Whether for reasons of sustainability, affordability or fashion creativity, second-hand shopping and the resale market is now all the rage. Thrifted and consignment platforms thredUp and Depop are seeing a surge in members and online transactions and there are more influencers on Instagram showing off their thrifted and preloved outfits.
According to thredUp’s 2019 Resale Report, the second-hand economy—a $24 billion market as of 2018—has grown 21 times faster than the retail market over the past three years and shows that more consumers are becoming socially and environmentally conscious with 59% of shoppers expecting retailers to create clothes ethically and sustainably.
So what does shopping second-hand entail in this day and age and how can you go about it with purpose and intention?
We asked several eco stylists and second-hand fashion experts to shed some light on their own shopping habits and share insights and pro-tips to shopping preloved fashion.
1. Shop mostly preloved, sometimes new.
Part of shopping second-hand is adopting a “first, buy preloved if possible” approach. “Second hand is always my first choice,” says Faye De Lanty, a Sydney-based a sustainable stylist, TV commentator and Salvos Store Australian Ambassador. “If I can’t find what I need, my next port of call is ethical brands or online portals like Etsy, eBay or smaller, individual sellers. I buy new underwear, athleisure (if I can find it second-hand, I will) and shoes new– however I do have some fantastic thrifted and vintage footwear too.”
Ana Fernanda Covarrubias, an Australia-based Mexican fashion designer and founder of eco-style blog Second Runway, prioritises shopping at consignment and op-shops and ensures she plans ahead to avoid the last-minute shopping rush that can occur in times of desperation. “I try to plan my purchases in advance. For example, if I see that a pair of shoes is slowly falling apart and in bad condition and there isn’t a way to get them repaired, I keep my eyes peeled in the following weeks to see what is available in these shops for when I need them.”
2. Be wary of overconsumption.
It’s easy for fashion lovers to justify a second-hand purchase since the garment is often priced well below retail prices and one can convince themselves they are doing the earth some good by being a ‘waste warrior’ and preventing textiles from going to waste. However this can lead to overconsumption and a disposable mindset in even the most well-meaning of second-hand fashion enthusiasts.
Kimberley Skye, a stylist who conducts op-shopping tours in Sydney and specialises in vintage and thrifted style, openly admits to falling into the trap of buying too many second-hand fashion items. “I think this isolation time has made me stop and declutter; and then realising how much I actually have. It’s also made me reaffirm in my mind, it’s all material stuff and not important too.”
Related Post: Are We Turning Preloved Wears into the New Fast Fashion?
She continues: “I have way too much stuff and often resell my wardrobe which began as a byproduct of styling. Different pieces needed for shoots that I won’t wear or use again, and the ladies that follow me send DMs enquiring to purchase my items. So for a mum working for herself, it’s a little savings boost for our family.”
De Lanty identifies with the sentiment. “I used to be a second-hand hoarder and then I realised I was just replacing the same issue and writing it off as ok because it was thrifted.
“Now I am super mindful about what I invite into my wardrobe. I ask myself questions like: Do I really need it? Do I have something like it? Can I wear it at least three different ways? Does it suit my lifestyle? Do I need it/adore it/ will I treasure or value it? Will it have a home/somewhere to be kept, not hanging off a chair, on the bed or floor?”
3. Learn to mend.
When thrift or second-hand shopping, some garments may be missing buttons or have minor holes in them so mending is a useful skill to have. Jenna Flood, a Melbourne-based slow fashion stylist who focuses on educating people on the issues surrounding fast fashion, stitches minor tears and sews on buttons. “They aren’t perfect, but it means I can still wear them,” she says, adding: “My friend, Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald, released a book called Modern Mending a month or so ago. It’s full of wisdom. She also holds online workshops and courses.”
Ana Fernanda Covarrubias advocates watching video tutorials to learn basic mending skills: “A great source for learning is YouTube. You can basically find any sort of video teaching mending and sewing skills; just type in “How to…”
She also advocates attending physical workshops once pandemic lockdown measures are lifted. “I know for some people it is not easy to learn via online tutorials, so for them, I would strongly recommend attending workshops like the ones I run for refugee women in Geelong.” The designer recommends looking beyond mending and sewing workshops and considering upcycling workshops where you can also learn new sewing techniques.
4. Having a tailor is not essential, but they are handy.
“I am yet to find a personal tailor,” admits Flood. “I usually do little mending jobs myself or ask my friend for things such as hemming. I would like to find a tailor for bigger jobs such as taking in shoulders etc., but there are so many alteration places in Brunswick, it’s hard to find a good one.”
Covarrubias doesn’t think having a tailor is essential but is a handy relationship to have. “It opens our spectrum especially when op-shopping, because the items you can find in second-hand shops are very random in sizes and styles.”
However she acknowledges that tailors can be expensive. “I know it is difficult for everyone to have a tailor due to economic reasons so learning basic sewing skills is essential in order to take up hems, mend holes and sew on buttons.”
5. Declutter and minimise, just be mindful about it.
In the land of sustainable fashion, the concepts of wardrobe decluttering and minimalism are gaining traction, with some people physically counting the number of items they have in their closets, others opting for a Marie Kondo decluttering approach and others frequently undertaking wardrobe challenges such as the 10×10 capsule wardrobe challenge. And it’s easy to understand why; less stuff means less environmental impact and less waste. However there are some pitfalls that people need to consider.
“I think decluttering is good as long as you do it for good and don’t go back into the overconsume habits,” says Covarrubias. “I personally think it is our mindset and behaviour towards possessions and status that we have to change, because there is no point in decluttering, donating, and then buying brand new again. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Flood agrees: “I do think that people buy much more than they need nowadays, knowing that there is the option to just donate them when they no longer serve their purpose. They don’t think about the end of garment life and where it goes when they no longer want it.”
Getting rid of unwanted fashion items doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the problem either since the problem may be transferred to charities and non-profit organisations, adds Flood, “Tossing junk into a charity bin, it means the charity store cannot sell that item and it costs them to dispose of it. Be conscious of where you dispose your unwanted good and take note of what you got rid of so you don’t accidentally buy it again.”
Minimalism is not just about throwing things out. Joshua Becker, creator of the Becoming Minimalist blog and author of The More of Less explains: “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it.
“It is a highly personal journey that forces us to identify and articulate our highest values. Because of that, it is always going to be practiced differently by each individual.”
De Lanty has personally embraced the concept and is a big fan. “It’s totally worked for me, on a deeper level too. I feel calmer, more organised, decluttered in myself. I’ve never counted my clothes but I do really appreciate elements of the concept; we could all do to live with less I think.”
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Feature image of Sydney-based stylist Faye De Lanty. All images supplied.