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Are we innocent if wearing vintage clothes?

by Hyemin Seo

Is it true that young people are interested in second-hand clothing, and can their consumption affect sustainability? The answer is clearly "yes".


The fashion industry uses over 92 million tons of material every year. 

If we stopped creating excess supply in case of excess demand, it may be possible to reduce clothing consumption per person by purchasing pre-loved clothing instead. 

It cannot be denied that this is an act that can contribute sufficiently to circular fashion. If clothing is made to a high quality, it can last a lifetime - or even generations. 


However, as interest in the second-hand clothing market increases, their values have began to be blurred. The market for second-hand clothes, where “recycled" and "reused" were the core values, is facing a new problem of exclusion.

It’s not enough to have a diverse cast of models - each must be considered in the context of the minority groups they belong to. 

With the revival of Y2K fashion mixed with the styles of the ‘60s and ‘70s going viral as a result of new media like Daisy Jones & The Six, for the younger generation it makes sense to source this vintage vibe in a vintage shop. In fact, the phrase "Vintage Outfit Check" brings up countless TikTok videos that are being produced each day.

Although this is great for emphasising the shift to slow fashion, the issue is that these items tend to be feeding into micro trends. By being a short term fad, it runs the risk of those items being lost in the void of an over-consumer’s wardrobe and therefore wasting the resources again. 

Similarly, the idea of upcycling could easily be a force for good - bringing new life to outdated pieces. However, this reimagining normally comes in the shape of shortening or cropping, making the item often reduce its lifespan and even making it inaccessible for its next life as another person’s charity shop find. 

Concepts of donation and reusing have lead many young people who are genuinely passionate about environmental issues to the preloved market. Still, the fact is, their trend-obsessed consumption and unchanged buying habits can easily be interpreted as a way to free them from guilt. 

Not to be the bearer of had news, but if you still shop to an unnecessary degree then you are still feeding into an unattainable and unethical lifestyle. 

Today, innocence is no longer a word that can excuse us from living in an industry that creates this vast waste of resources. 

A reflection of the capitalist world we live in, fight against the climate crisis by being thoughtful with your purchases. Even if you opt to shop fast fashion  for whatever reason, if those few pieces will be worn regularly over a long span of time then its impact doesn’t have to be as detrimental. 

If you get bored of wearing the same item - lean how to style and rework pieces using accessories or layering. 

If you need a new item for a special occasion, consider renting - sites like ByRotation and Herr are ideal and accessible. 

If you really need a wardrobe revamp for a serotonin boost, having a clothes swap with friends and family could be more beneficial. 

There can be many solutions that allow you to feel and look your best without adding unnecessary strain to our planet. 

And if everyone reflected on their buying habits and practiced more conscious consumption, then we could find more value in each of our wardrobes. 

Edited by Emily Duff

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