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It's not only up to shoppers to buy less fast fashion- retailers need to stop selling us so much rubbish

The i logo The i 10/09/2019
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How’s #SecondHandSeptember going for you? That’s Oxfam’s campaign - supported by the model Stella Tennant and stylist Bay Garnett - to stop people buying new clothes for the whole of this month in favour of ones that come pre-loved.Great idea, of course, but if you’re anything like me you’ll have popped a couple of last minute school shirts in your online basket the night before term started before remembering you were supposed to have been rifling the charity shop rails instead. Oops. Anyway, I tried #AlreadyOwnedAugust (see what I did?), traipsing the seaside streets of Deal in search of anything in the Kent town’s charity shops that might be useful come term-time and had to retreat empty-handed.

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Have you tried looking for decent kids’ stuff in your local charity shop recently? I bet Stella Tennant hasn’t - or if she has found anything with life still left in it that’s only because she probably lives somewhere where people are rich enough to cast out actual labels rather than washed out t-shirts from George at Asda or Sainsbury’s Tu. Tennant even admitted that in their house second hand counts as something her 14-year-old daughter Iris has raided from her own wardrobe, that is to say, the wardrobe of a supermodel. Of course we need to stop buying new clothes - we bought more than 50 million single-use items of clothing THIS SUMMER ALONE - but it is going to take more than one well-meaning model to get us to ditch our passion for fast fashion. A sale rail is like crack for most shoppers, especially if you’re feeling a bit down or in need of a pick-me-up - and by “most shoppers” I mean me. A sparkly silver cape I, ahem, stumbled upon in Zara, now hanging reproachfully in my wardrobe, is testament to my own weak-will although, in my defence, I do try to buy more from charity shops.Again the trouble is it’s often hard to find anything worth the bother because the quality is often so lousy in the first place. Here, towns like Deal with elderly populations can come up trumps because clothes being ditched by an older generation tend to have been better made in the first place. I’m especially fond of a 1980s Jaeger skirt, or this year’s favourite, one by Coats Viyella that washes like a dream.It’s all very well putting the onus on shoppers but the quality issue is one for retailers. They’re the ones cutting costs and selling stuff that barely has one life let alone two. No wonder 300,000 tonnes of clothes end up in UK landfills every year; they’re unwearable. 

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Why aren’t we seeing more action from British retailers along the lines of Zara’s Spanish owner Inditex and Sweden’s H&M, which also owns the Cos, & Other Stories, Monki and Weekday brands? Inditex recently announced that all of its collections would be made from 100% sustainable fabrics before 2025, the first international high street store to make such a commitment, while H&M is aiming to have 100% recycled or sustainable sourced materials by 2030, up from 57% now.Granted, Marks & Spencer encourages customers to “schwop” - to donate an item of old clothing when they buy a new one - but it needs to speed up how quickly it is switching to sustainable sources for its raw materials. Right now, 47% of its cotton is from sustainable sources.That said, what does “sustainable” really mean in this context? Even Mary Portas, self-styled Queen of Shops, admitted she didn’t know when I chatted to her recently ahead of her new BBC Radio 4 show about fashion and design although she promised to find out. The model-turned-campaigner Charli Howard intends to shine further light on similar issues in a new BBC podcast, Fashion Fix.The bottom line is very few of us actually *need* any new clothes. What we need is for retailers to stop selling us so much rubbish in the first place.

Gallery: 5 Sustainable Brands That Are Anything But Boring [ELLE UK]

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