Let’s Stop Buying New Sh*t

Capitalism and the fashion industry go together like coffee and milk. You know what else are two peas in a pod? Consumerism and climate change.

Our society is designed to make us want things we don’t need in packaging that’s wasteful from companies that emit tons of fossil fuels. While I’m tempted to get into everything about consumerism and waste, I’m just going to focus on fashion.

There is a mentality of styles going “stale” or needing a “refresh.” We always need the next new handbag, new dress, new shoes, new lipstick… This addiction to consumption is part of the reason why our environment has been destroyed.

There is nothing wrong with exploring trends to see if they work for you, and I’m not here to judge you for that. But in my opinion, buying every new trendy piece is excessive and wasteful.

Even though I’m on a budget, I’ve believe that you should spend your money on quality goods that last. If you buy items that are timeless and of high quality, you won’t be tempted to throw it out later.

Ethical fashion is tough–its hard to find and can be super expensive. Right now, it seems like only people who have extra money can afford it. It’s more affordable to buy a new dress from Forever21, but here’s my question to you:

Will you like this in a couple years or even couple months down the road? Will it work with the rest of your wardrobe or is it just a seasonal trend that actually isn’t that cute?

For the year of 2019, I’ve challenged myself to only shop secondhand fashion, and I’m going to tell you why in this post.

Buying secondhand fashion prolongs the life of goods and decreases your carbon footprint.  A circular economy encourages utilizing items as long as possible, getting the maximum value out of quality goods. By buying and selling gently used and well-used items, the life of goods that may collect dust in a closet or end up in a landfill is extended.

The Mission: Cut Down On Waste

What do you do with your accessories when you’re done loving them? Some may give them to a friend, donate them to Goodwill, consign them, but some people toss them in the trash, only to live in a landfill or find their way into the sea, and that’s where the problem exists.

Currently, more than 21 billion pounds of clothing and fashion items are discarded in U.S. landfills. To cut down on waste, consider donating your handbags or clothes when you’re through with them. Clothing and textiles are among the most recyclable items in your home.

Fast fashion retailers have come to be known for their ability to quick churn out good copies for great prices. This enables the consumer to dress from head to toe in chic current fashions while staying within budget. Not a bad way to look the part, but we have a better one – preloved! Buying previously owned pieces allows you to pay less, while getting the impeccable construction and materials of the runways.

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That $10 dress just isn’t worth it. 😬

A post shared by Sustainable Fashion Forum (@thesustainablefashionforum) on

The Circular Economy: Why You Should Buy Pre-Owned

In the circular economy, every step in the supply chain helps to alleviate the impact on the environment. With fashion serving as the second-highest polluting industry after petroleum, every item worn secondhand helps reduce waste by extending its life by nearly two years by making sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill.

If every item purchased worldwide over the next year were bought secondhand, we could reduce carbon, waste and industrial water consumption by a whopping 73%.

Luxury items, like Louis Vuitton and Hermes, are made with high-quality materials and are designed to last a lifetime.

Still, with all the talk of benefit to the world, the clothing and accessories still have to work for the shopper in order for the model to be sustainable. Buying secondhand used to remind people of garage sales, dingy vintage shops or dusty thrift stores. Today, items come to you from careful curation and range from gently worn to brand new. Often, these items are in better shape than front of house items in a traditional retail shop.

Not only that, but an ethical company should pay their employee a living wage to make the garment.

“One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.”

Buying pre-owned or used items will help cut down on the chance that an item will end up in a landfill and extend their life. By selling or consigning your luxury items, you’ve extended their life by giving them a new home.

Where to donate: Charitable organizations like Goodwill, The Salvation Army and Dress for Success to help women in need, prevent usable goods from going into landfills and turn your unwanted fashion into someone’s thrift store gold.

Where to buy, sell or consign fashion accessories: Yoogi’s Closet, Fashionphile, TheRealReal, Rebag, Depop, Poshmark, Tradesy or ThredUp. Read my full review of where to buy pre-owned luxury goods.

What to look for when you’re shopping used/pre-owned…

Professional restoration: did you know a used can look new again?

If it’s real leather, don’t hesitate because it’s in not pristine condition. Most leather bags can be rejuvenated, restored, and replenished using eco-friendly cleaning supplies and dyes. Leather goods can go through a multi-step cleaning and rejuvenation process which includes heating the leather to let natural oils shine, conditioning and cleaning the exterior, cleaning every nook and cranny inside, and polishing hardware.

Know Your (Organic) Material

Bamboo, silk, organic cotton, soy and hemp are just a few of the natural, eco-friendly fabrics on the market in luxury goods.  

What Notable Brands Are Doing About Sustainability

Celebrities and high-end retailers are tapping into “green fashion” and making it more than just a trend; social consciousness is a big motivator for many of us in fashion. Ethical treatment of animals and protecting natural resources are important factors of many of us. Even Louis Vuitton is concerned by the issues facing the environment; the Louis Vuitton website showcases their environmental policy,

Louis Vuitton has also made steps to reduce the need for packaging; according to their website, the Neverfull is shipped and packaged flat, which causes a “64% reduction in the volume of its transport packaging has led to savings of 964 tons equivalent of CO2.”

“The Maison Louis Vuitton constantly innovates in order to sustainably reduce the impact of its activity on the environment based on the 3 main principles of the Louis Vuitton Environmental Chart: Minimize the impact of our activities on the environment; limit our carbon footprint, preserve natural resources, reduce our waste; create a collective willingness in and beyond the company; get organized to guarantee our environment performance.” C

Interested in an eco-friendly handbag but still want that luxury feel? As a lifelong vegetarian, Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, has created a first-of-its-kind sustainable, cruelty-free luxury brand. Stella McCartney launched her fashion label in 2001 to create designs that are edgy yet feminine, while avoiding all use of leather and fur, but it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference in her high-quality faux fabrics from real leather. McCartney promotes ethical treatment of animals and people in the fashion industry as well as using organic textiles. Her use of vegan leather to create chic and environmentally-friendly designs has transformed the industry.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat. Forever.

While many brands are still behind on their sustainability practices, each of us can take small steps to better the environment. For example, reduction of packaging is an easy problem to tackle: are you a frequent online shopper? Reuse shipping boxes by using them as storage, or ship another item in them, reuse bubble wrap or air pillows by stuffing your bags with them. We need to hold brands more account. Put them on blast.

Stop supporting this system. Buy only what you need to live a decent life and stop fulfilling your selfish desires with material goods. If we want to have any chance at solving climate change, this mentality needs to fundamentally change. I know it’s hard, but our era of convenience needs to stop.

And finally, don’t buy counterfeits or “inspired by” designs. Fast fashion is notoriously guilty of using child labor and harmful chemicals to create counterfeits because they obviously don’t follow laws!! Read more about counterfeits here.

Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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