From thrifting to renting, here are ways you can be part of the sustainable fashion movement

Thrifting is a great way of finding trendy pieces. Picture: Cottonbro Studio / Pexels

Thrifting is a great way of finding trendy pieces. Picture: Cottonbro Studio / Pexels

Published Apr 28, 2024


Over recent years, the movement towards sustainability in the fashion industry has rapidly increased.

Fashion designers are slowly starting to change the way they produce their clothes throughout the garment-making process in a bid to reduce waste and become more sustainable.

However, it’s still up to the consumer to decide on the clothes they buy.

Due to tough economic times, it’s no surprise that many consumers opt to shop at fast fashion outlets whether it be in-store or online.

Fashionistas want to stay on top of trends without breaking the bank.

As trends fade, fast fashion stores are stuck with unwanted stock.

This ends up as landfill waste due to the disposal of unsold clothing.

However many shoppers are now turning to thrift stores to add classic pieces to their wardrobe.

Thrifting, shopping for secondhand pre-loved garments, is an inexpensive way to find fashion gems.

With trends like “grandpa-core” and the nineties fashion making a comeback, secondhand stores are the best places to find items for these looks.

But what many thrifters don’t understand or are aware of is that by shopping at secondhand stores they are forming part of the sustainability movement.

One of the most impactful benefits of thrift shopping is its role in reducing waste.

Every secondhand item bought means one less clothing item ending up in a landfill.

Producing new clothing items demands considerable water, energy, and raw material resources.

Therefore, opting for secondhand items helps conserve natural resources.

Secondhand items help conserve natural resources. Picture: Cottonbro Studio / Pexels

Because the fashion industry is a significant source of global carbon emissions because of its energy-intensive production processes, thrift shopping overcomes this.

The garments have already been through the manufacturing process, meaning their carbon footprint is substantially lower than that of new clothing.

While thrifting has become increasingly more popular, the interest in renting instead of buying high-end or outfits for special occasions has spiked.

Style Rotate is a South African premier circular fashion platform where consumers can rent a garment.

Founded in 2019 the company was born out of wanting to change consumer mindsets regarding occasionwear and panic buying.

“My co-directors launched Style Rotate, our circular fashion rental platform where community members can rotate, share, re-wear, resell and rent beautiful gently worn pieces instead of contributing towards fast fashion wastage and over-consumption,” says brand director Georgina Bennett.

They encourage consumers to rethink their relationship with fashion.

“By extending the lifespan of our garments, we can significantly reduce our environmental impact. At SR, our goal is to educate consumers about fashion, better buying habits and over-consumption with the aim of encouraging South Africans to be more sustainable in their fashion choices and consumption habits,” she adds.

Along with their rental model, they have recently launched SResale.

“SResale by Style Rotate is set to revolutionise the preloved fashion market, specifically targeting the mid-tier luxury occasion wear and bridal sectors. Embracing the ethos of circularity, SResale empowers consumers to both sell and buy high-quality preloved fashion, fostering a culture of sustainability and style,” says Bennett.

Co-founder Tash Liesner emphasises, "The average consumer wears a dress they buy only three times. With SResale, we’re challenging this statistic head-on, championing sustainability with every purchase."

In addition to promoting conscious consumerism, SResale taps into the booming trend of side hustle entrepreneurship.

Co-founder Cleopatra Marcopoulos Aitken asserts, “As more South Africans seek supplementary income streams, SResale offers an opportunity to turn closets into cash and contribute to a greener future.”

“Every item of clothing you own has a cost to both you (the price you buy it for) and the planet (the cost to the planet and its people when it is manufactured). When you buy something and wear it once, or never - the cost per wear on your wallet and the planet is extremely high. Our items are worn, mended and loved by people over and over, lengthening the lifespan of a garment and preventing the practice of buying something that will sit in your closet gathering dust,” Bennett adds.

When it comes to high-end luxury items like a much-desired Birkin or Lady Dior bag, there is now a more sustainable way of buying such pieces.

Luxity, a pre-owned luxury reseller, offers its clients the opportunity to own such items.

According to Michael Zahariev, co-founder of Luxity, the rise of the pre-owned luxury industry has been a step towards more sustainable choices.

“Awareness around the concept of circular fashion, an offshoot of the broader circular economy aimed at minimising waste and maximising resource efficiency, is growing. It's crucial to understand its potential to disrupt fashion’s linear production cycle, which too often culminates in clothes being discarded in landfills,” says Zahariev.

He says that the industry should pivot towards promoting circular shopping practices, which advocate for clothing rental and resale markets such as second-hand stores and online platforms, along with clothing swaps to extend the lifespan of items beyond a single owner's use.

“For instance, our clientele is evenly split between buyers and sellers, demonstrating strong support for the circular fashion industry. However, those interested in reaping the benefits of circular shopping should consider both buying and selling – customers who buy and sell make up 45% of our revenue, up from 32% a year ago,” he adds.

“For fashion enthusiasts, there’s now a tangible opportunity to contribute positively to the environment without having to sacrifice their style. Let’s embrace this chance to reshape the narrative of the fashion industry and pave the way toward a greener, more responsible future,” says Zahariev.

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