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Fast fashion has a bad press and in most cases, justifiably so. We’re all aware to some degree of the true cost of fast fashion and its detrimental impact on people and planet. If you’re not, take a look at Valuing Our Clothes: the cost of UK fashion (pdf) to discover more about the environmental impacts of the clothing industry in the UK.

And yet we love it! We just can’t help ourselves. We call it retail therapy. On one level, buying easily available, affordable and disposable clothing in High Street stores feels so good. We can’t imagine life without this regular fashion fix. That’s why the textiles sector is such a significant contributor to the global economy, creating millions of livelihoods around the world. However, this ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production and consumption is simply not sustainable. Deep down, we know this. Internally, the level of guilt increases with each new purchase.

When you buy or donate preloved clothing, you’re choosing to join the slow fashion revolution, a sustainable alternative to fast fashion – and that feels great! You’ll still be able to love clothes, still have a passion for fashion, but without having to ignore your conscience. Your wardrobe will be more aligned with your values, and that will feel infinitely more satisfying.


According to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the British registered charity working with businesses, individuals and communities to reduce waste and use resources in a more efficient way, an estimated £140m worth of clothing is sent to UK landfill each year. Put another way, around 350,000 tonnes of pre-worn, but still wearable, clothing ends up as textile waste in landfill in the UK every year.

And then there’s the amount of supply chain waste to be taken into consideration too, the amount of waste generated in the processing and production of each new item of clothing.

Donating and buying preloved clothing helps to reduce the amount of textile waste in landfill. Preloved becomes reloved, reducing waste by extending the life of each garment.


The fast fashion industry is one of the largest industries in the world and is the second largest pollutant on the planet.

‘The industry is criticised for its unsustainable use of water, land, fossil fuels and energy, along with manufacturing processes associated with toxic chemicals, waste and pollution, and unethical labour practices.’  


Textile waste to landfill creates greenhouse gas emissions, when left to decompose through anaerobic digestion. These greenhouse gases escape into the atmosphere, contributing significantly to the current climate emergency.

Time is running out for the planet. Switching to buying preloved clothing is one way in which you can make a difference.


Fresh, clean water is one of the world’s most valuable resources and the fashion industry, encompassing the cotton-growing and textile-production industries, contributes to freshwater contamination, as well as using much of the available clean water in many communities across the world today. 

The global average water footprint for 1 kilogram of cotton – equivalent to the weight of one man’s shirt and a pair of jeans – is 10,000 - 20,000 litres, depending on where it is grown. 

WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan

When you choose to buy preloved clothing, you are playing your part in conserving water.


The fashion industry is a notoriously bad employer. To bring us cheap and plentiful clothing, workers do not receive a fair wage and have to work long hours in dangerous conditions. Child labour is still commonplace. Many cotton growers suffer chronic ill health from acute pesticide poisoning. Exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye leather is the cause of many illnesses, predominantly cancer.

Fair trade companies such as People Tree look to put people and planet first. These small ethical businesses use sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, hemp and bamboo and work closely with producers to create a fairer, safer working environment. The ethical clothing they produce is more expensive than fast fashion, of course it is, and this puts many people off. However, if you switch to purchasing many more preloved garments, then you will have money to invest in some of these beautiful, more ethical items of clothing. It’s a win-win for you, for people and the planet.


‘I’ve got nothing to wear!’ you cry as you survey the contents of your wardrobe strewn across the bed and the floor…

Many of us have more clothes than we know what to do with and yet still feel that we have nothing to wear. There are items at the back of the wardrobe that we’ve forgotten all about, clothes in bags in the loft for when we can fit into a size 10 again or until that day that they come back into fashion…

Unused clothes take up valuable space in your wardrobe. That dress you haven’t worn for years may bring great pleasure to someone else. Now is the time to share the joy! Decluttering helps you appreciate what you have more and actually be able to see what you have! Recycling your clothes has never been easier. 

And then of course, you come to the really fun part, where you can bring new life to your wardrobe by selecting preloved items to complement and complete your existing range. You can take risks, experiment with new colours and styles at a fraction of the cost of buying new…choosing what to wear need never be boring again!


When you renounce fast fashion, you set yourself free from being a slave to fashion trends – now you can set your own! 

You are your own person. You can wear what you want when you want. Fashion is not about copying someone else’s look or looking the same as everyone else. Fashion is about expressing your own individuality and identity.

‘Style is a deeply personal expression of who you are, and every time you dress, you are asserting a part of yourself.’  

Nina Garcia

A range of preloved clothes is like a treasure trove of beautiful, unique pieces, each with a history we will never know, waiting to be discovered and reloved and styled out by you! Each day is a fresh opportunity to dress for yourself, to allow your outfit to reflect your personality and your mood. Put on what makes you feel good. Wear what makes you smile.

The fashion industry is no longer dictating to us what we will wear.


Clothing is not meant to be disposable, to be worn once and then discarded. The longer the life of each garment, the more we can contribute to preserving resources and life on our precious planet.

‘Extending the life of clothes offers the greatest overall potential across carbon, water, and waste targets. This can be achieved by designing clothes to be more durable, and by encouraging re-use through sales of second hand clothing.’ 

WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan

Repair and re-use, that’s the message here. Make do and mend, like the generations before us did. Buy better quality garments in the first place. Look after the clothes you have: wash them less often, follow washing instructions carefully, tumble dry them less often, mend them and darn them. If you don’t want to wear them anymore, pass them on, donate them or sell them.

Extending the life of our clothing has undeniable environmental benefits.


No one will look down on you for buying preloved clothing. Buying preloved is the new cool, didn’t you know? Buying and selling second-hand clothing is a growing trend, particularly amongst young people and students. It’s the way forward, making sustainable choices for the future of the planet.

If money is tight, or even if it isn’t, buying preloved items at affordable prices frees up more money for the fun stuff in life! We can all dress well for less. Donating and buying preloved makes more clothing more accessible to a wider range of people in society.

It’s time to ditch the fascination with expensive labels – can a T shirt ever really be worth £200? Save money and save the planet – what can be more impressive than that?


We can all do more with less. That’s the message from the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan that we need to hear and respond to. Consumer behaviour needs to change. It’s about collective action. We all need to adopt a more circular approach to clothing globally.

This means ditching the ‘take-make-dispose’ pattern associated with most mass-market manufacturers and ensuring that garments are circulated in society for as long as possible. And then upcycled! Value is retained in the economy through this circular way of doing business.

Join the growing trend of people discovering the joy of donating, buying and selling preloved clothing.

We’re all in this together. Together, we can make a difference.

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