Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Climate Action Newcastle member Mark Warner delved deep and found a huge range of ways we can all reduce buying new, reduce our guilt, save money - and end up with lots more room in our wardrobes!
After reading that fashion produces the second highest CO2 emmissions in the world behind the fossil fuel industry I realised I needed to know more. I started out with Ethical Consumer Magazine - my go to resource for ethical shopping options, that led me down a rabbit hole of research into what options existed locally, nationally and what immediate actions I could take. Consider this a collection of my thoughts and research - please go and explore yourself and share what options you find too.
HIRING / RENTAL
This is a growing trend, especially for 'high value' items that would usually be used for one-off special occasions like Weddings, Proms, Birthdays etc. On these occasions you may want to have something that feels more luxurious but instead of buying new, wearing once then leaving it sat in a wardrobe to be chucked eventually... try hiring or rental services instead, that way, the item is always being re-used by many different people.
Hire Street - https://www.hirestreetuk.com/ Newcastle based, doing really well and growing fast, they are also creating an online platform that can be used by others around the country to set up their own hire shops.
Online options - There are so many new hire/rental services popping up online, including for babies and children (an obvious choice for rental since they grow so quickly). It's not just for fashion either, I recently found a rental service for bikes for my little one. Google is your friend, do some searching around as there are new services popping up all the time.
LOCAL SECOND-HAND / VINTAGE SHOPS
The Evening Chronicle have done a great feature (read it here) with little reviews on some of the best local second-hand and vintage shops around the city, supporting local charities and businesses is a great choice to make.
Flip Vintage | https://www.flipvintage.com/ 1st floor, 104 Westgate Rd, Newcastle, NE1 4AF
St Oswalds boutique shop | Hazelwood Avenue, Jesmond
Retro | 2 High Bridge Square, Newcastle City Centre, NE1 1EN
Sense Newcastle | 50 Grainger Street, Newcastle City Centre, NE1 5JG
Curiosity Box | 115 Chillingham Road, Heaton NE6 5XL
General Purpose Charity Shops - See our local map here
SECOND-HAND SHOPPING ONLINE
Thrift+ https://thrift.plus/ Mainly branded items but have recently expanded to include more 'fast fashion' brands to help stop them simply going to landfill. This is a platform where you can sell your goods as well as find regular staples like jeans etc.
Vestiaire Collective https://www.vestiairecollective.com/ Features mainly luxury 'high-end' brands. I was really inspired by the back story and the founder of this company after listening to a podcast interview on the Mary Portas Kindness Economy series (listen to it here). This service has since influenced many top designer brands and department stores to start their own rebuy and resell services. Harvey Nichols, Selfridges etc are doing this now.
We are Dotte https://www.wearedotte.com/ Similar to Thrift but for Childrens clothing, a platform for buying and selling.
Depop https://www.depop.com/ Becoming very popular recently, aimed more at teenage audiences. This kicked off quite a big revolution amongst younger consumers to demonstrate that second-hand can be cool and trendy.
Vinted https://www.vinted.co.uk/ Popular across Europe so it's useful for if you are working in other countries or to recommend to friends abroad.
eBay - www.ebay.co.uk I've found this especially useful for ‘bundles’ i.e. 2-3 yr bundle of mixed tops. It was a god send during lockdown and very convenient for me as I don't have a lot of time to go browsing around charity shops, especially when I need specific items for the kids. I've used it for nearly all of my children's clothing (boys aged 8 and 3) as they've grown. Here's a couple of my most recent purchases: A 'new' school coat for my 8 year old, £5.50 for a black Nike puffer jacket in brand new condition. A 'bundle' of boys 3-4 yr old joggers/bottoms as my youngest boy decided to shoot up over night, £12 for 5 pairs including some lovely lined bottoms ready for the winter months.
Charity Shops - Oxfam has good online shop: https://onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk/ This enables you to buy second-hand and still support a good cause too. I find it useful because I can search for specific items. I only keep a minimal wardrobe of items, i.e. two pairs of jeans. When one pair wears out, I will look to replace so it's useful to be able to search for particular items and sizes. They also allow returns, should an item not be suitable. I loved reading the background story behind their online operation too: Behind-the-scenes: Oxfam Online Shop
The Clearout Store https://www.theclearoutstore.co.uk/ Not just for fashion, they do other household goods, toys and homeware etc. It feels more like going to a second-hand department store so it's great if you want a range of items as it saves on separate deliveries.
BUYING NEW - THE LAST RESORT
First and foremost, no matter how sustainable a clothing item is (or claims to be), it is still preferable to try to reuse or repair first. Buying new will use resources and emit carbon. Our overview blog quotes Greta Thunberg’s powerful recent comments on this.
However, if we HAVE to buy new, it’s good to look at the most sustainable options out there.
Sustainable materials - I Dress Myself details the pros and cons and sustainability of different fabrics in this fantastic blog post. Although it's in the context of T-Shirt printing (their business) I found it be a very useful and insightful article that made me question some of my original beliefs around what fabrics were perceived to be most sustainable. Read the full blog here.
Fashion certifications - I Dress Myself again take the time to write a very useful blog to demystify all of the different 'eco certifications' that you may have seen floating around in shops claiming their products are 'green' or 'sustainable' etc. Do you really know what Organic means? How about if a product is Carbon Neutral? Find out by reading the full blog here
Ethical Consumer Guide - The latest issue of Ethical Consumer Magazine is packed with so much detail around fashion and it explores a lot of the themes above about buying second-hand as a priority but it does also have an excellent guide for if you have to buy new, including a 'best buy' table and companies to avoid. Read the high street clothes shop guide here* Read the ethical clothes shop guide here* *Please note this is subscription only content, personally I find the £29.95/year to be money very well spent as it produces fantastic guides for all aspects of consuming from goods to services and it exposes a lot of the corporate structures behind a lot of what you might think are 'green' or 'eco-friendly' companies too. I got my first year subscription bought for me as a gift (a great idea!).
DESIGN YOUR OWN - A DIFFERENT KIND OF 'NEW'
This option is on my radar as I have a background in graphic design but really, you don't need to 'know' design too much for this to be an option.
Yes, it's technically buying a new item of clothing (although it doesn't always have to be) but it's a good way to keep your money out of the fast fashion high street stores and because you're getting something more personalised, you're more likely to keep it for longer.
Independent screen printers - There are some great ethical t-shirt and garment printers out there. I Dress Myself mentioned above can take any image you have, like a photo or a favourite saying, and help you make it into a T-Shirt or Tote bag. You could decide to make a few and gift them to friends & family too. You have options to pick the best material and use Vegan/Eco-friendly printing inks.
Teemill - is marketed as a platform to create your own merchandise store to sell to others, but you don't have to use it that way. You can set-up a 'store' just to design some of your own T-Shirts. They provide easy to use templates and will hold your hand through the whole design process giving you access to free photos and design elements to craft your own garments. Teemill are often used by charity organisations for selling merchandise too because of their strong ethical stance, use of organic cotton and 'full circle' economy.
Home printing - if you have access to a colour inkjet printer then this is a great option to customise or revitalise a T-Shirt or jumper you might already have or to brighten up a second-hand purchase, like a plain garment. Printable papers used to be quite poor quality but things have improved a lot. I use Crafty Computer Papers online where you can get printable fabric sheets that you can cut out and sew on or you can get iron on transfer papers which work really well, even on dark colours. In lockdown I found some free adult colouring in sheets. One of these designs I really liked so I took a photo of the finished piece, enhanced the colours a bit, printed on to iron on transfer paper and transformed a drab grey T-Shirt I used to just use for bed, now it's one of my faves and I wear it loads.
A FINAL THOUGHT
Read this article about why an ex fashion editor won't buy new fashion any more.