Recently, at a blogging workshop in London, I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Hannah of Paloma in Disguise, a blog about UK charity shops and second-hand fashion. I loved her philosophy and creativity, and her passion for human rights in the apparel industry. She graciously agreed to write a guest post and share her story:
My Second-Hand Story
Growing up I used to love a good shopping trip. On my way to town there was a row of charity shops I used to wander past on my way to the high-street shops. One day I ventured into the Oxfam situated in the middle of the row of shops and immediately became obsessed. I couldn’t believe the price of the clothes. A few pounds for a unique t-shirt. A fiver for a dress that would have cost £35 plus on the high-street. I began rummaging. And haven’t stopped since.
The fact that charity shops enabled me to get creative whilst on a serious weekend job kind of budget was amazing.
After University I worked in finance for a while. Since this wasn’t a creative job I began blogging as a bit of an outlet. Since I had loved charity shops from that first trip to Oxfam, my blog, Paloma in Disguise, became more and more charity and second-hand focused. I also began taking charity shop items and upcycling them into something I would wear.
Nowadays, over on my blog, in addition to showing my charity shop purchases and upcycling DIY’s, I am also on a mission to learn and write about sustainable fashion.
Working with Charity Shops
A few years ago, Oxfam tweeted that they were after fashion bloggers to write for them. I jumped at the chance and got writing, DIY-ing and photographing. In addition to blogging about my top tips for getting a charity shop treasure, I also share my charity shop DIY’s, usually involving a man’s shirt, as I find that these are the most easily accessible charity shop items going! From adding frills to shirts to adding a slogan to an old tee, I really enjoy working with Oxfam to conjure up a new favourite item from something I previously may not have worn. Last year I was featured in Oxfam’s #FoundinOxfam campaign. This was an exciting campaign encouraging shoppers to share their Oxfam finds.
I have gone on to work with other charities, discovering, along the way, the incredible work they do. I recently worked with a charity called Emmaus, which provides communities in which homeless people are able to live and work. Emmaus then support them back into employment when they feel ready.
By shopping in charity shops run by the likes of Emmaus and Barnardo’s (to name a few), I think that not only can we contribute to an incredibly worthy cause, but we can also use the wonderful clothes already around rather than buying new ones.
In 2013 the Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Bangladesh, collapsed, killing over 1,000 garment workers. The Rana Plaza was supplying clothes to western brands.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza led me to become more aware of the social and environmental impact of the fast fashion industry. Fashion Revolution was set up following the collapse. From April 23rd - 29th they are encouraging us to join the movement to promote a fairer and safer fashion industry. In addition to running informative talks, inspiring workshops and events, they also ask us to don our favourite clothes back to front, with the label showing, asking the brand #whomademyclothes, in the hope that brands will eventually be able to show us the clear supply chain of the garment.
I have learnt a lot from following the Fashion Revolution movement. The most useful technique I learnt from the movement is that I if I do buy something new, I should ask myself Lucy Siegle’s question and try to answer with brutal honesty. She recommends asking yourself whether you can commit to wearing the item at least 30 times to ensure you will get the wear from it. By doing this it’s more likely you’ll end up with a wardrobe full of clothes actually worn rather than buying items that you’ll end up wearing just a handful of times.
Resources I Use
The fashion industry is so complex, but there are a few useful resources to help us understand a little more of what specific brands are doing.
Good On You is a great app. By typing in a brand name, you are able to see how well the brand is doing. Good On You gives ratings and an explanation for those ratings. They score the brands on environmental impact, what the brand is doing in terms of labour and what they are doing in terms of animal welfare.
There are numerous books which provide more insight into great brands, the problems within the industry and what we can do to be more aware. Slow Fashion by Safia Minney is a great resource. It is informative in terms of what is happening within the fashion industry, and it also contains interviews with brilliant designers who are joining the sustainability movement.
Over on my blog, Paloma in Disguise, I am planning to learn, photograph and blog about sustainable fashion, whilst continuing to write about my favourite second-hand shops.
Thanks so much for sharing your insight, Hannah!