Brisbane’s fabulous Revive Pop Up Fashion Festival returned to Southbank for 2017 on Friday 18 August. Live for Less talked with two of the guest speakers appearing at the event about the many benefits of recycled fashion.
Jill Chivers from Shop Your Wardrobe and Leah Musch from Un Material Girl are both passionate advocates of second-hand clothing and the “slow fashion” movement. We asked them about dressing for less and how to win more people over to choosing second-hand clothing.
Q. Financially and environmentally, how does buying second-hand clothing enable people to live for less?
JILL: Firstly, the items for sale don’t cost as much and there are often marvellous bargains to be found. You can shop without as much guilt about the money you’re spending, e.g. a pair of quality leather shoes for $15 versus $150 for the same shoes if you bought them new. Secondly, by avoiding buying new you’re saying no to fast fashion and the damage it’s reaping on the world. You can also feel terrific that your environmental impact is less, like your carbon footprint. There’s a lot to love about buying pre-loved clothing!
LEAH: Financially, second hand clothing is an inviting option because you can save so much money. But I’m more motivated by the environmental savings I make when I choose to avoid fast fashion stores. Although shopping second hand isn’t the answer to our current fashion crisis, it’s a great start to look at what we already have instead of buying more of what we don’t need. Now that I know I can find good quality, unique and designer brands by thrift shopping, rummage sales or going to markets it’s shocking to look at the price tags in retail stores.
Q. What was the “light bulb” moment when you embraced second-hand clothing?
JILL: My pre-loved clothing love affair kind of crept up on me. I don’t recall specifically the moment. I just realised how much enjoyment I got from it, how it allowed me to engage in the creative expression that style and clothing and getting dressed every day is for me, how much of a treasure hunt it can be, and how I can live my mantra of ‘sustainable style and conscious consumption’ through pre-loved clothes shopping. It’s now almost the only kind of shopping I do, with a few rare exceptions, to the point where spending a day in a massive soulless shopping mall is one of the last things I want to do.
LEAH: Watching the documentary The True Cost literally changed my life. It opened my eyes to so many parts of the fashion industry that I had been personally avoiding. Once I saw that film I couldn’t deny that I needed to completely change the way I looked at buying fashion. I also spent two months in Brazil’s inner city favelas and learned a lot about the power of social enterprise and how fashion can help empower a community.
Q. People are fussy about their clothes. How do you make second-hand fashion credible?
JILL: The pre-loved clothing market is doing a lot of the hard work here. The charity stores have revolutionised how they present their wares to the world. Now you’d be hard pressed to even know you were in a charity store much of the time – their stores are beautifully laid out, their merchandise is thoughtfully arranged, and they’re a pleasure to browse and shop in. Sure, some still have that church jumble sale look but that’s not an approach that will work with mainstreamers. So the charity stores in particular are making it easy for mainstreamers to shop in them, as are many of the recycled stores.
LEAH: Education! As people learn about the devastating effects that the fashion industry is currently having on both people and planet, it’s really hard to keep consuming in the same way. I try to show people that shopping second hand doesn’t mean compromising on style or quality, and although it takes more time, it can be a great adventure. When you wear something you’ve thrifted yourself, it makes for a way better story when someone gives you a compliment on your outfit.
Q. The slow fashion movement seems to have a lot of female followers, males not so much. How do we get more guys interested?
JILL: Well, men do shop differently to women. But the pre-loved shopping scene has done as much to make shopping for guys as attractive as it is for the ladies. Go into any of the charity stores who have upped their game in the last 10 years or so and you’ll find a large men’s department with lots of items on display from shirts to shoes, jackets to gym gear. I once saw in my local lovely Lifeline a series of men’s designer leather shoes, clearly in a similar style and all the same size – it looked like some gent had cleared his closet of these sensational shoes. And they were about $20 a pair, originally probably over $300 a pair each. That’s a bargain.
LEAH: I think a big reason behind this is because many guys are already pretty sustainable in their shopping habits. My fiancé invests in clothes and wears them until they’re literally falling apart. I also believe there is a huge gap for a decent second hand market catering strictly to guys right now. It’s actually an idea I’ve been playing around with myself. Maybe I’ll call it The Thrifty Gentleman Market or something – I’m open to ideas!