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9th October 2020

Styled, steamed, shimmered: Stories of second-hand September

The surprising second-hand September that shaped, swapped, and styled some of our editorial team’s wardrobes this month
Styled, steamed, shimmered: Stories of second-hand September
Photo: Alexander Chi/Georgina Davidson @ The Mancunion

The shift towards a sustainable future is slow, but gradually gaining traction, and recent months have seen changes in both how and where we can shop.

It seems that the temptation to shop online and develop weekly spending habits with fast fashion is ever-present; we are browsing online and making new purchases at an increasing rate. It is something that comes up time and time again in weekly phone conversations and Zoom calls: “What did you buy?”, “Where did you buy it from?” – and the quest for the ultimate student discount code.

However, our increased understanding of the life cycle of garments, from production to their quick disposal, has encouraged change. We must combat the destructive actions of the past and find ways to reduce our impact on both people and the planet.

For many, taking the Oxfam pledge to shop #secondhandseptember was a natural starting point that raised awareness of alternative, sustainable clothing choices. This month-long experiment attempted to enact a change in mindset towards our fashion consumption, from where we source items to their re-wearability.

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Thank you for taking part in Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember. We did it! This year thousands of you came together and made a loud, anti-fast fashion statement. We don't want to wear clothes that cost the earth or that harm it's people. And as consumers, the power is in our hands. By choosing to shop second hand this month you've helped stop clothes from going to landfill. And if you shopped in an Oxfam shop, you've also helped raise vital funds for our poverty beating work around the world. We think that's pretty amazing. If you took part this year, share this hand stitched graphic made by our wonderful colleague and supporter @clairesartsandcrafts. All the materials used in the making of this are – yep you guessed it – second hand! Needle and all ♻️💚 Second Hand September may be coming to an end, but shopping sustainably doesn’t have to. Keep in touch and let us know how you're doing. We love seeing what gems you uncover in our high street shops or on the @oxfamonlineshop. . . . . . . . . . . #SecondHandSeptember #SecondHand #PreLoved #Sustainable #SustainableFashion #Fashion #Recycle #Reuse #SayYesToSecondHand #Reuse #Rewear #Recycle #SlowFashion

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The project began after an Oxfam-commissioned study revealed that over two tonnes of clothing was bought every minute. Of that astronomical figure, the UK sends thirteen million items of clothing to landfill every year.

This shocking statistic alone conveys the stark environmental damage that fast fashion enacts, and indicates its destructive nature beyond economic deterioration. With the assistance of Oxfam, many pledgers began carefully and creatively reorganising their wardrobes, as well as exploring existing items on the market.

After taking the pledge for the first time last year, I was surprised at how many options suddenly came into focus. I started by attending a swap shop with friends – we met up with bags of freshly washed clothing ready to exchange, devising outfit choices together from the comfort of the living room. It was the perfect opportunity to offer up items that were still in excellent condition but in desperate need of a re-style.

I swapped many shimmering crop tops and the odd, ill-advised printed shirt, that were now able to discover a new lease of life. In return, I gained some great items including a stunning pair of white Carhartt dungarees – proving that one person’s junk can be another’s gold.

Grey check blazer and shirt combination
Photo: Georgina Davidson @ The Mancunion

Although events could not take place in the same way as previous #secondhandseptember projects, this year things moved online, with effective and approachable second-hand success stories being shared of the horrors and heroes shoppers found at online stores.

One such wonder website, Depop, allows users to sell pre-loved items on an easy-to-access platform. This new way of looking at clothes can also give people the confidence to make style choices and take risks based on exciting vintage finds and shared knowledge of styles in our local community.

The site is a firm favourite of Editor-in-Chief, Anja Samy, who commented: “I found so many hidden gems … it felt even easier to shop on peer-to-peer platforms because I could search for things that I really wanted, even if they may not be this season’s trend.”

A cropped flannel shirt was her top find this month, which is a comfortable option that is “great for layering” in the autumnal months ahead.

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Shop sustainably on #Depop. We spoke to @oxfamfestshop, a dedicated festival shop run by volunteers to sells items that have been donated, exclusively on Depop. Here’s what they had to say: 𝗪𝗵𝘆 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝗮 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝗽 𝗼𝗻 𝗗𝗲𝗽𝗼𝗽 As festivals didn't happen in 2020, we had sorted some amazing stock but no customers 🙁 Luckily Depop has curated a cool platform, celebrating sustainable fashion and promoting secondhand. We are excited to be selling our treasures on Depop and raising money to beat global poverty. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝘅𝗳𝗮𝗺 It is looking to see if there is a preloved version – to Reuse something that already exists, it is Reducing what goes to landfill by buying secondhand and Recycling by donating your unwanted items to Oxfam shops where they can be resold. These acts of sustainability can help people around the world, the resell of one dress could raise enough money to buy drought-resistant seeds for a family to keep growing food despite a changing climate. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗢𝘅𝗳𝗮𝗺'𝘀 𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗳𝗮𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 We have our own textile recycling centre, Wastesaver, that keeps 12,000 tons of unsold donated clothing out of landfill every year. Some items are sold online, at festivals or in our high street shops. Anything damaged could be recycled or repaired by some of our talented volunteers so it is a saleable, one off garment. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 #𝘀𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘀𝗲𝗽𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝘆 𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁 Second Hand September is Oxfam’s campaign to encourage people to only buy second hand for 30 days (or more) Every week 13 million items of clothing end up in UK landfill which is putting increasing pressure on our planet and its people. You can take the pledge online using #secondhandseptember to give clothes a longer life!

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This month also revealed the re-occurrence of vintage styles which spin through cycles, throwing some interesting finds into the most unexpected places. For myself, an inherited, generational love of clothes meant that discussion and re-purposing of 70s, 80s and 90s gems regularly took place throughout the month. As fast as clothes were swapped, more satin shirts and quirky cut jeans were acquired.

This experience was mirrored by Beauty Editor, Alex Bikard, who found delight in rediscovering and re-imagining family treasures. Throughout September, she found comfort in her travels wearing “a green vintage dress” that she had inherited from her grandmother. She noted that she “would rather buy and wear very beautiful investment pieces, ideally pre-loved ones that would last [her] a lifetime”, valuing styling, instead of buying several new pieces.

Vintage green dress styling combination
Photo: Alexandra Bikard @ The Mancunion

From the discarded garments of friends and family, to finding hidden gems on the market, a financially viable opportunity is presented by swapping and sharing our clothing. Embracing the vision of shopping second-hand, rather than the vastness of fast fashion, allows us to connect and showcase our social diversities, presenting us with the ability to be imaginative and put collaboration first.

When cultural and environmental impacts are considered, we can reduce the cost of our own monthly spend, and support our most vulnerable communities worldwide, showing that love of the material can easily be slow and sustainable.

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