Last month, I am proud to say that I bought zero fast fashion items. That’s to say that every garment I’d purchased during the month of September had been thrifted second-hand. A personal experiment of sorts, and one that thousands got involved in for the #SecondHandSeptember initiative.
Most of the contents of my wardrobe are already second-hand, having been bought from charity shops and car boot sales over the years. Firstly, it’s cheaper; much much cheaper this way. Secondly, I’m a lover of vintage clothing, especially 80s and 90s clothes, which happen to be pretty easy to find. New clothes do appeal to me, of course, and if I need basics or a special outfit for a hot date or something missing from my wardrobe, like jeans with the perfect fit, shiny new winter boots or plain polo necks for the new season, I’ll head to Zara or Mango, and I adore & Other Stories and H&M when I’m abroad.
Interestingly, both brands have sustainable fashion high on their agendas. Big labels are getting in on the act of producing garments more consciously and aiming to go greener on their mission statements. Some are making big efforts to encourage donations of old clothing in exchange for shop credit (& Other Stories) and using textiles such as recycled polyester in their wool-blend knits (H&M). Small steps with a huge impact on our environment, considering the fast-fashion industry massively contributes to global warming.
#SecondHandSeptember – as it had been dubbed on Instagram – has spurred me on to look at my existing wardrobe with fresh eyes and inspired me to let go of about seventy per cent of my clothes (yes, seventy!). I’ve found it extremely freeing, especially for a longterm thrifting addict and hoarder like myself. It’s given me the opportunity to take a closer look at what I already have and what is missing (not to mention what fits…), more space and less unsightly storage bags on top of the wardrobe. More appreciation and visibility in my closet for my “staying” clothes, so that they have more chance of being worn, instead of resorting to the same go-to outfit combinations.
As well as all this, #SecondHandSeptember gave me the inspiration and the push I needed to start my own little online shop – Cometogether Clothing– through which I sell vintage finds that I’ve taken out for a spin myself and probably won’t wear again, giving them a chance to be worn and loved by someone else! This is called circular fashion. The garment I had thrifted myself and sold on now have a new owner, and at least one owner before me. Who knows where it might end up after that? Not in a landfill, that’s for sure!
Sustainable shopping is the way forward to protect our planet, and anybody can do it. Even if second-hand shopping is not for you (though I highly recommend you give it a try!), then you can absolutely still be a part of the sustainable fashion revolution by donating your unneeded clothes to your nearest charity shop, or the one who’s mission is closest to your heart. There are many to choose from dotted all around the island, and interestingly, Zara in Sliema has now introduced a second-hand drop off point at the shop’s entrance where your donated clothes go straight to Hospice Malta! Be mindful of what you’re giving away, however, as these items are to go on to be sold in their charity shops. If an item is damaged, stained or in bad condition, do the dedicated volunteers a favour and leave those out. You’d be shocked at some of the things that get donated to charity shops, good and bad!
You can also donate to organisations such as women’s shelters and foundations that help those less-fortunate, but do check with them if it’s ok to do so by giving them a call beforehand. Importantly, you can also donate your time to charity shops. It’s a great way to try your hand at vintage styling and window dressing. Why not send them a quick Facebook message about volunteering if you have some free time to spare?
With the month of October now in full swing, it’s the perfect time to start thrift shopping for new pieces to spice up your hangers, and yep, the Winter stock is now out on the shop floor of most chazzas! If you do want to try your hand at thrifting, here are just a handful of shopping tips to help you on your sustainable clothing journey, all the while doing your bit for the planet and the organisations you’re donating to.
Don’t be put off by an unfruitful trip to the charity shop or car boot sale! Stock is constantly changing with new donations, so it’s worth taking regular trips to check in. October is when charity shops start wheeling out their winter stock, swapping over from their light summer dresses. Second hand shopping is partly about the thrill of the chase, and ultimately, the thrill of finding something you love. Just like fishing, sometimes you’ll get a bite, some days you’ll go home with nothing at all, and some trips you’ll bring home a prized find. My last find was an original 1980s BIBA dress in my local charity shop!
Check out blogs beforehand
Most of the time, fast-fashion is cheap because the people who made the garments are not paid a living wage. Swerve going down the online shopping route (we’re looking at you Boohoo!) by window shopping beforehand and making a mental note of whats hot on the rails. Fashion blogs, Instagram and magazines are also great for this. Once you’ve seen what’s on trend, you can look out for similar items that are second hand! For example, statement shirt collars are huge at the moment (quite literally), so if you keep that in mind, you can keep a keen eye out for them when buying second-hand. We’re heading into the colder seasons so it’s a great time to start looking out for structured blazers and slouchy cardigans. I love WhoWhatWear, Tatler magazine and Parisienne fashion label Rouje for inspo.
Don’t forget accessories
Second-hand shopping isn’t just for clothing. Most charity shops have a book section and a bric-a-brac section where you can pick up kitchenware and even furniture! I found my wonderful 1970s leather armchair which I call my “writing chair” for €25 in my local. It adds a Bond Girl touch to my living room (or so I believe?). I keep and display my extensive oversized earring collection on my dressing table in cut glass bowls which are a dime a dozen on charity shop shelves and flea markets, giving you that vintage boudoir feel for less than the price of a cappuccino. Merci! You’ll also find jewellery, usually at the till point. Gold chains, both delicate and chunky are so in right now, so do keep your eye out for those.
Swap with friends
These days, there aren’t as many events going on, so why not create your own fun and try something different? With the change of season, once you’re putting your summer clothes away to swap over to your winter wardrobe, it’s the perfect time to sift through what you absolutely love, and what you’d like to let go of. Be RUTHLESS. It’s the only way. If something does not bring a smile to your face when you think of wearing it, it simply has to go, Marie Kondo style! Once you’ve collected a bag of clothes, contact some friends and suggest they do the same and host a swap shop, no money involved, just straight-up trades! You can meet up and have a “swap and movie night” (we recommend Hocus Pocus…) or even do so online from the comfort of your sofa by taking photos and creating a group chat!
There are tens of local second-hand Instagram accounts popping up all over the place! Some of them cater for specifically vintage, and some sell lightly worn, newer high street items. Most operate by postage or pick-up. The Instagram thrifting community is a friendly space that encourages sustainability. Gen Z, I’ve noticed, are so into environmentally-friendly consumer habits and it’s wonderful to see. With my own account, Cometogether Clothing, I stock both one-off, thrifted finds – mostly 1980s stock – and our own limited edition range of vintage inspired knitwear, which is responsibly sourced locally. There’s literally nothing that gives me more joy than seeing garments go off to their new perfect owner and take on a whole new life. It’s the future!