Up until recently, the phrase “second-hand store” sounded almost like an insult in Bulgaria. To walk into a shop like that was a dirty little secret, shared in hushed voices and dimmed lights. However, the second-hand boutique trend is now more popular than ever. So much so that when you see a truly spectacular street style star, they almost certainly wearing a pre-loved item to complete their outfit. It’s time to accept the facts – second-hand is not a dirty word. In fact, it is the key to dressing well and being eco-friendly simultaneously.  

Second-hand shopping
Photo by: HAMZA BUTT

Naturally, money is important for everyone. When it comes to second-hand fashion, it seems logical to assume that it would mean spending less. Surprisingly, that’s not necessarily the case. If you buy a t-shirt from a fast fashion retailer (low quality but trendy and cheap clothing, sewn together by some 5-year old Chinese kid), especially on sale, it will often be cheaper than purchasing a second-hand designer shirt, made from high-quality materials. That’s why money, on its own, is no longer a significant factor in making the pre-loved choice. There are, however, plenty of other reasons to shop clothes, accessories, and even furniture, with a story.

1. You can afford better stuff

The dining room chairs in my apartment are large, wooden, with ornaments, comfortable plush seats, and backrests. They cost €10 per piece, as I bought them from a vintage furniture warehouse. In comparison, for the same amount of money you can find tiny plastic folding chairs, at one of the biggest fast fashion stores for furniture.

As you already know, choosing pre-loved items doesn’t necessarily mean saving money. Nonetheless, if you have a preset budget, second-hand shops can save you from ugly, crappy items.

The same principle applies to clothing and accessories. My closet proudly houses treasures from natural materials (really hard to find at fast fashion stores), as well as pieces by huge designers, which would have otherwise cost me a pot of gold and my firstborn.

2. You help prevent environmental devastation

Consider the amount of recourses needed for the production of a new piece of clothing.

– If it’s made from natural fibers, such as cotton, the land, water, and pesticides used for the crop are all punches in the face our collective home – the planet. On the other hand, if animal fibers are used, such as wool or silk, we face the problem of methane being released into the atmosphere. Moreover, these animals are often being treated cruelly.

cotton being harvested
Photo by: Kimberly Vardeman

–  If the item is made with artificial fibers, such as polyester, production requires water and energy but also coal and petrol, which makes this clothing unsustainable. 

–  Textile dyeing is a process we rarely think about, yet it’s one of the main reasons why the fashion industry is so polluting. Artificial fibers are more difficult to dye, which is why manufacturers need to use heavy metals and toxic compounds. Further, the dyes are diluted with water, which contributes to the problem of worldwide water shortage. Last but not least, the dye houses in Asia infamously dump residual products in natural water sources. 

– While our new t-shirt travels thousands of kilometers from Kuala Lumpur to the closest mall, it inevitably puts a strain on the environment.

Production of clothing requires oil
Photo by: David Blackwell.

3. You reduce the size of landfills

Apart from being unsustainable, fast fashion is also often poorly made. To keep costs low, manufacturers use substandard fabrics and stitching.

On the other hand, when you’ve paid peanuts for a garment, it’s easy to throw it away once the season is over and it’s out of style.

Fast fashion clothing goes to the landfills
Photo by: Alan Levine

As a result, landfills around the world are flooded with barely worn clothing, which leads to environmental issues with the soil, wildlife, and the sheer landmass that garbage takes up. That is why the European Commission is currently implementing an action plan to keep another 90,000 tons of clothing from EU landfills, by 2019. Fill just a fraction of your closet with pre-loved clothing, and you are already helping the process along.

4. You can add unique pieces to your fashion arsenal

Have you ever walked into a bar and felt petrified for a moment because everyone there looked the same? Like plastic mannequins who’ve come to life and walked off fast fashion store windows. Have you ever bought а garment that you loved, only to see 5 other people with the exact same thing, on your first stroll?

Fast fashion makes us look like clones, second-hand shopping is the solution
Photo by: Seika

Second-hand boutiques are an easy solution to this awkwardness. There, you can find gorgeous pieces that fit into whatever is currently trendy, yet different enough to stand out from the crowd.

5. You won’t fund slave or child labor

When fashion is the topic of discussion you can frequently hear about unsafe and unfair labor. Just take a look at the tag on your shirt, to see where it was made. More often than not, it would be a country in Africa or Asia, where labor is cheap and human rights are not prioritized.

By choosing to wear a second-hand garment, you take away from the power of unfair trade.

You can diminish slave labor by choosing second-hand clothing
Photo by: darkday

6. You support local economy and creativity

If you chose to shop at second-hand boutiques (I will review some great ones in Sofia for my next article), you encourage the growth of small, local businesses. Instead of funding multi-billion dollar corporations, you can give your money to someone just like you, who had a dream and made it happen. The owners and staff at second-hand boutiques are often fashion gurus, knowledgeable about brands and well-made clothing. Besides, most of these shops are cozy, beautifully decorated places, and provide a personalized shopping experience.  

Second-hand clothing boutiques
Photo by: zolakoma

We all get tempted by the latest collections of big brands and no one expects you to shop only second-hand all the time. Still, I do hope that the pre-loved alternative would seduce you into finding unique, high-quality treasure, to make your style statement.

Do you shop pre-loved? Share in the comments below 🙂[/vc_column_text][/vc_column]