Sustainable fashion in 2021 – The second hand edit

By Estelle Curiel

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

Many of us love fashion but feel that there is a lack of sustainability within the industry and the spending habits it reinforces in consumers. But what can be done to change this?

The rise of slow fashion and a return to focus on style rather than trends means sustainable fashion has never been more achievable. Slow fashion is a process of making garments in a sustainable and circular manner in order to reduce waste and carbon footprints. It focuses on better quality items that will last longer as well as fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet at the core of its values. This is an important response to fast-fashion, in which clothes are made cheap to rise to the demand of ever-changing trends. Fast-fashion creates tons of waste that ends up in landfills. The water usage and carbon footprint needed to sustain fast-fashion are a major factor in the climate crisis, and is heavily associated with deforestation.

Slow fashion is the way forward, but it is often associated with quite the price tag. We know that buying one good pair of leggings at £100 that will last you years is better than buying a new £10 pair every few months, but unfortunately this is not student budget friendly.

The most affordable option for sustainable fashion is shopping second hand. Charity shops are a great place to start, and Canterbury high street is bursting at the seams with them. Not only is buying from charity shops more sustainable than buying new clothes, but you are also donating money to amazing causes. A new sustainable clothing store called Karma has also just opened on the same street as Canterbury Cathedral (Sun Street), an although small they offer a variety of coats, sunglasses, dresses and tops.

In the current climate, shopping in person isn’t really an option, but we’ve got you covered! eBay is no longer the only place to buy second hand items online. Depop has revolutionised the art of second hand shopping with a social media design. Just look up a hashtag and scroll through beautiful pieces to find your dream staples. Other apps/websites include Vinted (app) and Gumtree.

Following suit, we can now find many second hand pages on Instagram to buy unique vintage items. Some accounts I love are: @yellowtartanskirt, @archiverie,

and @imparfaiteparis.

The Facebook marketplace is also a great place to check-out if you are not too keen on paying for shipping (as it mixes the convenience of online shopping with the option of collection).

Joining sustainable groups on Facebook or societies such as Swish are a good idea as they often organise clothes swaps which are a fun and ecologically friendly way of sprucing up your wardrobe while giving some less loved pieces a new home. Government guidance allowing, at a later date you could also organise your own clothes swap between friends and make a fun night out of it.

Clothes renting is the newest development in sustainable fashion and has already won over many. The popular new system can either be peer to peer whereby individuals rent out their own clothing for you to borrow (By Rotation, Hurr) or a company which rents out its stock (Rotaro, My Wardrobe HQ, The Endless Wardrobe). This allows individuals to rent outfits for special occasions rather than splurging on something that will only be worn a handful of times — saving both the planet and your bank balance. Some rental services, such as Onloan, work as subscription services to curb the need of any designer enthusiast.

If you are not interested in pre-loved items, some high-street brands have started making sustainable collections as well.

H&M’s 'close the loop' initiative lets you bring your unwanted clothes to recycle in exchange for a £5 voucher. Those textiles will be recycled to make new clothes with the ‘close the loop’ label. H&M conscious line is their other sustainable and ethical clothing line which can be recognised by the green label. Just look for the clothing dispenser box in store. And do not forget to let a member of staff know that you have donated so you can receive your £5 voucher when you spend £25.

Similarly, Primark has an in-store recycling program where they recycle clothes that are dropped off and create new clothes under the ‘Primark cares’ initiative. All their profits go to UNICEF and no donated clothes go to landfills. Primark has also started a sustainable cotton program as part of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan in partnership with environmental experts WARP. The program centres around traceability of raw materials and sourcing cotton in a sustainable and ethical manner. Primark are doing this by limiting the amount of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and water used to grow the cotton all the while increasing farmers’ income. Their long-term plan is for all their cotton to be sustainably sourced.

There are also plenty of sustainable brands on the market. Their price tags can get quite steep but the quality tends to be much better. The website Good On You rates brands sustainability so it is a good tool to keep in mind while shopping for new items.

Some sustainable slow-fashion brands:

Before July

British slow-fashion brand created as a response to fast-fashion with a focus on creating timeless and unique statement pieces tailored towards the ‘Instagram generation’.

Organics basics

Danish clothing brand with sustainability as the core ethos. They make basics from underwear to t-shirt dresses and ship to the UK.

No Encore Apparel

A new ethical, sustainable and vegan streetwear brand inspired by music with “The Earth gets no encore” as its catchphrase.

Lara intimates

London based brand making sustainable underwear from deadstock with a zero-waste policy. Their bra sizes are the most inclusive of any sustainable brand, ranging from 26A to 36I.


Activewear brand created by influencer Grace Beverly with the aim of rivalling fast-fashion brands for style, comfort, and price.

Ana Luisa

Sustainable jewelry brand using recycled gold and silver to create beautiful designs that are modern and trendy.


A French brand focused on sustainable and stylish trainers and accessories.

If you spend any amount of time looking at sustainable brands, you will most likely come across the term TENCEL™. It is a form of lyocell fabric produced by environmentally responsible processes from sustainably sourced wood. TENCEL™ is also extremely soft and comfortable to wear and could very well be the future of clothing.

The cheapest way to be sustainable is to learn to repair or re-purpose clothing you already have. Whether it is fixing a hole with a cute stitching design or cropping an old t-shirt, there are many ways to revamp the clothes you already have in order to feel like you have a brand new wardrobe. There are many videos on YouTube which show you simple yet pretty stitches that you can do on broken seams, tears and holes. 'O-Crafts' is only one of many accounts which offers tips and step by step guides to fixing your clothing.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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