Top tips on how to become a second-hand shopping expert

Read Time:   |  22nd June 2021

Designer bargains, endless styling opportunities, and saving the planet? Eco-fashion expert Sascha Camilli is here for it. Here she shares her tops tips for second-hand shopping so you can find the best bargains...

If you’re vegan, chances are you want to make a positive change in the world. And through living a vegan life, you’re likely to be aware that this positive change is about more than just what we put on our plate.

Fashion puts an enormous strain on our environment – Business Insider has reported that the equivalent of one garbage truck of clothes is burned or dumped in landfill every second.

Fashion is also responsible for 10% of all human-caused emissions – so it’s safe to say that we are consuming clothes in a manner that’s not eco-friendly.

As this is certain to harm the natural habitats of many animals, it could be argued that vegans should be mindful of how their clothes ended up in their wardrobes – and how they can minimise the impact of fashion on our planet.

Second-hand shopping tips

One of the most important steps we can take to tackle the environmental damage done by our wardrobes is to consider overproduction: how often do we buy new clothing, and how long do we wear it for?

A staggering 150 billion new items of clothing are produced every day, and the average person wears a fast-fashion item less than five times.

What happens to those items after the five (or fewer) times are up? They get discarded, or… donated. Not quite old, but no longer new, these items often end up on the shelves of your local charity shop.

Alternatively, they are sold on websites and apps such as eBay and Depop. This is where second-hand shopping comes in.

Perhaps the most eco-friendly way to shop, second-hand fashion uses the resources we already have instead of creating anything new.

Forgoing new clothes in favour of second-hand contributes to the slow-fashion world we all need: it means less strain on the Earth’s resources, less pressure placed on workers toiling away in inhumane conditions, and fewer garments in landfill.

It also means no animals are killed to make new clothes.

There is also the local factor: if you shop in a nearby charity shop, pick something up on Facebook Marketplace, or order from a local Depop seller, shipping and transport emissions are also cut compared to buying from a brand that ships from an overseas warehouse.

Of course, you might be visiting your local charity shop for reasons other than wanting to shop. You may be the one with a bag of donations in your hand.

Many new vegans wonder what to do with their non-vegan clothing when undertaking the lifestyle change. Charity shops are a good option, and many are looking for donations – but be careful not to over-donate, as unsold items often end up being shipped to third-world countries, where they often harm the local clothing industry.

So, if you are happy to wear the item for its remaining lifespan (there is nothing wrong with this, and yes, you are still vegan. It’s a great way to minimise waste and avoid contributing to landfill), or give it to someone you know will wear it, that could also be a way to go.

Label reading still applies

Yep, as at supermarkets, label checking is a must. But in charity shops, labels may be missing or cut off, making it hard to tell if the item is vegan.

If the item is from a recent collection, it’s worth checking the brand website, as it may still be available in-store and the material information will be found on the product page.

Rebekah Roy is a sustainable fashion stylist and director of the leading UK vegan fashion event and website Bare Fashion.

She is a huge proponent of all things vintage and second-hand. Her best advice is: “search for brands that you know are vegan. With online shopping, it can be trickier to find out the fabric content, but I’ve made some great purchases from vegan brands.”

Drop a message

Second-hand sellers on apps like Vinted and Depop frequently label vegan leather items as such, but when it comes to things like knitwear, things can be less clear.

Often it can be worth sending a message – all it takes for the seller is a quick label-check, and at the same time you’ve flagged to them that vegan wool is an issue buyers may be looking out for, so they might consider putting “vegan” in the description of their knitwear garments next time, making it easier for the next vegan shopper to score a deal.

Keep an eye out for designer bargains

Roy has scored items from the likes of Matt and Nat, Beyond Skin and even Stella McCartney. Often, shops may be unaware of the value of the item as the brand is unknown to them, so the pricing is lower than it would be if the item were new. If you get really lucky, the items will be almost new or have very little wear.

Know yourself

Why do two same-size garments, but from different brands, fit you differently?

Sizing is not consistent – and more commonly than not with online sellers, returns aren’t accepted, so you only get one chance to get it right.

There is a way, though. “Get to know your size,” advises Roy. “Get a tape measure and measure yourself – sizing varies so much, but with your measurements you will know straight away if it will fit you.”

Now that you’re an expert bargain hunter thanks to these second-hand shopping tips, you might have some old clothes in need of some TLC.

Here is how to mend clothes to give them a new lease of life

Written by

Sascha Camilli

Sascha Camilli

Sascha is a writer, an award-winning author, and the founder of the world’s first digital vegan fashion magazine, VILDA. She's also a professional animal rights activist and podcast host.

saschacamilli.com/

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