Today’s fashion is largely defined by fleeting trends.
I’ve been known to argue that this has always been the case, but no decade’s fashion is dependent upon trends more than this one. Trends don’t linger for years like they used to; with the onslaught of media attention, both in high fashion and street style, everyone is kept up to date with even the slightest trend variations. And while it’s easy enough to blame the media for the unrelenting popularity of fast fashion, we can’t forget that we, as the consumers, are what ultimately drives the media.
The one upside of trend-driven fashion, however, is that no trend “dies” forever (as much as we’d like to believe that an 80s revival will never, ever happen), which means that fashion statements from decades ago can be reused. An obvious example of this would be the reintroduction of grunge fashion from the 90s, or the high-waisted trend from the 80s (which, in itself is actually a revival of 40s and 50s style menswear). But of course, for every upside, there’s a downside. Not everyone is interested in hoarding closets full of clothes for decades with the hopes that they’ll be able to wear them again one day without sacrificing their style.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong advocate for personal style over simply following trends, but even I’ve been known to fall victim to the allure of that outfit that “absolutely everyone is wearing, mom, why don’t you understand?”. But truthfully speaking, hasn’t everyone fallen victim to that very same thing? I’m talking anything from the Vetements x Comme des Garçons collaboration to the Juicy Couture velour tracksuit. And just like that (not so) tearful goodbye we bade to those tracksuits, we tend to do the same with other trends as well.
This is where second-hand shops come into play. With so many people being educated on the environmental, ethical, and even health-related impacts of fast fashion, everyone is trying to get on the sustainable fashion train, so to speak. The only problem is that while many people would love to buy, ethically and sustainably made clothes and shoes, not everyone can afford it. But if you can’t afford ethically made clothes, is fast fashion your only option? Second-hand stores are the apparent middle-ground; incredibly inexpensive, but still sustainable.
I’m not going to naively tell you that this is going to fix everything. Buying second-hand is obviously not a permanent solution to a problem as massive as this, and there is still a myriad of problems that arise from the popularity of fast fashion. But buying second-hand is still an incredibly viable solution to so many of the environmental concerns that come along as a result of fast fashion. However, it’s also important to note that not all donations can be resold, or even donated, whether it’s because of poor quality or for hygienic reasons (i.e., used underwear), so textile waste can’t be avoided just by donating your clothes.
We have to put more thought into the clothes we buy, and where they come from. It’s not enough to say we want to change the fashion industry – we have to actively work toward fixing it – the only way to truly eliminate textile waste is to change our habits from the very beginning of the supply chain.
By: Hana Sabo