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Charity shop chic in a circular economy

My favourite Per Una jacket

It’s hard to square a love of clothes with the desire to live more sustainably. I’ve never been an advocate for fast fashion – I don’t feel the need to wear the latest style, I just enjoy putting an outfit together that expresses my personality. In my youth I made my own, but as a working parent I simply don’t have the time. These days, charity shops are my saviour. My current favourite item is a Per Una jacket which I found in the local Sue Ryder shop; I love wearing it not only because it’s a beautiful garment but because its purchase supported a fabulous charity that has provided hospice care to people I cared about.

Many of us have too many clothes (yes, that includes me) and own items we’ve never worn because they were unwise purchases. It’s good that several chains now provide collection boxes where you can deposit these and some offer vouchers in exchange for donations, but to me that misses the point. When you go to drop off your unwanted items at the charity shop in person you get the opportunity to browse their stock and become a buyer as well as a donor, helping to enable the second life of items unwanted by others – and doubling up your support to the charity, too. And if you are somebody who quickly gets bored with clothes, a good charity shop or two provides you with an almost unlimited wardrobe – you can buy something, wear it once or twice and then re-donate it and pick up something new.

For those occasions where charity shop chic won’t do, dress exchanges are a great source of high-end fashion, offering pre-loved designer pieces at a fraction of their original price. Or get together with friends and organise a “swishing” event, exchanging items that no longer earn their keep in your wardrobes. For the early adopters you can now rent jeans or join a “clothing as a service” scheme. Sustainable clothing doesn’t need to be all about hessian and hemp, but we do need to reduce the 235 million garments sent to landfill annually. With a little consideration, it’s certainly possible to be sustainably stylish.