“McKinsey’s State of Fashion report recently concluded that more than half of fast-fashion items are thrown away in less than a year. This trend is exacerbated by, what’s described as, “the Instagram look and chuck mentality”.
One estimate is that 11 million clothing items a week go to landfill – or 300 000 tons a year.
The equivalent South African statistics are hard to track but the move towards disposable fashion here has been just as marked, especially with the relentless rise of cut-price chains like Mr Price and H&M.
And a recent Gumtree SA survey showed 65 percent of respondents owning 10 or more items of clothing which they never used.
On several levels excessive consumption of new clothing is environmentally damaging and, according to many experts, unsustainable. The single most important action we can all do is to prolong the life cycle of clothing, which starts by never putting clothes in the bin. Increasing awareness of such issues has also given rise to a growing eco-movement in favour of second-hand clothing. From reselling, recycling, gifting, swapping and reusing, the second-hand industry is becoming one of the largest growing consumer segments.
Online trading sites are growing in this category and, globally, there’s a new genre of specialist pre-owned designer clothing consignment sites.
Even the legendary Selfridges in London had a second-hand pop up store last year. Top fashion designers are starting to buy in as well with Stella McCartney launching “The Future of Fashion is Circular” campaign to encourage consumers to purchase sustainable clothing that retains value and then resell it to expand its lifespan, avoiding landfills.
The status issue was big for many people – they weren’t confident to admit to buying secondhand but now it seems smart, savvy and eco-friendly.
The secondhand market makes even more sense in a tough economy as you win both ways by making money on your own old clothes and saving money on the replacements.
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