Secondhand Takes Center Stage for this Sustainable/Secondhand Society Fashionistas

Secondhand Wear Your Values

Wear your values to show the world what you stand for

By Laura Madden

What you wear is personal; it is your chosen skin. What you wear says a lot about who and what you care about. Did you realize that your shopping choices have a great impact on the planet? Every purchase you make is a vote for more of what you want to see in the world. As consumers, we have so much power to change the world with just the everyday choices we are making—especially our clothing choices.

I wear used clothes, as an example of demonstrating what I care about. The more I learn about the impact fashion is having on the planet and how workers’ rights are being discounted, the more serious I get about choosing secondhand fashion. It is the only fashion that doesn’t have an impact on the planet, drain resources and emit loads of pollution. 

The Challenge

How do you feel about committing to a “no new clothes” challenge? This past November I pledged to buy nothing new for the entire month. It started as my own personal challenge to help me grow more conscious about how and where I was shopping. Shopping secondhand is one of the best ways to shop sustainably, curate your style, and maximize your budget. It’s a win-win. 

In case you weren’t aware, the fashion industry is still one of the most polluting industries in the world. It ranks right up there with oil. 

I started shopping secondhand purely as an environmental stance. I believe that shopping secondhand (vintage, consignment, thrift, etc.) is the most sustainable way you can shop. Secondhand fashion is sustainable fashion.

This year I partnered with both Goodwill and Remake to help launch my second Nothing New November Challenge so as many people as possible could take part. 

I also enlisted a few of my secondhand-loving girlfriends to model with me in my Nothing New November Photoshoot, photographed by Carrilee Fox, nationally renowned photographer (shown here). I consider these women a part of our secondhand shopping society because they’ve all got great style, stand out in a crowd, and they shop exclusively secondhand! 

Each of these women were chosen for a specific reason—they are making a difference in our community! Heidi Altree, founder of sustainable lifestyle website Amare By Heidi and Remake Global Ambassador; Crystal Daniels, founder of Designer Treasure Hunt (designer resale) and Conscious Collective; Ebony Whitaker, founder of Time Capsule Treasures (vintage resale); and Franchela Franco, recycled fashion influencer. 

How to Take Part in the Nothing New November Challenge:

  • If you choose to shop, shop secondhand (this does not include gifts you purchase for other people, unless you choose so).
  • You decide your comfort level; e.g., socks, undergarments and hats may be best sourced brand-new—it’s up to you.
  • Even if you follow this challenge just 10%, 20% or 50%, you are still making a difference and having a positive impact on the environment by conserving many resources that would otherwise be expended on sourcing, production and shipping of brand-new items. 

By shopping secondhand, you are:

  • Starving the landfill
  • Reducing waste
  • Conserving resources
  • Decreasing the demand on the fashion industry to produce cheaper clothing faster
  • Taking a stand to support a more just and responsible fashion industry
  • Saving money
  • Supporting your local economy

Additional ways to get involved:

Each week during the challenge, I shared a challenge task for participants to accomplish. The good news is that my challenges will never expire!

Challenge 1:

Host a clothing swap. Invite some friends over to trade items you no longer love or need. The purpose is to get together and shop “new to you” fashions in the most sustainable way possible.

Challenge 2: 

Shop your own closet. The real challenge is in stretching your creativity. What new looks can you style with what you already own?

Challenge 3: 

Shop secondhand. If you’re really concerned about the planet while still looking your best, consider it. Nowhere else will you find the largest array of genres, styles, sizes and brands. 

Challenge 4:

Borrow. Most of our friends have wardrobes we adore! Why not share? Call up your fashionable friends and ask if you can peruse their closets. 

Where to shop secondhand locally:

  1. Goodwill
  2. My Sister’s Closet
  3. Designer Treasure Hunt 
  4. Timecapsule Vintage Treasures
  5. To Be Continued
  6. Fashion By Robert Black
  7. Vintage By Misty
  8. Buffalo Exchange

My hope is that the Nothing New November Challenge will raise awareness of how, what, why, and where we shop. Whether you ever choose to take part in a no new clothes challenge or not, I hope my experience will encourage you to be a more conscious consumer. This movement is about taking a stand for the environment by choosing fashion that slows down the cycle of excessive waste, pollution, and the drain on our planet’s resources. Join the movement—it’s easy. If you shop, try secondhand!

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Laura Madden is an advocate for fashion, art and sustainability through her work as an influencer, stylist, writer, model and artist. She reports on the intersection of style, sustainability and self-esteem on both her blog, the ReFashion Report, and various conscious lifestyle publications. Laura also serves as an advisory board member and a global ambassador for nonprofit Remake, is a board member with San Francisco Fashion Community Week, and is the founder of ReFashioned Art, her brand of upcycled art. Follow her website www.iamlauramadden.com and on Instagram @iamlauramadden and @ReFashionedArt

Photography by Carrilee Fox Photography 

Models: Laura Madden, Heidi Altree, Crystal Daniels, Ebony Whitaker, Franchela Franco

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