The Ethical Fashion Roundup #12 | Second Hand September

Celebrating the power of preloved fashion

This is your free monthly roundup, but you can also become a subscriber to access regular exclusive content and in-depth analysis for just £5 a month, or £45 a year. If you’ve ever learned something from my work, please do consider subscribing - every paid newsletter signup helps me, as a freelancer, to keep writing about the issues that matter in fashion today.

Michaela Coel by Tom Craig for Oxfam

When I saw that Michaela Coel, legendary star and creator of I May Destroy You (which I think about approximately four times a day), was the face of Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember, I felt so positive that the campaign would reach even further than previous heights. Stella Tenant and her daughter were last year’s models, styled by the inimitable Bay Garnett. Yet again, alongside photographer Tom Craig, such cool, luxury vibes have been applied to charity shop fashion that even the worst fast fashion addicts could be converted to where the grass is so much greener.

“Think of it as dry January for clothes addicts…Every September, the world is looking for a fresh start. A new look, even. But this year, it could be in old clothes.”
Jess Cartner-Morley

One major realisation I had during lockdown was that to ever become truly mainstream and finally shake off the second hand stigma, sustainable fashion needs to be sexy. And for that, we need influencers - not just minimalist capsule wardrobe bloggers, but huge celebrities, Love Island reality stars, gay icons, national treasures. Oxfam are smart as hell on this point every year - and serve a necessary reminder that until we get Lizzo filming an Instagram live that teaches folk how to sew on a button, or Louis Theroux’s face slapped on clothes recycling bins, like hell will we ever reach a critical mass. Sex sells, even when it’s clad in linen.

That tangent aside, #SecondHandSeptember is a pledge to 30 days without buying new clothes, promising to celebrate preloved fashion for the joy it brings. The joy that is saving a garment from landfill, the joy that is diverting cash from the pockets of the fashion billionaire boy’s club, the joy of supporting a charity that saves lives, the joy of expressing your authentic style despite a shrinking salary, and the joy of finding a perfect fit at a perfect price in an imperfect pile.

Whether it’s the shocking stats - 13 million items of clothing end up in UK landfill every week - or the shocking state of your bank account, I urge you to take the #SecondHandSeptember pledge. As an ex-fast fashion addict, these types of challenges used to make a huge difference in dusting away the cobwebs of my shopping habits. 30 days really isn’t much, particularly when you consider how many of us have re-calibrated our relationships with clothes during lockdown, and realised how little ‘newness’ we need after all.


The top fashion headlines to catch up on from August

Podcast lineup

Episodes to fill your ears with conscious conversation

  • Remember Who Made Them is a new six-part podcast series about the people who make our clothes, hosted by Venetia La Manna, Swatee Deepak, Devi Leiper O'Malley and Ruby Johnson. They’re also fundraising via Patreon to donate directly to support garment workers.

  • Another exciting new show, The Root is a collaboration between Kestrel Jenkins, host of the Conscious Chatter podcast, and Dominique Drakeford, founder of MelaninASS. The 5-part series aims to “decolonise the sustainable fashion agenda”, and has a great lineup of guests that I can’t wait to hear from.

  • Yet another great new podcast to add to your library - How To Save A Planet is a release from Gimlet hosted by podcaster extraordinaire Alex Blumberg and scientist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (who wrote this incredible article recently), and it’s aimed at anyone freaking out about climate change. So all of us, right?

  • Alice and I have now wrapped up our first series of Common Threads after releasing 15 episodes during lockdown! Catch up on the series here, including several episodes surrounding second hand fashion (vintage, depop, charity shops and rental), while we plan a bumper second series for later this year.

On ethical fashion marketing

Many ethical fashion brands simply borrow the manipulative marketing tactics of fast fashion, creating a warped idea of true sustainability. It’s not just about selling an ethical product, it’s about the business model and sales strategy as a whole. My latest article for Eco Warrior Princess explores the ethical marketing revolution, speaking to the folk fighting back against greenwashing, impulse shopping, buy-now-pay-later debt, and the murky world of influencers. Read it here.

Sustainable fashion brand of the month

Stalf Studio is a slow, sustainable brand built on comfort and simplicity, made famous by their baby bump-friendly cocoon jumpsuits. Operating as made-to-order brand from their divine pink studio in Lincolnshire, their transparency is truly radical and their ethos second to none. I’ve been pining after Stalf all lockdown long - all I want is elasticated waistbands and sweatpants forever.

Thanks for reading!

Sign up to the subscriber edition of this newsletter for exclusive ethical fashion insight and bonus content, straight to your inbox every week.

See you next month,
Ruth x