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WHY I’M EMBRACING SECOND HAND SEPTEMBER AND MORE (IN ANY MONTH)
Ok so I’ve got a small confession. I don’t personally do a lot of mending. I have plenty of ideas but I’m borderline dangerous with a needle and never seem to be able to find time to sit and sew. I also still buy new clothes. Yet as I’ve got older and as I have invested in my wardrobe and on things that I know will suit my style forever rather than anything that’s considered to be ‘in fashion’, I’m very vested in keeping things and looking after them — in buying special pieces that will last and that I can pass on.
So I’ve become very used to getting things adjusted or adapted as I go. I add patches, personalisation…
I love to pimp things up rather than throwing them away and I adore the idea that they might get a new lease of life or even one day, end up with someone else for them to enjoy. That’s why I like the notion of Oxfam’s Second Hand September.
INTRODUCING SECOND HAND SEPTEMBER
#SecondHandSeptember is a brilliant campaign that was introduced in 2019 by Oxfam, to help people be more conscious about their shopping habits. It challenges us all to only buy second hand items for 30 days during September to help keep clothes out of landfill and to help us think more deeply about our everyday approach to what we buy and wear.
It’s a great idea because it doesn’t just make us more eco-friendly, but helps spark a spirit of creativity and innovation too; helping us express ourselves in different ways. Whether that’s buying something second hand from a past era, transforming a pre-loved t-shirt with a fresh statement or adding embroidery to an old pair of jeans, it helps you and what you wear stand out from the crowd. Plus, in times like these, it also cultivates strong values of thriftiness and the joy of appreciating belongings, not just mindlessly shopping. Imagine if we did it beyond one month too…
THE IDEA OF REPURPOSING
It’s not just buying second hand that’s interesting but making do and mending too. Pioneering clothing brand Patagonia does this really well. They see repair as a radical act, and have stitching pop-ups so that you can fix clothes that need it rather than throwing them away. Their ‘Worn Wear Wagon’ is a mobile mending shop that travels the USA. Founder Yvon Chouinard said,
I’ve always felt guilty about making consumer things. So I have a sense that it’s my responsibility to help people wear them as long as possible.
This is the reason the clothes his company sells also come with a lifetime guarantee. Yvon doesn’t just walk the walk either. He’s happy wearing his 10-year-old shirts as there’s nothing wrong with them and he once took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with the headline: “Don’t buy this jacket” to encourage people to wear what they’ve got.
It’s not just brands like Patagonia that are promoting this approach either. I was inspired to learn how the Swedish Government started to tackle throwaway culture in 2016 by effectively paying people to fix things instead of chucking them away by giving tax breaks on repairs to clothes, bicycles, fridges and washing machines.
CELEBRATING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Since 2020, Sweden has been taking it even further as they work with businesses to embrace a circular economy. This means that products will be designed and made to last longer, so that every part of them can be easily recycled; then shoppers will be encouraged to use things for much longer — think heirloom not landfill. The goal of a circular economy is to keep things circulating for as long as possible so rather than throwing things away people ask themselves if items could be fixed or given another use. Then finally when a product’s ‘life’ is over, it’s recycled so that new products are made from old ones.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE UK ADOPT THIS APPROACH?
Then why not take your own first steps to a more sustainable relationship with fashion. I know, I know. Another thing to juggle! Which is why I sat down with Holly & Co’s latest Artist in Residence and my longtime friend, Suzi Warren — who also happens to be the founder of Twisted Twee, Street Stitching and the creator of #TheClothingHospital. She kindly shared four brilliantly practical tips to help us all get into the ‘stitch it don’t ditch it’ mindset…
1. Don’t throw your clothes away
This is Suzi’s golden rule to live by when it comes to clothes. If the pesky moths have eaten your favourite jumper, don’t worry. Beat them at their own game and transform holes into mini works of art, by using beautiful patches like these.
As Suzi says, “There are many free videos on how to do easy, visible mends which can add more character and interest to a garment than before they became damaged.” Perhaps you’re simply bored of those dungarees hanging in your wardrobe? Suzi reminded me that,
There’s no better way to fall in love with a piece again than by investing a little time adding yourself to it by patching, appliquéing or painting onto it. Some people collect second hand brooches and cluster them around the collars of jackets or cardigans to bling them up. Just switching buttons or changing the length of a top can transform it.
What about those moments when something just won’t quite fit anymore (no matter how much you breathe in!)? If you can’t think of anyone to gift it to you could reinvent it completely — using the material to update other pieces in your wardrobe.
2. Learn to stitch
According to Sustainable Fashion Week, 65% of people want to know how to mend their clothing and care for their clothes to make them last longer¹. If you’re feeling inspired and want to learn how to alter, mend, embellish or transform your clothes, then visit wakelet.com/@SuziWarren — Suzi’s kindly compiled a collection of completely free tutorials that cover all aspects of repair and ways to prolong the life of our clothes in one handy place.
3. Follow these brilliant initiatives or take up the challenge
Sustainable Fashion Week is the first fashion week of its kind, working to make sustainable fashion accessible for all. This is something which I wholeheartedly believe is important to make this message digestible for all of us. Their four themes share practical tips and if we each embraced even just one of these, imagine the difference we could make between us…
Also, should we all try and take up Oxfam’s Second Hand September challenge? Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SecondHandSeptember to inspire others.
4. Stitch it, don’t ditch it
This is a brilliant idea whereby stitchers like Suzi take to the streets, right on the doorstep of fast fashion, to try and peacefully encourage people to consider how they could reuse items that already exist rather than buying cheap, new ones. Fast fashion produces over 92 million tonnes of waste a year² and is often created unethically using low-paid labour. What started out as a one-off event in Bromley to coincide with London Circular Economy Week is now a UK-wide movement after stitchers across the country asked to get involved. Why not join a session or start your own?
CREATING A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE THROUGH OUR WARDROBES
The things we wear are such a huge part of who we are and I should know. The kaftan, headband and trainer-wearing Holly of today is an utterly different person to the suit and Spandex woman of my darkest days. Suzi worded it beautifully when she said,
I believe that like any relationship, the more you invest, the richer it becomes. Clothes go with you to the most important events of your life. They are on you when remarkable, tragic, exhilarating, life-changing things happen to you.
They hold your memories and serve you in almost every situation you find yourself in. When they tear, I see an opportunity for a closer connection to them. I put my body into them daily and by mending them, I get to put my heart into them too. The act of mending is calming, meditative and releases all those good happy hormones. An hour repairing is an hour of self-care. The more of myself I add to my clothes, the more I feel that picking out something to wear is like greeting an old friend.
I learned that increasing the active life of all clothing by nine months would reduce the annual carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing by 20-30% ³. Could you make some small changes to your relationships with your clothes to help make a wealth of difference to our world? Will you take your first stitch to a more sustainable future with me?