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Out with the new and in with the old: Second Hand September

ByHolly Gilder

Oct 4, 2019

The month of September marks what is, for many, the most anticipated and exciting event in the fashion world every year: fashion week. Those of Paris, New York, London, and beyond embody the ever-changing innovation of runway fashions and model their capital excess and luxury.

However, the celebrations of the catwalk this year are for many becoming a sour and unpleasant reminder of the extravagance and prolificacy of the fashion industry: rather than modelling the clothes of the new season they have come to model the overindulgence and waste of the cycles of fast fashion.

In fact, this year’s fashion weeks are starkly contrasted with another event: the September Student Strikes for the climate. As students and young people across the world demand urgent action on the ecological emergency, we are reminded of the actuality of the climate crisis. The face of the rising climate panic, Greta Thunberg, is spreading a message of exigency in the wake of climate disaster that is seemingly ignored on the prolific catwalk of the fashion capitals.

Likewise, the juxtaposition of the two events works to highlight the frightening environmental impact of what the runways really represent: the fashion industry alone makes up ten per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the total emissions from textile production per annum coming to more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The contrast of fashion week and its appraisal of fast fashion, with the panic of the rising climate crisis, acts as a reminder for the need to reform the fashion industry.

Oxfam is supporting the movement away from fast fashion, championing the change from the new to the old, the fast to the slow with ‘Second Hand September.’ By encouraging pledgers to not buy any new clothes this September,

Oxfam is eschewing the inevitable cycle of clothing overconsumption and telling fast fashion to slow down. The basic premise urges pledgers to refuse to buy any new clothes for a whole 30 days, only buying what they need from charity or vintage stores. It’s not asking pledgers to entirely shift to sustainable fashion brands, with brands like Reformation and Rapanui simply not being affordable for many buyers in the short term, but it is also not about saying goodbye to buying new clothes entirely; a task that for many of us is simply unrealistic.

Instead, the movement is about conscious consumption, understanding the impact your clothing is having on our planet and actively trying to change your buying habits. By using what we have already, thereby stopping the millions of clothing items that would have otherwise gone to landfill, and refusing to contribute to the ever-growing excess of fast fashion, we disrupt the ‘usual’ cycle of clothing production.

It’s the beginning of a new movement, a stepping stone, away from the superfluity of the fashion industry’s past, moving towards a more sustainable and environmental projection of fashion’s future. In fact, Oxfam estimates that if the whole of the UK took part in Second Hand September, then the nation could save Carbon emissions equivalent to flying a plane around the world 900 times. What we buy can, thus, become an environmental choice: a polemic statement that supports the undermining of fast fashion and strengthens the movement towards sustainable clothing.


Illustration: Hannah Riordan

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