I am very happy to be invited to guest write this week on TRAID’s blog for the #Secondhandfirst Week of activities encouraging us to take the #Secondhandfirst Pledge. A great initiative which highlights the way we buy our clothes and a reminder of all the environmental and social problems in the textile and garment supply chain. We all have the capacity to affect these problems in positive ways as conscious consumers and citizens.

The volume of textile and clothing waste in the UK is quite staggering (Source WRAP: 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill every year. 30% of our unwanted clothes goes to landfill. 60% of UK households have unwanted clothes & textiles at home). We are throwing away or just hoarding valuable resources!!

Fabrics destined for the TRAIDremade studio
Textiles ©Rita Platts

In the ‘Hierarchy of waste’; reduce and reuse are at the top of the pyramid. For me this way of thinking and being is very easy. I was brought up on a diet of secondhand. Hand me downs (or hand me ups!) was the norm without any shame or stigmas that today’s youngsters seem to feel. As a teenager, sourcing clothes from charity shops was fun, a great source of individuality, re-styling possibilities as well as being affordable! Sourcing clothes from charity shops continues to be fun as I still take advantage of TRAID’s famous £2 sales!! As I enter my mid years I appreciate the emotional durability of secondhand, especially items from older relatives which hold memories, stories and history. Many vintage clothes were made to last too.

Care and repair is an important part of making our old clothes go further and re-connecting with the joy in fixing and looking after items. Tired old clothes gives us an opportunity for re-styling an item giving that buzz of wearing something completely different, and you had a hand in making it happen! I have observed a skill shortage and lack of confidence in being able to do this. Back in the day these skills would have been passed on through the family or taught in school. This has motivated me to run regular classes at my shop Fabrications in learning to sew and refreshing your wardrobe through simple alterations, mending, darning & embellishing, and these classes are popular which is heartening!

Darning workshop_Refresh your wardrobe

Upcycling adds value through creativity and design. Items too damaged for re use present an opportunity for transformation. A few years ago I initiated ‘The Upcycling Academy’ to give young people the opportunity to experience a ‘Productive Line’ to re-imagine a different approach to fashion, to create rather than consume. Partnering with TRAID, War on Want & the Craftivist Collective, we each added ‘Values’ along the line.

Taking inspiration from ‘Cradle to Cradle’ thinking, imagine a garment circulating through many owners in its lifetime? (Truthfully many garments never reach their full potential in relation to resources, energy used to make and distribute the item).

Barley Black Top Blog

I love the recent trend for Clothes Swapping or its older sister ‘Swishing’. Jo of Mrs Bears Clothes Swap tells me that that she has regulars who use her swaps to ‘rotate their wardrobe’ – brilliant!

Wonderful TV programmes such as the BBC’s ‘Great British Sewing Bee’ which added an upcycling / alteration challenge to the second series and Channel 4’s ‘This Old Thing’ (the vintage clothes show) have inspired the nation to look at old clothes and lost textile skills with a fresh passion. Even Coronation Street discussed the possibility of an ‘upcycled wedding’! It’s all good!

So now over to you dear reader! Get involved and feel inspired! There are a range of fun activities taking place during #Secondhandfirst week.

My next Fabrications Craft Club on Thursday 20th November is a #SecondhandFirst themed evening with a clothes swap upstairs in the shop and revamp / mending session downstairs in the workshop. More information and booking info. here

P.S: All the featured projects in this post use clothing sourced from TRAID!