Rework, Reuse, Recycle: Could Fashion Save the Planet?

Vintage fashion isn’t just in style- it’s good for the environment too. We team up with Braderie, a local vintage retailer to explore not just the looks but also the ethics behind the rise of up-cycled fashion.

By Lily Moss | Twitter @Lilym0ss | Image by Lilymoss_photography

At this point it’s the fashion world’s worst kept secret that many garments are created in third-world countries where both material and labor are cheap, but recycled fashion cuts this out completely. The idea is to re-adopt, redesign and resew old clothes to create something modern with a vintage twist, and it really seems to work.

But how do we know this change is happening? Looking into statistics of Gen Z (people born between mid-1990’s to the mid-2000’s) there is an interesting difference in their buying habits compared to past generations. For example, according to a survey by Green Match, 40% of Gen Z have boycotted brands for not meeting ethical expectations, whilst a further 49% said they would consider it for the future. This leaves only a mere 11% of people who don’t care about the ethical standards of the brands they buy from.

Jumper £18 | Braderie

Green Match go on to say that 25% of the people they surveyed always buy from businesses who support a cause or match their ethical code, whilst a further 67% do but not as often. To add to matters, second hand retailer Thread Up reports that the amount of Gen Z buying second hand clothes has risen 11% up to 37% since 2017, with Millenials just behind going from 21% to 29%. This shows us just how popular and important being green is to the younger generations.

One bin lorry full of clothes is burned or land filled every second

Braderie, located in Hockley Nottingham have also noticed a similar trend. Suk Sandher the owner of this recycled fashion store says “consumers have become more and more interested in vintage clothing for environmental reasons in recent years. They’re more aware of the sources required to manufacture new clothing and the waste created.”

Jacket £22 | Braderie

Braderie was founded as a shoe retail store but moved to vintage fashion after noticing it’s growing demand. The once small time store has since expanded and opened its doors to online retailer ASOS Marketplace, the leading online platform for independent brands and vintage boutiques.

Other vintage fashion stores found in Nottingham include Cow, who offer ‘a sustainable alternative to fast fashion based around their “no waste” ethos. . They are well known for taking old clothes, particularly by Ralph Lauren, and reworking them into something completely new. Featured on their website are dresses, tops, bottoms and co-ords all with a different style remade out of clothes previously thrown away.

Reducing waste is a huge factor for recycled fashion, and many are unaware that the fast fashion industry generates 100 billion garments each year. It is second only to oil as one of the most polluting industries in the world. Retailers generally restock and introduce new collections every 4-6 weeks causing consumers to buy more and think less. With prices as cheap as Primark, it’s no wonder so many clothes are bought, worn, and thrown within months or even weeks.  

Shirt £18 | Braderie

This short fashion cycle means that one bin lorry full of clothes is burned or landfilled every second, enough to fill one and a half  Empire State buildings every day and Sydney Harbour each year.  This has a massive effect on our planet. The vibrant colours of many  fashion garments are achieved by the use of toxic chemicals, and textile dyeing is a large polluter of clean water across the globe. A detox campaign led by Greenpeace has been pressuring brands to take action in removing these chemicals from their supply chain. Many of these hazardous chemicals are strictly regulated in various countries due to the effect on aquatic life.  

The average wage for these garment workers is 8,000 taka which is equivalent to £74.88 per month.

A further threat to animal life is polyester. It is the most widely used fabric in the fashion industry. When washed in a domestic washing machine it sheds microfibers which in turn add to the ever-growing amount of plastic within our oceans. Shockingly, this is passed up the food chain from small creatures such as plankton which eat the microfibers to fish and shellfish ultimately ending up on our own plates.

Shopping for recycled vintage fashion removes a huge portion of this threat – with the clothes already being in circulation there is no additional chemicals being added to garments nor does it cause a demand for more polyester clothing to be produced. Furthermore, using the rework method, items can be turned into something new to fit an individual’s needs, again creating less demand by recycling.

Shirt £18 | Braderie

This makes an ethical dilemma for most young buyers; do they buy what’s easy or buy what’s best? It’s well known by now that the fashion industry chose to have factories in underdeveloped countries due to the low wages. Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter with over four million people working in around 400 factories, 80% of those being women. The average wage for these garment workers is 8,000 taka which is equivalent to £74.88 per month. With a one bedroom apartment in the middle of Dhaka costing around £120 per month, £30 for utilities and a basic diet for 3 coming to £52, it’s easy to see why women are forced to work long unhealthy hours to provide for their families.This is without taking into account other basics such as clothing, childcare and transport. Many garment workers unfortunately end up living in small wooden shacks outside of the city as this is all they can afford.

Although education is free in Dhaka from ages 6-18, many children do not get the opportunity to remain in schools as they are needed to work often in the same factories as their parents to help cover the cost of living. This creates a vicious cycle that is very hard to break, meaning generations and generations can go without proper education leading to a continue of poverty for families. This budget and lack of education simply doesn’t work with families forced to choose between basic necessities it’s down to us to be more conscious towards our fashion habits and more mindful of the conditions garment workers are living in across the globe.  

Supporting the recycled fashion movement is more important than ever, it is an easy change that anyone could choose to make. Whether it be for the environment, to support local independent business such as the Braderie, for the women of Bangladesh or just to look cool. Whilst you are part of the generation that may be the last who can seriously change the future for our planet  it’s time to look at our moral compass, slow down and really think.


Magazine and website celebrating Nottingham's stories.

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