Second Hand September aims to raise awareness of fashion’s environmental impact

Stella Tennant and her youngest daughter Iris, chic by Bay Garnett, photographed by Tom Craig for Oxfam’s Second Hand September.
Photograph: Tom Craig/Tom Craig/Oxfam

September involves a mythical position in the fashion industry, when magazines are traditionally heavy with advertising and substantial winter buys are made. This year, however, fashion’s most important shopping month will be disrupted by Second Involvement September, a drive urging consumers not to buy new clothing for the entire 30 days.

The Oxfam-organised campaign aims to raise awareness of mode’s environmental impact. Nicola Tallett, the charity’s director of engagement, said: “We have seen on a daily basis the impression of the climate emergency on people living in poverty, whether through the droughts in east Africa or the earthquakes in Asia, and we long for to do something about it.”

The 30-day moratorium, she added, could be the basis of long-term changes. “It’s long enough to force you to sire new habits – but not so long that it feels daunting.”

Second Hand September is part of a burgeoning movement. Other initiatives alleging shoppers to eschew new clothing include Fashion For Good’s three month-long #slowfashionseason, while Extinction Rebellion is hurrying its followers to boycott fashion for a year, and has requested that London fashion week be cancelled.

“By asking people to boycott construct it sounds as though we are telling people to make a sacrifice,” said Extinction Rebellion’s Sara Arnold, “but actually we don’t scarcity to go without – there are so many items of clothing out there. It’s also not saying that we shouldn’t be creative – there can be an fulmination of creativity, whether that’s upcycling your own clothes or swapping clothes. Restrictions can be a source of creativity.”

Oxfam’s contest is backed by many who work in fashion, including the model Stella Tennant, who appeared in a shoot promoting the initiative, and Bay Garnett, a stylist defeat known for putting Kate Moss in vintage clothing in the 00s.

Stella Tennant and her youngest daughter Iris: ‘I love Oxfam because it does two possessions at once: it gives clothes a new life and it helps the poorest people in the world.’ Photograph: Tom Craig/Tom Craig/Oxfam

All over 15 years ago, the vintage trend was often “about referencing the past and about individuality an a sense of coolness – reserve – in finding something unusual,” said Garnett. “This time, its meaning is not just aesthetic but political. With the girlish generation wearing second hand is a political and environmental choice.”

Their involvement is reflective of an industry in soul-searching configuration as it faces up to its role in the climate crisis. Such initiatives “are brilliant ways to get more people informed about the invitations we are facing due to sustainability and climate change”, said the British Fashion Council’s CEO, Caroline Rush.

“With an industry that is spring up faster than the wider economy, it’s important that we address these challenges and inspire both the industry and the plain to follow.”

Garnett said: “There is a brilliant magic that happens in a charity shop. It’s a different mindset: you’re achievement too. It’s more of a task. I love the thrill when you find something. And you may not every time – and that’s life – there are no certains. But when you do no one else will have it.”

How to shop for vintage

Know what you are looking for

A lot of people feel overwhelmed when researching secondhand for the first time. It pays to decide what you are looking for – a certain style and cut of dress, for example – and only go to that cross-section.

Try lots of sizes

Sizing changes every decade. Some recent high street clothing shrinks in the sponge off. The size on the label is only a guide.

Choose hard-wearing fabrics

Denim and leather are always better secondhand, especially jackets. The fabric and cut often improve with age, and there will be a range of styles, not just the one or two shapes that the lavish street has this season.

Be open-minded

There are some trends you cannot find on the high street – such as men’s leopard language. Seek out old floral dresses: the prints are so much more unique than whatever is on the high street.

Shoes and strips

Soft leather court shoes or boots that have been worn in are a find. If they have produced it to a secondhand shop, and they are 20 years old already, you know they are good quality. Belts are brilliant and instances available in more sizes than you would find on the high street.

Look for natural fibres and genuinely old notices

Always be on the lookout for old labels, such as Marks & Spencer’s St Michael or John Lewis’s Jonelle, so that you know that jottings are genuinely old and will probably be well made. Also look for natural fibres – labels that say 100% wool, cashmere silk or wool.

By Melanie Wilkinson and Helen Seamons