“Celebrating the Power of Second-hand to Change the World…” I totally love that sentence And I totally believe that it can. In fact, I know it can, because discovering second-hand changed my world. It changed not only how I live my life, in very day to day terms of how and where I shop, but it also changed how I see my role in the world.

In 2012/13, my family and I spent a year buying nothing new. Up until that point, whilst we were not especially profligate, I had never given much thought to what I was buying, other than maybe where I could find it cheapest. I was vaguely aware of issues around fast fashion, but it never occurred to me that it was an issue that I could do anything about. Or indeed, that I should take any responsibility for.
Once we started our Make Do and Mend Year, I started to explore “alternative retail outlets” and quickly discovered the guilt free pleasures of charity shop shopping. In the space of about a month, I was the proud owner of four new dresses, all bought for less than a fiver each. At first, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I had never really enjoyed clothes shopping, finding it really stressful, and being consumed with guilt at the amount of money I was spending. Shopping for clothes in charity shops was so much easier (and cheaper) and my wardrobe started to expand!

Jen Gale #Secondhandfirst Outfits
Jen Gale #Secondhandfirst Outfits

It was in April 2013 that the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, killing over 1,000 people. People who worked long hours, in awful conditions, being paid pitiful wages, to make us cheap clothes. I, along with the rest of the world, was shocked at the harsh realities of the fast fashion industry, and vowed at that point never to shop from the High St again. And for the past 3 years, 95% of the clothes I have bought have been second-hand, with the remaining 5% being spent on things like ethical pants.

As our year went on, I learned more and more about the huge issues that our over-consumption of pretty much everything is leading to. It leads to industries like the fast fashion one. It leads to a throwaway society. It leads to a ‘de-skilling’ of a whole generation, who no longer even attempt to fix things, because it’s cheaper just to buy another one. And it leads to a depletion of the planet’s precious resources, pollution of the environment, and over-flowing landfill sites. And it can feel pretty over-whelming.

That is where the power of Second-hand comes in. When you choose not to buy new ‘stuff’, you are taking back the power from the big corporations, from the industries built on the back of planned obsolescence, from the ad men. You take back the power, and it is then yours to choose what you do with it. You could choose to:

  • learn to repair your broken things, and make connections within your own community, at a Repair Café
  • meet new friends and learn a new skill (like sewing, or darning) at a local workshop
  • have a night in (or out) with your friends, and Swish your way to a whole new wardrobe
  • explore your creativity and re-fashion or upcycle what you already have into something individual and uniquely you
  • shop second-hand and create your own look. One that isn’t dictated to you by the fashion magazines or the big brands
  • give your money to a local business or charity, instead of lining the pockets of company share holders
  • empower yourself, and boost your mental wellbeing, knowing that you have made a conscious choice about what you are buying, or not buying
  • save the planet’s resources

You could choose to make a difference. Secondhand has the power to facilitate individual wellbeing and empowerment, to build and enhance communities, and ultimately, I truly believe, to change the world. Take back the power. #Secondhandfirst

Jen Gale blogs at My Mend Do and Mend Life wbere she documents her journey of conscious consumption, as well as providing resources for anyone looking to buy less and live more. Find out more about event and actions during TRAID’s #Secondhandfirst Week here.