Fast Fashion vs Second-Hand

When fast fashion clothing can now be bought cheaper than shopping second-hand, why should we still choose preloved?

Price point is an important reason why many people like to source clothes from second-hand marketplaces or charity shops, but with ludicrously low prices offered by some online fast fashion retailers they present a very tempting option. I get it, second-hand clothing is not for everyone for whatever reason. But for me there are many reasons to still say no to fast fashion, even if you end up paying a tiny bit more for something that's perhaps not even new.

  • Durability - You can bet that fast fashion clothing is not going to withstand years of use and washing. These companies are betting you're only going to wear it a few times anyway. In the long run it means you will have to buy more clothes later to replace them, so is it even cheaper overall? I much prefer buying good quality well-made clothes, even if they've been worn before they generally last me and my kids longer!
  • Plastic materials - polyester and the like are mainstays of fast fashion. These are plastic fabrics made from crude oil, they are not biodegradable and not recyclable either. Beware there is also a lot of greenwashing from companies regarding the use 'recycled plastic' in clothes too, which is not necessarily as good as it sounds (you can learn more here) I choose sustainably sourced natural fibres any day (at preloved prices, of course)!
  • Cheap chemicals - there are hundreds of chemicals hidden in cheap clothes that have been proven to cause health issues. This is not just an issue for the consumer who wears the clothes, but for the garment workers who make them and for the environment in general. I don't see a lot of OEKO-TEX tags on fast fashion items! Find out more here.
  • Supply chain transparency - there's only one way these companies can make clothes at these ridiculously low prices, and that's by paying insufficient or non-existent wages to garment workers. It's called slave labour, and it's a real issue. I don't want to clothe myself and my family cheaply if it's at the expense of other humans. 

I've learnt a lot from following Remake Our World and Clean Clothes Campaign on social media, I would recommend giving them a follow to learn more yourself! Armed with more information, we can help make the world a better place one clothing decision at a time.

Remake Our World is an organisation that reports on clothing companies as well as campaigning for social and environmental change with the fashion industry. They score 52 of the largest fashion companies based on their traceability, wages and wellbeing, governance, commercial practices, raw materials and environmental justice in their annual accountability report. A very interesting read if you'd like to learn more about specific brands!