I was recently asked to help Olivia with her dissertation. She’s looking into the effectiveness of high street shops introducing vintage concessions, and the impact this could have on encouraging people to shop more ethically. Naturally, this is right up our street being ethical traders and all, so I thought I’d share my answers here.
Olivia by Nature
If you’d like to complete it, you can find the questions here. Send them over by the weekend (8th October).
What does ethical fashion mean to you? (in general, not just vintage clothing)
Ethical fashion to me can be summarised in the words eco-friendly and human-friendly. It means buying second hand and vintage, which has a lower environmental impact than buying new, and buying clothing which hasn’t been produced under forced labour and sweatshop conditions. It can also mean buying clothing that has been made using more organic techniques, such as sustainable fibres (hemp, cotton, bamboo), natural dyes etc.
At the moment the fashion industry seems geared towards more, more, more – more productivity, more products, more sales with indirect proportional consideration towards ethics. The trend of cheaper, more affordable and better fashion has seen a dramatic rise in consumption at the cost of the environment and the people making those clothes. A lot of pressure is put on the factories and workers to make more pieces for less profit. You need only look at the disaster at Rana Plaza a few years ago to see what little regard the majority of the industry.Nevertheless, there are some positives emerging. H&M do have a recycling clothes scheme, whereby a customer bringing in a bag of their old items can receive a discount on a new purchase, and they also stock a line of clothing that is partially recycled.A more ethical industry would be one that, quite frankly, gives a sh*t about who’s making their clothing. The emphasis would be on quality over quantity, making to last, ensuring a fair wage, working conditions and hours for staff. It would also consider reducing the pollution of the industry, and slowing down the speed with which new collections are produced.
Is it something you think about when buying clothes?
Absolutely! I don’t shop in the highstreet apart from for underwear and hoisery. I’m trying to find ethical alternatives to these that don’t cost the earth so if anybody knows any, please let me know!
What do you understand by vintage fashion? And how do you think it relates to ethical fashion?
Vintage fashion is clothing that’s over 20 years old, retro being clothing that’s around 10 years old. Whilst we can not always know the ethics of the clothing we buy when vintage, we at least know that we are not directly supporting unethical practises.
Vintage clothing is, the majority of the time, second hand (sometimes you can get deadstock vintage i.e. never worn, with tags that has been sat in storage for decades). So, you know it has had a previous owner, been on some adventures, and is now being recycled for another person to enjoy!
I do indeed, in fact, I buy so much vintage that I never wear it all 😉 But that’s just because I sell it!
If yes, then where do you shop?
For my personal shopping I buy a lot off Depop – it’s the best little app which is like Instagram x eBay, with sellers from all over the world selling their wears. It’s also great for second hand bits.I also adore shops like Cow; I’ve been shopping in the branch in Nottingham since it opened. Hockley in Nottingham has some really good vintage shops. I also trade at pop up vintage fairs around the country, so do a fair bit of buying at those too!
Do you think the inclusion of vintage lines into Topshop, would convince/persuade you to start shopping for second-hand/recycled clothes? In other words has the recent upsurge in vintage clothing by Topshop, made second-hand clothing more widely acceptable/ made you more open to buying second-hand clothing.
To be honest I don’t shop in the high street anymore, however I can see how it could encourage others to buy vintage.
I notice that in concessions in shops like UO and Topshop the vintage is set at a higher price point. That might put people off who are frequent vintage and charity shoppers, but not those who spend a lot in the high street. Sometimes I think a lot of sellers (myself included) don’t charge enough for vintage – the way I see it, there isn’t anything wrong with the clothing, sometimes it’s superior quality to the high street!
Selling vintage cheap can still perpetuate this frenzy of constantly buying, buying, buying, rather than treasuring what you own and wearing more. The only difference is that at least it’s recycled rather than new.
What are your reasons and motivations for where you buy your clothes in general?
My first and foremost reason is ethics – I buy nearly entirely second hand and vintage, and don’t want to support the high street. I think it just happens that buying vintage and second hand is often cheaper, although I am also a bit of a bargain hunter…
If you shop for vintage clothing, is this for ethical reasons or following fashion trends, or both? (please be completely honest here).
It’s ethics! I’m only half clued up to trends, although running this business you’d think I’d know more! If a trend happens to suit how I’m dressing then it’s a bonus. The whole 70s revival is so up my street right now, with a dash of that 90s grunge look.
What is your view towards the recent trend of including vintage lines into TopShop?
I think it’s OK, it could encourage people to start shopping vintage. It can also be good coverage for smaller independent vintage brands! I think their focus should be on making their own lines more ethically produced.
Do you think it has the potential to remove the stigma around second-hand clothing. Has it altered your opinion towards second-hand fashion?
Using a high profile brand to market vintage as cool and edgy could definitely persuade some people to switch to buying more of it. I mean, look at ASOS Marketplace where I sell – the baby of ASOS, a massive brand, which is growing in popularity all the time. It just also has to be coupled with educating people about the true nature of where their clothes come from.
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