought already second hand, if it’s been bought in good condition. On the Buildabundle website we check everything before sale to ensure it’s in fab condition!
- ” I absolutely hate waste! Theres so much life left in clothing most of the time, it seems crackers to be throwing away and buying new!” – we totally agree! Often clothes are used for a short time, or for a specific occasion, then sit in wardrobes wasted and unused for years.
- “ It’s much cheaper to buy preloved than it is to buy new” – this may not be the main consideration for everyone any more, but it’s definitely a great bonus! All families like to save money don’t they!
- “I generally buy preloved because I am looking for something specific. I am always on the hunt for old (usually popular) prints” – another very good point, by buying preloved you can often find different things to what’s in the shops currently.
- “I like helping small businesses” – another good point, as many second-hand shops, whether physical shops or online, are either charity-run or small family-run businesses, where your order is much appreciated.
- “I can’t see the point of buying new clothes for children when they trash them so quickly, or grow out of them before the clothes are worn out”
- “To help the environment! “ This is arguably the biggest reason, and we totally agree! The amount of water, energy, resources and pollution that goes into producing material and manufacturing new items of clothing is huge. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world, more polluting than aviation and shipping … that’s crazy when you think about it! We all need clothes, but so-called ‘Fast fashion’ which encourages us to buy cheap and buy often, is unsustainable.
Second-hand and the environmental impact
The World Bank estimates that the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution annually, devours 25% of chemicals produced worldwide, and is responsible for 10% of the carbon emissions in our air – 1kg of cloth produced creates 23kg of greenhouse gases.
The World Wildlife Fund has stated it can take up to 2,700 litres of water to grow the cotton for one t-shirt (Source for the above – Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas, p.7).
Supply chains are fractured across the world, so the fabric is made in one country, shipped to another to be cut, sent to another location to be sewn, and finished with zippers somewhere else.
That’s before you consider the amount of plastic packaging that new garments come wrapped in, or the disgraceful way some garment workers have been treated and underpaid by big fashion companies (google ‘Rana Plaza factory collapse’ and the ‘Pay Up campaign’ for more info).
When you shop pre-loved you’re really making the most of the resources that have already been used to create that item, rather than creating demand for new resources to be used.
Should second-hand be the only way you shop clothes?
We would never tell anyone to stop buying new stuff completely … we sell some new items ourselves, and a good pre-loved market requires newer stuff coming into it as well, to keep it fresh.
However, it’s clear that the world’s consumption of brand new fast fashion items is unsustainable and needs to drop considerably. This is a great way for thrifty people to buy fashion and also help the environment at the same time!
Why not consider buying less new and more preloved, or clothes-swapping with friends? For women’s clothes, we love www.swopped.co.uk, and www.refashion.co.uk too!
A brilliant quote
Fast fashion is “a model that’s manifestly unsustainable. That celebrates endless consumption, ever-lower prices, and even larger returns. That consciously yields leftovers. That gives no thought to the toll it takes on the environment. We all have to step up. Buy less. Wash our clothes differently. Repair or upcycle them more” (Dana Thomas – Fashionopolis)
Buildabundle is a second-hand children’s and maternity clothes website, selling a huge range of over 6,000 quality-checked clothes from tiny baby up to age 14, and maternity sizes 6-20.
You can make up your own bundle of the items you love and buy online for delivery all across the UK.
Check out the website at www.buildabundle.co.uk and see what second-hand clothes you can buy your children, or yourself if you are an expectant mum!