There is one week left of ‘Secondhand September’. A noble cause that challenges people to only buy secondhand clothes for the 30 days of September. 300,000 tonnes of unused but wearable clothing (£140 million worth) goes into UK landfill sites every year. The average lifetime for an item of clothing in the UK is approximately 2.2 years. Extending the life of clothes can significantly reduce waste and emissions.
Sadly the timing of this year’s campaign couldn’t have been worse. With Covid still in full throttle, secondhand stores (predominantly charity shops) have not been able to accept donations. The entire secondhand cycle can only work if there is a plentiful supply of clothing. Although there was a deluge of drop-offs at the beginning of lockdown, that has since declined.
The charity shops are mainly staffed by volunteers (Oxfam has 22,000 volunteers), typically over the age of 65, which are those most vulnerable to the virus. They have shielded, leaving many stores unable to operate fully. Oxfam reported that they have had a 40% reduction in volunteers during the past 4 months, resulting in a temporary closure of its high street stores. Barnado’s has suffered a loss of £30M so far this year.
But all is not lost, as there are still ways to participate in the preloved campaign. Instead of perusing through local outlets you can of course make your contribution digitally. Many charities have their own online offerings (https://onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk/shop) or sell through 3rd party shops like ebay or depop. There are also some fantastic for-profit second hand stores such as: Vinted, My Wardrobe HQ, Vestiaire Collective and hardleyeverwornit.
I have only bought secondhand clothes for the last 3 years. My ‘go to’ place is ebay because if you are buying pre-loved you may as well bag a bargain at the same time. I tend to search for brands I already know fit my form and shop out of season. For example, summer clothes selling in the autumn will fetch a lower fee than in the peak of a heatwave. Also, look out for those items that are photographed poorly, they are often overlooked and so you are less likely to have bidding competition!
Use the last 5 days of this campaign as an excuse to splurge on something second-hand. Preloved is a wonderful way to add to your wardrobe. So go fill your boots (or your drawers)!