Humans are complex, unique creatures, but if there is one thing that is vital to each and every one of our morning routines, it’s getting dressed. Some of us don’t think much of it; mixing patterns and textures, while others are already thinking of what they’re going to wear while in bed the night before. But what is the point of all of this if these clothes fall apart and turn up in landfills?
Attending university will introduce you to countless new people, interests, and opportunities, making it one of the best opportunities to reinvent oneself in many ways, style being an important one, as it is one of the first few things people notice upon first look.
The temptation to create a new persona to detach yourself from your past image can be difficult to resist, especially in London, the fashion capital, along with Paris, Milan, and New York. Walking in London is an experience in itself: anywhere you look, you will see something you’ve never seen before, whether it be a crazy hair colour, a hyper-luxury bag, or jewelry from a cryptic brand.
In 2020, I moved away from my small town in Switzerland to attend the University of Westminster. I was used to seeing people don athleisure daily, in non-neutral colours for the more adventurous ones. Meanwhile, I dyed my hair purple and wore Doc Martens and flared pants, which earned me a lot of weird looks, but I knew this was my style and didn’t want to change it simply because my classmates thought it was weird. That’s also another reason I wanted to move to London: I knew people embraced their personal styles there, and I was excited to be completely myself away from judgment, but things didn’t turn out exactly as I expected them.
The sudden change in environment left me completely discombobulated: everywhere I looked, people were dressed in inimitable, crazy attires, and the problem was I liked them all, even more than the clothes in my own wardrobe. I started questioning myself: did I even like what I was wearing? I came to the conclusion that the only way to find the answer was to try on clothes I wouldn’t usually wear, and that is when my shopping addiction started…
When I lived with my parents, I couldn’t purchase everything I wanted because they would see the shopping bags, but also because the trendy items always made it to Switzerland two to three years late, but in London, the trends started here, and without parental supervision, I could shop at my heart’s (and my bank account’s) content!
Because of COVID, most physical shops were closed, so I resorted to online shopping, something I had never used before, and soon enough, I ended up on Amazon and AliExpress. I was shocked at how low the prices, especially compared to the Swiss prices! Soon enough, I had added over 100 items to my cart, but I had put myself on a £100 limit, so I removed (with difficulty) 80 to 90 items. After waiting two weeks, I started receiving my packages. Already, I was shocked by how much material as used: every package was wrapped in at least 2 plastic covers. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the items, however 50% of the items fit odd: I wouldn’t have purchased them had I been able to try them on prior, unfortunately, the return process is difficult, lengthy, pricey, and in a foreign language, so I resigned to keeping the items in my closet or giving them to friends who liked them.
Fast forward to now, out of 10 to 20 items, I only wear two or three. The rest simply do not resonate with my style. When I look at these clothes, all I see is how dated they are, and how much I tried to fit different aesthetics that weren’t true to me, solely because I had an identity crisis when moving to London and compared my clothes to everybody else around me, because it was the first time in my life I was surrounded by other people who cared about style.
I regret purchasing these clothes because whenever I see them, all I can think of is how much waste was create just for these pieces to collect dust in the back of my closet.
FAST FASHION AND HOW TO BREAK THE CYCLE
The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter globally, and since 2021, major shipping companies have struggled to keep up with growing demands and delivering packages worldwide. The global supply chain will reach its breaking point soon, unless consumers reduce their online shopping expectations. This is unlikely to happen in the UK as it is the country where we buy more clothes per person than anywhere else in Europe.
of textile waste produced by the UK yearly
of textiles thrown out by each Briton yearly
But there is a solution to breaking free from the shackles of fast fashion and micro trends, while reducing chemical pollution, building your personal style, saving money, and supporting charities: thrift shopping!
With over 4 thousand second-hand stores, there is nowhere better than the UK to shop ethically. A lot of these shops are charities that support causes that fund cancer research, mental health visibility, and animals’ rights.
If you struggle to find good items in thrift/charity shops, you may want to go to vintage stores instead. Their collections are meticulously curated, but everything is still second-hand. Some popular stores are Atika, Rokit, Traid, and Beyond Retro. There are multiple locations all over the UK, and some shops also have online websites.
If you still prefer to shop online rather than physically, there are apps made for you. On Vinted, Depop, eBay, and Reliked not only can you purchase clothes, shoes, and accessories, you can also sell your own! Talk about a circular economy…
If this piqued your interest but you aren’t sure how to start second-hand shopping, check out this article, which features expert thrift shoppers who can give you some tried and true tips!
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