Taking place outside Preston Markets to end Lancashire County Council’s ‘second-hand September’, a fashion show promoted how to shop sustainably whilst also being stylish.
Georgia Amis, waste management officer at Preston City Council, hosted the fashion show after planning the event for over a month. The aim was to encourage people that shopping second-hand has benefits not only for the environment, but is also fashionable and more affordable. “Leave no trace” was the main message they wanted to promote – as a shocking 360k tonnes of clothing goes into landfill each year.
“A lot of this information not everybody can absorb at once so doing an event like this, I think is a great way to bring that together. We can at least tap into people wanting to wear something fashionable, wanting to get something affordable but then it also has the added benefit of being better for the environment.”Georgia Amis (Preston City Council)
From beachwear to business casual, the catwalk included something for everyone. Outfits put together from clothes which were donated by Preston City Council staff, members of the public and Lancashire County Council’s reuse shop. Georgia said she wanted people to come away and think, “oh, actually I would buy that!” – and change people’s thoughts about shopping second-hand.
Upcycling and donations
Although the fashion show was the main attraction, stalls were also set up to give out information and even lessons on how to sew.
All pictures by Sophie Swain, with permission to use
Research in 2019 revealed over eight million people in the UK throw their clothes away if they become broken or damaged, instead of repairing them, which inspired Climate Action Preston to run one of the stalls to teach people how to fix clothes instead of buying new.
Heather Woods who was helping at the stall talked about their passion for sewing and how they have made their own unique jacket by sewing patches onto it. Heather was teaching people how to sew a button onto a teddy bear at the event as they think it is shocking that 59% of people in the UK are unable to sew.
“I talk about this with my grandma – they had to do it after the war. It is a life skill to be able to sew and you are helping the planet because you are not just going out and buying new every time something breaks.”Heather Woods (Climate Action Preston)
The Salvation Army also partnered with the show to accept clothing and textile donations for reuse and recycling, as well as Lancashire County Council who were selling items from their reuse shop throughout the day.
Tenderfoot ‘eco’ Theatre
Georgie Cunningham and Chrissie Handley from Tenderfoot Theatre (an Eco Theatre company based in Ormskirk) had a sustainable costume exhibition at the event. They demonstrated different, more eco-friendly, ways to dye clothing with things such as onion skins and kombucha scobies. Instead of adding to the eight million tonnes of pandemic-related plastic waste, they had a range of costumes on display which were repurposed – one nurse’s outfit made from discarded, faulty PPE from the pandemic.
“This is all the weird and wonderful which goes into making sustainable costumes for Tenderfoot. If you have one t-shirt and want to make it four different colours you can just keep dyeing it, wearing it and going again.”George Cunningham
Chrissie also debuted their new spoken word poem Heirloom. Written by Kate Carey it questions what stories lie in the threads of your forgotten clothing and second-hand pieces. The company is all about promoting their passion for sustainability and climate change, whilst also learning how to incorporate those practices into theatre.
Sustainable shopping vs fast fashion
‘Good on you’ describes fast fashion as cheap, trendy clothing which is inspired by celebrity culture. The items are made quickly before their popularity runs out but before you know it, people are already hopping onto the next trend, leaving clothes to be never worn again or binned.
Due to fast-changing trends and ever-emerging outfit ideas, the clothing industry relies on pieces to be made quickly and cheaply. Not only is the mass production of clothes bad for the environment but it also has negative impacts on the workers who are making the products. Ten years ago, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed – killing over 1,000 people and highlighting the devastating conditions some garment factory employees work in.
Statistics show that 100 billion items of clothing are being produced every year – double what it was in 2000 – but the average item in the UK is only worn 14 times before we get bored of it. So then what happens? Most likely it will go into landfill and could remain there for over 200 years, emitting harmful chemicals, such as carbon dioxide, into the soil as they decompose. Those which are made with chemicals, for example colour dyes can damage the soil even further.
“‘Secondhand September’ tries to highlight the impacts of fast fashion and how detrimental that can be to the environment. For example, water pollution, landfill pollution and chemicals which you might not know about when you purchase the clothes but actually just having an overconsumption of fast fashion can have a really negative impact on the planet.”Ellie Tebbott (Preston city council)
How to improve your shopping habits
Tebbott hopes people will look at their wardrobe and re-assess their fashion footprint. Here are a few ways to help achieve that:
- Shop in charity shops – you never know what unique pieces you might find, each time you buy something new you reduce the negative environmental impacts and give preloved items a new life.
- Buy less – do you really need it? Will you wear it 30 times?
- Invest in good quality items – they last longer than disposable products which need to be replaced often!
- Learn how to repair – instead of throwing clothes away, learning how to repair will stop clothes from ending up in landfills and save money in the long run.
- Donate or sell unwanted items – not only will you be helping local charities if donating but you can help other people become more sustainable and again, save money as you will not be buying new.
Events like the sustainable fashion show may only be a small step in conquering the environmental impacts of fast fashion. Data from March 2023 shows no signs of any decline in fast fashion demand in the UK, and factories will keep producing as long as there is consumer demand.
‘Environmentally conscious’ clothing could be the way forward, some fashion brands like H&M are helping to give customers a choice to be more sustainable with their fashion choices.
This helps spread awareness of fast fashion and could be the key to reducing it.