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Hand-me-downs

by Hazel Sillver

In our culture of quickly consumed high street fashion, it’s vital to recycle and reuse discarded clothes. Hazel Sillver looks at three companies paving the way.

With fashion-led, low-price clothing available on every UK high street, it’s no wonder that so many items are worn a few times and then discarded.

Of course some clothing is taken to charity shops, but a lot goes straight in the bin. In 2011 the UK dumped 959 tonnes of clothing into landfill sites and it’s estimated that 95% of it could have been used again, either by being re-worn or recycled. 

Luckily a few fashion companies are encouraging shoppers to rethink this throwaway mood. 

365 second-hand outfits

With the help of some top stylists, the Founder and CEO of Redress, Christina Dean, has set herself the challenge of wearing a good looking second-hand outfit every day in 2013. 

Redress is a Hong Kong-based charity that promotes eco-friendly practices within the fashion industry. In an attempt to encourage people to ‘Redress it, don’t bin it’, Christina and her team of stylists have rummaged through bags of discarded clothing to find 365 outfits. 

Some of the items have been repaired and some altered, but most are good quality, worn-once pieces. You can see how great Christina looks in her second-hands at;

instagram.com/GetRedressed

Recycling at H&M

As of this month shoppers will be able to hand in bags of unwanted clothing at every H&M store, in exchange for vouchers (worth £5 per bag) redeemable against their next purchase. 

The donated goods will then be taken to Germany (rather than being sorted in the UK sadly) to be divided into clothing that is fit to be worn again and textiles to be recycled. Re-wearable items will be sold as second-hand clothing and the textiles garnered from un-wearable items will be used to produce energy or refashioned (for example into cleaning cloths or insulation material for the auto industry). 

Of course this initiative is eco-friendly, but it would be even better for the environment if high street retailers such as H&M stopped selling low-cost, fashion-led clothing that encourages consumers to wear an outfit a few times and then discard it. 

What we need is a shift in culture, towards the consumption of high quality (and undoubtedly higher cost), wardrobe staples that are made from eco-friendly, long-lasting textiles. 

So it is great news that next month H&M will be launching a Conscious range of clothing, modelled by Vanessa Paradis and made from sustainable materials, such as Tencel, recycled polyester and organic cotton. 

Let’s hope H&M continue in this direction, and take the rest of the high street with them. 

Snip and sew

It’s easy to find fabulous clothes in the charity shops, but they’re not always the right size and there are often a few things we’d like to change about them: shorter sleeves, a slimmer fit around the waist and maybe an accessory here and there. 

British-born Erica Louise of Recycled Market, an online Australian retailer selling recycled clothes, jewellery and gifts, has created an entire website dedicated to the art of refashioning second-hand clothes to suit your shape. 

Visit her website (recycled-fashion.com) for inspiration and tips on all sorts of clothing enhancement: from turning a boring bra into a gorgeous bikini top, to morphing a tent of a dress into a pretty summer frock. 

With Erica’s ideas and a sewing kit, the charity shop suddenly becomes a treasure trove of possibilities. 

Hazel Sillver is a freelance journalist and a contributor to the Ecologist Green Living section; email: hazel@theecologist.org

Image courtesy of www.shutterstock.com

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