Sustainability is an increasingly important part of the apparel industry because of the effect its manufacturing has on the environment. A large part of sustainability is recycling, something which is currently an everyday occurance in UK households. However Britain throws away around two million tonnes of clothes alone every year. These are astonishing figures considering this has been found to translate into more than three million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. As the natural fibres from wool, cotton and leather break down they produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas twenty-three times more potent than carbon dioxide (Siegle, 2011).
In the UK there are almost 18,500 charity shops and textile banks. This is brilliant news for the environment, and even better news for our purses. More recycle bins are sitting on our UK high streets than ever before, and we get bags dropped at our doorstep by charities for even more convenience. With retail guru’s like Mary Portas opening charity shops, there is no reason not to shop at these now fashionable outlets. My own finds have included a vintage YSL scarf for £1.50, a YSL bag for £6, a Hermès scarf for £1, a Mulberry bag for £6.99... The list goes on, I am most definitely a charityshopaholic.
The trend of vintage shopping has risen in the past 5 years, with celebrities adorning the catwalks in all sorts of vintage fineries. Wearing vintage ensures your look is always original, and with designers influences coming from past trends there is no reason anymore for wearing mass produced garments just to be “on trend”. One thing which is instantly clear when buying vintage clothing is the workmanship involved. More time and money was spent on the manufacturing of garments in the past. This all changed with the rise of the internet, which in short globalised fashion. Some saw this as a welcome arrival, retailers for the reduced cost of labour, and consumers for the bargain hunting, (it is now possible to complete a price comparison of almost any product on sale in the UK with any other county in the world, at the mere click of a button).
In the 1940s, during the war, clothes as well as food and other goods were rationed. This meant that the nation as a whole couldn’t afford the prices of cotton and other textiles, so they had to improvise. “Make do and mend” was a part of living for a whole generation of women during the war. Parachute silk and old curtains were cut up and used for making wedding dresses, old jumpers and socks were patched up not thrown aside, and to not do this was considered unpatriotic. Nowadays there are some who admit to buying a pack of five for £2, and throw them away rather than wash them!
Currently, vintage refers to any garment from the 1930’s to the 1980’s, with 1920’s and earlier garments being classed as antique. More and more vintage shops are moving into our highstreet, with Topshop, House of Fraser and other leading retailers including vintage collections and concessions. There are also specialised stores and markets for vintage clothing as the demand increases steadily. There are big profits to be made, with more people looking for that special one-off piece, for example a Hermès 1940s suede and embroidered vest coat with matching handbag, valued at between $1,500 and $2,500 at Christie’s auction house in July 2007 sold for $19,200. Hermès is also a good example of a luxury brand taking the art of recycling materials to a new level, with their new Petit H range making it’s debut in 2010. Their idea is to reuse and recycle their factory cut offs and create art and homeware products with it, which are definitely worth a look.
So go get digging around the charity and vintage shops, find yourself a bargain and if the money has gone to a good cause, what better way of justifying a splurge?!