Futures Before Fashions

… green is the new black …

Archive for the tag “Fashion”

9 Reasons to shop second hand – True Activist

True Activist promote the second hand clothing lifestyle

A good friend recently came across this great article on a site called True Activist about why it is a good thing to shop second hand.. and it sums up perfectly why I have taken on this challenge, and why you should consider making more sensible choices too.. check it out.


Its been a while.. but i am still going!

So I realise its been a long time between posts and for this I apologise. London life has a way of getting hectic and getting in the way of things! I continue with my challenge, and remain as focused as ever on the task.. only buying second hand clothing for an entire year!

The start of Autumn and the cold chill coming into London suggests that we are in for a very cold winter, and I have been searching the charity shops for a new (second hand) winter coat with a hood. It actually only took me two shop visits before I found the one I wanted, a khaki padded coat with a hood and nice and toasty warm! It cost me a grand total of ÂŁ4.

I never said anything about accessories or shoes when I started this challenge, and I must admit I did recently buy a chunky knitted snood and a new pair of trainers, which despite not being included in my challenge – did make me feel somewhat guilty. As March approaches, the one year mark for my challenge, I have been thinking about what I will do when that date comes around. Despite being a long time fan of charity shops, I have been very very surprised to find that it has been actually very easy to only buy second hand clothing, and that when I walk past shops on the High Street selling shiny leggings, and other ridiculous current ‘trends’ I have not been tempted to wander in – even for a look!

The clothes that I have bought over the last year have a few things in common which set them apart from purchases over past years from high street retailers…

  • They are all second hand/preloved
  • Because of this fact, they have all stood the test of time/wash and have proven their resilience 🙂
  • They are not items that I see every second person walking down the street wearing
  • None have shrunk/gone out of shape/fallen apart when I wash them
  • I wear every single item! Not one of my purchases have sat in the wardrobe unworn since I bought them
  • They were exceptionally affordable
  • They give me a warm fuzzy feeling because I know I have not supported the rampant use of sweatshops, have reduced my carbon footprint, and prevented a few more items becoming unnecessary landfill.

So.. I am thinking about it… and as March draws nearer.. I will consider carefully whether there is any way I could go back to my former life… or whether this one year challenge has been a permanent change in lifestyle. In the meantime, I will resume my researching activities about the fashion industry, textile waste and climate change. Stay with me, you might learn something too 🙂

Why don’t we care about Bangladesh?

No doubt by now everyone has heard about the frequent fires, collapses and explosions in Bangladesh garment factories which have killed thousands over recent months. In the factory collapse alone back on 24th April, 1127 people were killed just a day after workers were protesting the unsafe conditions and raising the alarm about cracks appearing in the building. As they were still clearing that site, on May 9th over 900 more Bangladeshi workers were killed when a fire broke out in their knitwear garment factory.

We all saw the images and talked about how horrific it was. We all heard the big labels named. Walmart. GAP. Uniqlo. Benetton. Joe Fresh. Primark. H&M. Zara. Marks and Spencer. Mango. And then…. The people, outraged and appalled by what they had seen appeared to do what? Nothing. I walked past Primark on Oxford Street recently and it was, as usual, jam packed. People flooded out the doors with smiles, and why wouldn’t they be? They had a huge (Eco-friendly) paper bag full of bargains to see them through (at least until the next trend hits the shelves).

I wondered why it was that the same people I can imagine standing around the water cooler sadly comparing stories they had seen on TV about the factory tragedies with colleagues, seem unable to take back control of their spending behaviour to actually attempt to have some meaningful impact on this world. Are those bargains really so great that we can turn a blind eye to what we know to be the tragic realities of fast fashion? What will it take for people to make a change?

Having been to Bangladesh in 2001 and seeing how hard life is for many many thousands of people doing what they can to get by, I know it is simply not an option for those luck enough to have a source of income to decide to leave because their workplace in unsafe, or to strike because they have unsuitable working conditions. I saw children working making bricks, carrying heavy bricks all day in the heat to make what may be the only income for their household.

So… life there is pretty rough for the vast majority. Add to that the impact of climate change on the region and it really does appear as though there is a value statement being made about Bangladesh and its people. We can’t see them. Not our problem? Of course, no one in their right mind would admit thinking this but what other conclusions can be drawn from our apathy and continued care-less choices…

I recently came across an article with Dame Vivienne Westwood, who is a supporter of the Environmental Justice Foundation – a not for profit organisation working to protect the environment and defend human rights. The have made this small film interviewing one of Bangladesh’s climate refugees. Watch it. You have seen the images of the factory conditions where your clothes are made. If that didn’t cause you to stop and think twice about the source of your clothing purchases… Maybe this will?

Traid & Traid Remade

Traid & Traid Remade

If you have not wandered into a Traid store yet, do it now! Traid is an organisation which collects unwanted clothing from across the UK for reuse and sale at their charity shops across the country.

By doing this, they are minimising waste, their carbon footprint and consumption, and funds raised by Traid contributes to projects in developing countries to fight global poverty, exploitation and environmental damage caused by the textile and fashion industries.

Traid have their very own fashion label, too, which launched in 2002. TRAIDremade design and produce upcycled clothing for women and men using second hand textiles that would otherwise be thrown away.

When you buy TRAIDremade, you are helping to protect the environment by reducing landfill and supporting international development projects to fight poverty – to which all of the profits are directed.

Each TraidRemade items is unique, and is sustainably remade by hand the TraidRemade workshop in Brighton. TRAIDremade designers work exclusively with old clothes and textiles donated to TRAID to create wearable, original items that no-one else will have, and which you will not find on the High Street.

Traid also have a collection service, so if you have a bag of clothes you no long need, consider giving them a call to collect it.. Or pop it in one of their collection bins around the UK. It will free up space in your wardrobe for all the new things you will buy in their stores!

Buy TRAIDremade at their online store http://www.traidremade.com, or at TRAID Camden, TRAID Hammersmith and TRAID Shepherd’s Bush.

Top tops, low price…

Top tops, low price...

So, I know a lot of people say they can never find things they like in charity shops, and others who wouldn’t go into one for fear of being seen looking at second hand clothes. After some particular success today I thought it would be good to show the quality of clothing you can get in the hope of convincing you that you really do NOT need to spend crazy amounts on labels you love!

On a break from Uni today I took a stroll down to the Scope shop in Camberwell High Street to see what they had on offer… And scored a few bargains! Inspired by my success, I also stopped a the big Barnardo’s in Brixton and picked up a few more things.

I should mention that these items are labelled Jigsaw (cardigan), Promod (sleeveless blouse), and Warehouse (purple long sleeved blouse). You may also be interested to know that the unpleasant long sleeved blouse is current season and selling in their stores for ÂŁ40.00!

Off The Rails – Upcycled Fashion Show

On the weekend I went to see a fashion show of up-cycled garments young people from Islington made as part of an initiative to educate them on climate change and sustainable fashion. This was the culmination of a 6 month project – developed by Islington’s The Zone Youth Project – where the young people involved learnt how to use sewing machines to make new items from old clothes and fabric, including bags, t-shirts and clothing.

The young people are part of Climate Change Youth Ambassadors (CCYA) programme which aims to teach them about climate change, engage with their local communities and work to reduce London’s carbon footprint. One of the aims of the fashion project was to address the negative impact on the environment of buying new clothes produced on the other side of the world and enable positive behaviour change.

This was a fantastic event, and it was so great to see young people getting involved with the project, and to have the chance to show off their skills at such a well supported event.

I wanted to blog about this event in the hope that these young people might be an inspiration for other young people and young people’s services when considering funding for local initiatives and events. Young people are too often the focus of bad press in London, and I hope my film goes some way to showing what young people are capable of when they have the support and resources to reach their potential.

It is fantastic to know that, when young people like this are our future, they are already getting involved in doing their part to think about climate change, and the impact of their actions on our planet… Oh – and does anyone know where I can buy one of those t-shirts?

To become a climate change youth ambassador in London – click here 

Find out more about:

Learn about Looptworks

Was just on the internet doing some research and happened to come across this company in Portland, Oregon (US) which was founded in 2009.

This company repurposes abandoned materials into meaningful, long-lasting and limited-edition products from pre-consumer excess… with the aim of ridding the world of waste while and inspiring a generation to reduce their impact on the planet.

The issue of textile waste at the pre-consumer end of things was not something I had considered when I started out on this challenge… my focus was squarely with the consumer patterns and waste at the end of a garments life.

Their website reports “Every week, one factory can dispose of about 60,000 pounds of textile waste that goes into landfills. That’s roughly equivalent to 113 Baby Grand Pianos!”. It had not ever occurred to me that factories could be discarding so much, when although the fabric may not be what was requested, it is perfectly good quality textile which could be used in another way (Upcycled).

Discovering this site has made me realise exactly how little I know and how inspirational and innovative people can be when motivated. If you have some time, check out this short video.

You will also find a link to their website on my links page.

5 Days to Go – Have I been brainwashed?

I have five days until I start this challenge… an entire year of buying only second-hand clothing.. it’s a great challenge, will make me feel good about my impact and interaction with this planet and will also have a positive impact on charities I will be supporting every time I spend in one of their shops…

…..so why am I having an overwhelming urge to go to a shopping precinct and spend-spend-spend as though I will have nothing to wear for the next year? I have long loved buying vintage clothing and yet this self-imposed ban has me realising exactly how brainwashed I have become by living in this consumer society which places importance on fashion and image over many other very important issues (like… say…i don’t know…. health. substance. wellbeing. the future of the planet….).

I am resisting these urges to go out on a spending spree to rival Katie Holmes’ reported recent 6-month $10m spree (its okay – it wasn’t on herself, it was on her six-year-old daughter!). After all –  it is not like I am also throwing out all of the perfectly acceptable and useful items of clothing sitting in my closet*… so why does it feel like it?


*okay… some are on the floor…

Where it all began… the Age of Stupid, Fast Fashion and my Pledge…

For some time I have been reflecting on the amount of clothes I seem to buy, wondering why I am always needing more, and pondering why it seems that clothes just don’t last as long as they used to. I wondered whether it was simply that I was tending to buy sale items or from cheaper outlets, and this is why they were wearing out or losing shape after just a few wears, resulting in me needing to throw them out and buy more. I started spending more, with the assumption that buying from bigger labels meant better quality and hopefully longevity. Not so. I just ended up with fewer items AND less money.

When I lived in Australia, it was common practice for me to scour the charity shops and markets for clothing, because it fit with my style, was cheaper, and I would often find unique items which I was unlikely to see walking past me on someone else. On reflection, it always seemed that the pre-loved or recycled items I bought lasted longer too. I guess this is probably because they have been worn, washed, and worn again many times over before I got them – they had already proved their resilience by the time they found a new home in my wardrobe.

When I moved to London, over time, I slowly got sucked into the same way of thinking as many other Londoners, that is – looking the part, wearing the labels, and only ever went into a charity shop if I needed something for a fancy dress party. It’s interesting, though, that in London, if you can pass the item off as “vintage” as opposed to “used” or “pre-loved”, they will happily triple the price and your money goes into the pocket of some hipster instead of to one of the many charities supporting the needy.

What I had also realised though, is that after a while, the unique aspects of the way that I had previously dressed were less often seen, and slowly but surely I began to resemble many of the 8 million or so other people wearing the “London Uniform” and conforming to what is a very generic and superficial sense of style, image and value.

I have recently watched a film called “The Age of Stupid”, set in the future we watch on as an archivist looks through film and news footage from 2008 in an attempt to understand why humankind did nothing to address the issue of climate change, despite all of the warning signs. In the words of William Nicholson, writer of Shadowlands and Gladiator, “I hate this film. I felt as if I was watching all my own excuses for not doing anything about climate change being stripped away from me.”.

I started to think more seriously about climate change and wonder about my contribution as it relates to my clothing dilemma. I know to recycle, I minimise paper waste, and I buy long-life light bulbs. What I didn’t know what exactly how my clothing choices impacted so significantly on my carbon footprint.

I started by doing some research. Overconsumption is a major factor in climate change. We buy much more clothing today than we did a generation ago, and too much of it is what is known as “disposable fashion”. Shops like Primark, selling low-cost clothing, are going from strength to strength in the current climate or austerity, with their stores becoming bigger each time a new one opens. These types of brands are careful to point out on their websites the ways in which they are trading ethically through supporting their workers in overseas countries, and through their use of biodegradable packaging such as paper bags instead of plastic. What is less clear is the end result of millions of people buying these cheap items which quickly become un-wearable and are designed to worn a few times before being thrown out and replaced.

In 2006, a report called “Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste” for Defra found that around 1.5 – 2 million tonnes of clothing and textiles waste are discarded every year in the UK . Of this only 16% (300,000 tonnes) is currently reused or recycled with 63% (1.2 million tonnes) ending up in landfill.

What we wear, how and where it is made, and what happens to it when we are done with it all have potential to have either a positive or negative impact on our communities and our futures.

I made a pledge that I would commit to a year of buying only second-hand clothing, whilst at the same time – researching as much as I could about the impact of the fashion and textiles industry on climate change and sharing this anyone that will listen. This is where it all began.


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