In parts of China and India, farmers can tell the colour of next season’s fashion by the colour of nearby rivers, as documented in the film River Blue. And much of this cheap, low quality fashion is destined for landfill after few, if any, wears.
In Australia, we send 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather to landfill each year. Meanwhile, the clothing and textile industry accounts for around 20% of global industrial water pollution and around 10% of global carbon emissions.
These are all important reasons to start thinking sustainably about our fashion.
One practical way to reduce our fashion eco-footprint and embrace the slow fashion movement is to buy our clothing second hand, from op-shops or online. And here’s the good news – this could really save your style, not just the planet.
We all know a few superstars, in real life and in the media (e.g. Kate Moss, Alexa Chung), who can put those specialty vintage and basic op-shop pieces together magnificently.
However, if you need assistance with your personal style, ‘eco-chic style renovators’ like Eli and Nikki from from E&NCo can help. E&NCo is a sustainable style and slow fashion business that offers ‘wardrobe therapy’. Women invite Eli and Nikki into into their wardrobes for style consultations.
Their solutions focus on promoting wellbeing, empowering women to create their desired image from what they already own, complemented by items sourced secondhand.
Eli said she and Nikki create image boards to help people be creative with their styling. For example, learning how to use one piece in several different ways to create new looks.
“Fashion isn’t just something we wear, but something that tells a story of us as individuals – and each day the choices we make reflect who we are on that day,” she said.
Become op-shop savvy
Eli has some great tips for helping you become a savvy op-shop shopper:
“I started my op-shopping journey specifically sourcing unique pieces – one of a kind and vintage. As I soon realised you can get anything you need, it’s become my main shopping source,” she said.
She suggests treating a trip to the local op-shop like a standard shopping expedition.
“Have fun with it and remain open minded. Think about what you’ll wear and the quality of the items,” said Eli.
Don’t just buy for sake of ‘cheap’
Eli advises not to buy too many pieces just because they are inexpensive.
“Look for the fashion fundamentals and items that don’t date, and work with items already in your wardrobe such as: denim and leather; basic tees; workwear; accessories; jackets; and little black dresses,” she said.
Then, once you’ve got your basics covered, look for specialty items like those one-of-a kind or designer pieces you wouldn’t usually purchase.
“These pieces add to the individuality and quality of your wardrobe and ensure you’re not sacrificing your style over budget,” she said.
Seek out fashion inspo
Why not make op shopping an outing with friends? Nikki said they often choose a general location and pick out a few places to check in that area, making sure there is a good coffee or lunch spot to refresh.
“A friend can help you pick up something fabulous that you might never have considered on your own,” she said.
Where else can you get inspiration?
Nikki and Eli follow other Instagram thrifters for tips on where to try next.
And then there are spaces on the web too. Special items can be sourced at places like Revoir who offer fashionable, curated, timeless pieces, focusing on more glamorous second hand fashion.
Involve little people
I recently bought my 3-year-old daughter a full year of quality clothes (dresses, leggings, etc.) for $40 on a buy swap sell site on Facebook. But knowing where to start for buying kids’ pieces can be a bit daunting.
So what about little people?
Eli, who’s a mother of boys, said each age group presents its own challenges.
“For babies up to age one there’s usually a plethora of items, some brand new or only worn once,” she said.
“After that I have noticed it can be more challenging to source quality items, particularly for boys, aged two to four. After all, they tend to play hard! As such, I highly recommend buying one to two sizes in advance if you find a quality item,” she said.
By buying from op-shops we can escape the fast fashion trap. So grab yourself a girlfriend, choose an op-shop and a complementary nearby coffee shop and have yourself a creative, sustainable op-shopping styling adventure.