I am originally from Denmark, but have been living in New Delhi for the past 4 years. Ironically enough I work with development work, and in that connection with one of the biggest clothes recycling areas in Delhi, but can’t for the life of me find a second hand shop (at least not one that isn’t super pricy)! Now, it’s not that there isn’t markets that sell second hand clothing – but it’s usually one of those ‘messy’ markets, where you cant try out the clothes before buying it. There’s also a few websites that sell second hand clothes, but again, there’s no option of trying it before buying it. So, in my attempt to try to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to my clothing, I’ve learned a few ways to go about it. Here goes.
The Tradesman (Or Women)
This trick is my absolute favourite! Since I couldn’t find any second hand shops here in India, I started letting my friends know that if they had any clothes they could no longer fit – or just wanted to clean out their closet (like many girls like to do, so they can fill it up again), I’d love to take a look at it. At first I sometimes paid them for the clothes I took, but with time I simply showed my appreciation by contributing to their life in any way I could – I gave away homemade soaps as gifts, helped out with hair loss remedies and other things I do well. With friends that are interested I exchange clothes – which is pretty useful when I sometimes gain or loose weight. Actually me and my best friend, continuously exchange clothes, and often regain a piece of clothes we couldn’t fit some years back.
I must admit that in the pursuit of getting as much as possible of my clothes second hand, I’m not picky about what I wear – at least style wise. Which is always kind of funny, when people give me compliments on what I wear, because I get to say: “You’re really complimenting my friends taste, not mine”!
Buy Me Once
My father has taught me many things, and one of them is this: buy things of quality, and only buy it once in your life. There are some things I haven’t been able to wait around for one of my friends to have a spare of, in my size and of the quality level I needed. Such as for example hiking boots and a travelling purse. So whenever I have to buy anything new, that I know I will need for many years to come, I try to find high quality brands. A few brands even have life time warranty. It does take some research to find it, and at times a little manoeuvring to get my hands on it. But on the other hand, I only buy it once! The last three things I bought were:
- A Jansport backpack, and Jansport dual purpose bag – they come with lifetime guarantee and are quite reasonably priced.
- A handbag and shoes from Hide design. The bags are made completely from natural materials, and also run a range with lifetime guarantee. Though, even the ones that don’t will last a long time, if taken proper care of.
- Dr Martens for hiking. A bit on the expensive side, but even they are super solid and robust, and again have a range with life time guarantee.
For inspiration on quality purchases you can visit the website: Buy Me Once. If they don’t ship to your country, you can search the same items on amazon or other. Thats what I do!
The Ethical Brand
There are some items, that no matter what I do, wont ever last a lifetime. Items such as underwear, socks, jeans (at least mine) and t-shirts have to be exchanged from time to time. So if I can’t get it second hand, and I know I will have to buy it more than once – I try to buy from Organic and Ethical brands. The biggest downside to this is that the brands I trust are legitimately ethical, are also quite highly priced – but since it only happens rarely, it can also be a welcome treat. In India some examples are No Nasties, People Tree, Soma shop and Anokhi. The online shop Organic Shop (India only) has the biggest collection of different organic/natural brands and items I’ve found.
Know Your Fabrics
This is my third go to method of buying more sustainable clothes, if the two first aren’t an option. The trick is simple – go for natural fabrics such as cotton, hemp, silk, wool and bamboo, because they are biodegradable. Even if I buy something second hand, I will still try to go for natural fabrics. Examples of synthetic fabrics are polyester, nylon, acrylic and spandex. There’s a lot of information online, so in doubt I just google it.
Think Global, Act Local
Transport of goods has a very high co2 footprint, because of the use of fuel and energy – as well as possibly use of extensive packaging and other protection needed. So I try as much as I can to buy things produced here in India or neighbouring countries. If possible I try to buy directly from the producer, or NGO’s and other organisations linking villages to markets here in Delhi.
Keep It Simple
This last trick, has in time become my first – I think many knows the feeling of having a closet full of clothes, and nothing to wear. So I try to keep my closet simply, with clothes that fit (get rid of those jeans you haven’t been able to fit for years) and that I love to wear. Whenever I get tired of wearing the same, I trade it for something new. That was it for now. Feel free to leave a comment with your own experiences, questions or anything really…