Thrift and consignment store shopping isn’t just a way to save a little money — it’s also become an antidote to the “fast fashion” that’s taking a toll on the planet, says a business owner who helps people find “pre-loved” fashions.
“Fast fashion tells us to buy now, buy a lot, buy today, because tomorrow the trend will change…. And so the waste just piles up and it fills the landfills,” says Lynnette Regehr, who owns Sustainably Styled — a Winnipeg-based pop-up shop.
She also does personal thrift shopping and holds home parties in Winnipeg.
“As I started learning more about the environmental impact that fashion has on the Earth and on people living close to where production happens, I made it more of a conscious choice to switch to buying almost all of my clothing pre-loved,” Regehr said.
According to groups such as Forbes and Greenpeace, consumers globally purchase 400 per cent more clothing today than they did two decades ago. More than 80 billion garments are produced each year.
According to a UK study, almost a third of clothes in closets there hadn’t been worn in more than a year.
That’s why Winnipeg personal stylist Monique Andrew — a.k.a Style Hunter Fox — takes the time to check local second-hand stores when shopping for her clients.
“I love consignment stores. It’s a great way for people to possibly sell their fashion that they’re no longer wearing so they can purge and maybe get something out of their original investment, and you can find amazing things,” says Andrew.
“The planet can’t handle everything that it’s producing. We have more than enough already in existence for anything that we could possibly need.”
Andrew spends a lot of time in consignment and thrift shops, doing personal shopping for clients like Crystal Thompson.
“I myself personally am more of a classic style so … the styles that come in and out for about 48 seconds don’t matter to me as much,” Thompson said as she looked through a rack of clothes Andrew curated for her.
“I think the super fun part of recycled or thrift or high-end thrift shopping is that you might find a better quality piece for less money, while supporting the local community and the environment too.”
According to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, between eight and 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are created by the fashion industry —more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
It takes around 7,500 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans, the UN says — equivalent to the amount of water the average person drinks over a period of seven years.
“When you hear about what happens just because I want a pair of jeans, it just doesn’t sit well with me at all,” says Regehr.
“It’s shocking because we don’t feel it here in North America. We don’t have the direct impact of that. Our waterways have not been polluted. Our drinking water has not been sullied and we’re not sick from the cost of fashion.”
Regehr encourages consumers to follow the seven R’s:
She says research is important so consumers know if their clothes are made safely, sustainably and fairly, and so they can hold themselves, and the industry, more accountable.
It’s the idea behind Fashion Revolution Week, which includes the April 24 anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory, which killed 1,138 people in 2013.
The tragedy sparked a campaign for changes, putting pressure on the fashion industry to conserve, protect and restore the environment, and give a voice to garment workers — most of whom are women.
Back at the consignment store, Monique Andrew agrees.
“Stay away from the fast-fashion stores. You don’t have to go to the mall to re-energize your wardrobe,” she said.
“The trends are already in the thrift stores, in the consignment stores.… Fashion is cyclical, so whatever you are looking for now, chances are it was already in fashion 10, 15 years ago and it’s back.”