The Joy of Charity Shopping

Guest blog by Riccardo Guido, Finalist of the Great British Sewing Bee 2019

I have been wearing second hand clothes since I was a teenager at high school. And that doesn’t include all the clothes that were ‘naturally’ passed to me when they were too small for my sisters or my cousins. I remember my sister going with her friends to a second hand clothing street market near our schools on Fridays (bunking off, that’s right!) and coming home with the coolest clothes I ever seen! They were so different from what everybody else was wearing, and they were unique.

Second hand clothes have always fascinated me, they belong to other times, carry stories and, most of the time, they are one of a kind. In Italy, charity shops are not very common, you would usually find second hand clothes in markets. When I moved to London, seeing charity shops around every corner made me super happy! I tried not to buy new clothes; in 2019 I bought a pair of swim shorts (made from recycled plastic) and a pair of shoes. I like to make my own clothes or buy them from charity shops or combining the two, when I find something I like that needs some tweaks.

In the UK an estimate of 339,000 tonnes of unwanted textiles are sent to landfill every year (WRAP), that is the same weight of 300 aeroplanes! The fashion industry is one of the worst polluting industry on the planet, it contaminates soil with pesticides, it drains water sources, it releases greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in the air we breathe and it violates the basic human rights of the most vulnerable garment workers.

In the last two decades, fashion giants have introduced what we now call ‘Fast Fashion’, a business model that promotes the production of cheap clothes, produced in developing countries and constantly following the latest trends that make consumers wanting more and more. And, as expected, (at least until recently) these aspects have overshadowed the devastating environmental impact and the sweatshop conditions people are forced into. Moreover, when most of these clothes are not trendy anymore they get binned, even though they are still wearable or can be recycled, donated, repaired or reused.  

Thankfully, more and more clothing brands are now trying to do their best and turning towards a greener and more transparent approach. Recycling fibres, using synthetic materials made with plastic recovered from the ocean, trying to produce garments using less water, paying fair wages and adopting circular economy models in their productions.

However, there are so many items that have already been produced, bought and sat unworn in closets. As Fashion Revolution keeps emphasising, the most sustainable clothes are that ones that we already own and if, maybe, they do not fit our purposes anymore they can always be donated or give to someone else the opportunity to enjoy them. I do believe that our clothes carry memories and somehow represent us, and maybe if they are still around is because they can last longer if they are been taking care of. We don’t need much, creativity is just about rethinking what we can do with what we already have… All the rest is left to our imagination. 

Riccardo Guido