Fast Fashion, Charity Shops, Emma & Sidney Vintage Fairs & an idea.

by Charlie Rogers

According to the BBC, two million tonnes of clothing are dumped into landfills every year. This is a reflection of the 'fast-fashion' trend that has been part of British consumer culture for the last decade or so. 'Fast-fashion' clothing is based on the high-fashion trends presented at the Fashion Weeks in spring and autumn, which high street shops, such as Zara, Topshop and H&M, then design and manufacture mainstream versions as quickly and cheaply as possible. These clothes are made to meet consumer demand, not to last. It's not long before the new spring or autumn collection arrives and new outfits become the fashionable 'must haves'; the old ones being disregarded or disposed of.

As well as encouraging a wasteful attitude to clothing, this 'quick and cheap' approach to clothing manufacture also has negative environmental impacts. Cotton growing is both extremely water and pesticide intensive; manufacturing synthetics, such as polyester, is both energy and oil intensive. This information is readily available; all you have to do is search 'the Fashion Industry and the Environment' into an internet search engine such as Blackle (which all 'green' people should make sure they use). Yet, on the most part, people are indifferent.

Just this week, more than 700 people in over 80 cities around the world protested with Greenpeace to demand Zara to stop using the hazardous chemicals in its supply chain that it does. Update: 29/11 - Zara has just announced a commitment to Detox!

There is however a rising group of conscientious consumers; people that would rather shop in charity shops than in high street stores, people that don't buy into the 'fast-fashion' culture. The much reduced price of second hand clothing definitely being an added bonus. Personally, I love charity shopping for three reasons: 1) The excitement of having no idea what you might find, 2) The wonderful and unique things you do find (e.g. a Zara knit jumper for £4) and 3) The fact that even though someone else didn't want it, the item's not going to waste. It's also beginning to be cool. When you tell someone that you got your dress, top or whatever from a charity shop they are often surprised and more likely than not, impressed. Charity shopping no longer has a 'trampy' stigma, and the fact that 'fast-fashion' shops at the moment often seem to try to recreate a 'vintage/second-hand' look is even more proof of it.

The love for vintage clothing could be seen in Cambridge this Michaelmas with vintage fairs in Sidney and Emma and another being held in the Cambridge Guildhall on the 2nd of December. A friend and I went to the one at Emma and had a great time. The clothes ranged from the gorgeous to the quirky to the downright bizarre and overly floral. Not only was there a great turn out of clothes but also a great turnout of people; mostly girls who I suspect were looking for something cute and cheap for Christmas formal (at least, that was what I was doing).

There is also a rising trend of 'swap shops'. These are pretty much what they sound like; rather than throwing away clothes you no longer want and buying new ones, you can trade in the ones you own. Now this seems like a super idea for ball gowns in Cambridge. There seems to be an unspoken rule that you can't wear the same dress twice (something that certainly doesn't apply to men's suits) but ball gowns are so, so expensive. Something like a 'swap shop' would solve all us girls' money and 'social-acceptability' worries. This could potentially work as an online thing, where girls can advertise dresses they want to 'swap' or the sorts of dresses they want to 'shop'. The swaps wouldn't even necessarily have to be permanent.