Last week I shared some ‘new’ secondhand purchases of mine. I do that a lot, you can read more articles about secondhand clothing I bought among others here, here and here. I also wrote a post on why and how I buy secondhand. Conclusion: it’s the most sustainable option. That’s why I do it. But, do I think secondhand clothing is the solution to the fast fashion crisis? I’ll tell you.
The quick answer is no. Not within a population that is growing. And the world population is growing, rapidly. That basically means that there more people being born than there are people dying. And so, we need more clothes. We need to produce more clothing to dress the new people into this world. Therefore, I do not think secondhand is the entire solution to this problem we have. But I do think it is a part of the solution, since I think reusing is key and secondhand is basically reusing things. So, let’s say that our population would be constant, would secondhand clothing be the entire solution then? Again, no. But I do think it should be a huge part. Then what do I think the solution for this issue is? It consists of six parts.
1 Secondhand clothing
I still thing secondhand clothing will be of huge value in the future. That’s because I think the quantity of secondhand clothing is not going to be less. I have the same view on stuff. Why produce something new when we have so much stuff already? Same goes with clothes. I don’t see the necessity to buy something new with so much already available. Simple as that. We don’t need it.
I’m now 20 years old and let’s say I need different clothes because I am entering a new stage of life. Maybe I’ll need office clothes because I have a new job. Okay, that sounds logical. Then I’ll purchase those items secondhand from someone (or in a store where that person brought the clothing to). This person brought her clothes off to the secondhand store as she is entering a new phase of life as well. She’ll maybe get rid of the office clothes since she has retired and got some clothes for her retirement. These clothes she gets from someone else in a later stage of life again.
This way we have a circle, we keep on giving clothes to the next generation. In this situation, as I get the office clothes, I get rid of clothes too from a previous stage of life, University perhaps. And that way the circle goes around. I get something secondhand, but get rid of secondhand things as well. This way all of us keep rotating clothes. That’s the role secondhand clothes I see for the future. But that’s of course not all. There are other factors in play!
In order for the circle as mentioned above to work, we need to be honest with ourselves. When we get something secondhand, we have to get rid of something else in our wardrobe too. These days it’s not uncommon for people to have clothes in their closet which they have bought but never worn. That’s something we should eliminate if we want to produce less clothes. In order to do so, we need to use the clothing we use right now. And really use it, not put it in our closet and never wear it. That’s basically kind of selfish since anybody else could be wearing it.
We need to be wearing everything we own frequently and so in my view we won’t need that much anyway. A capsule wardrobe for everyone. I think we need to rethink fashion. We need to look at it as something which should last forever, not like something we can use once and throw away. It’s not a disposable. And sure, in this case it can happen too that you buy something secondhand which you don’t like. That’s okay. Realize that it’s not your style and put it back to the secondhand market. Less is more.
3 Quality Improvement
In this ideal circle of passing on clothes forever within the secondhand market quality is key. As if right now, we own a lot of clothing which is of bad quality. It’s cheap and doesn’t last long. That won’t work for a system as mentioned above. We need items that are of high quality and can last at least a lifetime. And that is possible! That is the way clothes (and other products) used to be produced back in time. We wanted things to last long. But now we buy clothing of bad quality and that’s no good in my opinion. We should buy of quality.
4 Skip trends
I get that clothes define a person, I like to express my style to clothing as well. There will be many styles and clothes available in the circle of secondhand clothing as mentioned above. That is logical, everybody has their own style and I think that should not change. I like it when everybody is different. But I think nowadays we are deceived by trends. We don’t figure out our own style, but buy clothes according to trends. That can never work if you want a minimalistic wardrobe of quality. You need to pick your style and wear that. Define yourself! Don’t let trends define you.
Now, of course clothing wears out. You get holes in them, they get too big or they have stains. Anything can happen. Than happens to me too. I do think, considering step 3, it could be way less. But still then we have clothing that we can’t wear any longer. Sometimes that can be fixed by a tailor! I think we don’t do that enough in 2019, fix our clothes. That’s a great step for making clothing last longer. I even repair things myself all the time, you can learn it! But then, if things can’t be fixed, I think they should be recycled. Nowadays a lot of clothing still goes to landfill. That is such a sin! We can make new clothes out of old clothes. This way the circle can be round if we recycle clothes 100%.
5 Local Sustainable New Production
If you recycle clothing, there might be a possibility that it can’t be 100%, but let’s say 80%. Then we do have to make new textile to mix in with the recycled textile. And I think that should be the core of every clothing company. First recycled textile, then new. Also, some clothes aren’t really fit to be in the circle of secondhand clothing. Underwear. I don’t buy that secondhand! But then again, this could be made out of recycled textile.
In end, we will need new production, just not that much due to secondhand clothing and recycling. And then, if you buy new clothes, but them local! Support your neighbours. This also cuts down carbon emissions, but maybe even more importantly (since we are switching to a clean-energy world): you know who made your clothes. There’s no disconnect, you can ask them about anything. Right now, we are disconnected from who made our clothes. If you buy fast fashion, you don’t know who made your clothes and for the companies it’s easy to scam you (and the workers). They choose to produce the clothes in Bangladesh and pay the employers so little they starve. But that’s a part you don’t see when production is far away. That’s why I think we should choose local new clothes.
All in all, my answer should be yes. Yes, I do think secondhand clothing is a part of the solution to the fast fashion crisis. But it’s not all. We need to change or mindset too, secondhand and recycled should be the norm. In hand with minimalism, quality improvement and local and sustainable production. That’s at least what I think our clothing system should look like.
Do you think secondhand clothing is the solution to the fast fashion crisis?