For some op-shopping is an occasional pass time, for others it is almost a way of life, but what place does vintage have in the world of big business and environmental repair? When we discuss renewables, we often picture a solar farm, an urban compost initiative or the choice between two different coloured bins; we rarely visualize fashion fitting into the equation.
The idea of sustainable fashion is nothing new, with pioneers including Stella McCartney and H&M launching regular eco collections aiming to turn the fashion industry on its pollutant head through the use of biodegradables, fair trade and recyclable materials. This move forward is to be applauded and hopefully replicated by brands worldwide as we find we must not only adapt, but drastically jump miles ahead to save the planet from our reckless destruction.
One component often left unconsidered in the renewable fashion game is the pre-loved clothing. The idea of the fashion revolving door is largely untapped – the opportunity for new-ness through old-ness is rarely given the look in it deserves. Favouring the method of swap, trade, re-sell and re-new over the quest of endless creation is an absolute no brainer when it comes to environmental and economic strategy.
While some fabrics fade and have limited life, others last for decades. There must be a greater emphasis on the way we treat our clothes and the second life we can provide to what would otherwise be a throw away, sitting sadly in landfill with all joy and memory forgotten. This mentality can be applied individually, with the onus on the consumer to shop pre-loved but it can also apply on a broader scale – big business can and should employ the concept of pre-loved fashion, with creative innovation this concept has huge potential.
Op-shopping needn’t remain strictly in the charity category or stay in the constricted realm of the local markets or eBay. Businesses could consider working alongside charity and perhaps markets should transform into a regular, larger scale mechanism to supply and sell recycled garments.
We see stores send old stock to Discount Outlets but this is where the buck ends. What might the global retail landscape resemble if the notion of reimagined wares overtook our desire for excessive newness and fast fashion? With fashion start up’s dominating the scene, the opportunities for online vintage sales outside of eBay or the classifieds is huge.
The truth is, we like our fashion with a spoon full of sugar. The grim reality of the planet destroying practices of the fashion industry clouds the fun of fashion but we must not burry our heads in the fabric. The demand for new, new, new is ripping apart our environment.
Let us look back rather than forward, let us raid our grandparent’s closets for coats which will still be warm and pristine in decades ahead and let us carry bags which will stand the test of time no matter the baggage we collect along the way. Let us push for change by jumping off the fast fashion wheel and appreciating the craftsmanship of hand stitched and one-off fashion. Let us browse racks of once adored pieces now sitting like puppies in store windows begging not for your dollar, but for your conscience and your heart.