Recycling and reusing in fashion, two shopping practices that are eco-chic and high on style
Looking ahead to the summer collections? Keen to trade in your winter coat for a summer frock? Well you can, by organizing a clothes swap. Raiding the wardrobes of your friends, family and even your grandmother, can be worthwhile in finding some of those one-off key vintage pieces. Every fashionista knows that clothing constructed and sold off the rack before the mid-1960s was top quality, which is why much of it is still in excellent condition in your mother's or grandmother's closet, or around the corner in the local thrift or vintage shop. Even if your salvaged garment is from the mid-'80s (instead of the mid-'50), your sense of style, the influence of current trends, and a fresh interpretation of an old look can bring new life to even very inexpensive thrift-shop buys.
Every year in the UK alone, consumers purchase 2.15 million tonnes of new clothing, shoes and accessories. In order to make room for all of the new, we are throwing away the old! Over 900,000 million items of clothing are thrown away each year in the UK alone. Discarded clothing and shoes are typically sent to landfill. Textiles present particular problems in landfill. Synthetic (man-made fibres) products do not decompose.
Meanwhile, the fashion industry is producing new styles and trends for the high street at a frantic pace. This is having a negative effect on the environment as virgin resources are being used faster than they can be produced, toxic pesticides and other chemicals are being used to grow cotton and energy is being used to transport products around the globe. Specifically, the grasslands of the Alashan Plateau in China have been turned into a dustbowl due to over grazing of goats for cashmere. In Uzbekistan, 85% of the Aral Sea has disappeared as a result of drainage for cotton production.
One example of large scale clothes swaps is the Visa Swap in London. For the second year running, Visa is teaming up with textile recycling banks to organize Visa Swap, an innovative way for unwanted clothes to be re-used. Visa Swap invites all fashion lovers to gather unwanted designer and high-street clothes, shoes and bags and swap them for those that you do.
All reused clothing is green, since – by being salvaged – it doesn't find itself piling up in a landfill for all of eternity. It may take a little time and patience to hunt for individual items, but when you uncover those truly one-of-a-kind pieces that rival many of today's most popular designers, second-hand shopping is totally worth all the work. So go ahead and shop with wild abandon in your local thrift or vintage clothing store.