Tagged: secondhand

The Business Case for Secondhand

This I Wear | Secondhand

I think we can all agree that there is too much stuff in the world today.

If you don’t agree with that statement, read this again after spending an hour at your local H&M to see how much stuff people are buying. Alternatively, you could choose to google “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” or better yet, stop into any charity shop and see what nervous ticks the staff have developed since the release of Marie Kondo’s “The Magical Art of Tidying Up.

But for those of you who do agree, my guess is that you’re already trying to do your small part in encouraging a world of “less stuff” in your own way.

I also thought I was doing my part until I realized I could be doing a whole lot more because, well, #economics. And by that, I mean I had an enlightened moment of understanding that I was all supply and no demand, and that this was not gonna get any of us any closer to a “less stuff” world. Let me explain.

Here’s my usual routine when it comes to closet cleaning: Clean out closet. Decide if what I cleaned out warrants hosting a swap party. If not, donate clothes to my neighborhood charity shop. Cue that feel good feeling of knowing that I kept my stuff out of the landfill for at least a little while longer.

Oh how I have been naïve.

After my most recent “tidying up” inspired by Marie Kondo, I was all set to do the above usual routine when I heard a podcast talking about all the places to sell your clothes online. Beyond selling my really nice pieces at a local consignment store, I had never explored selling my clothes. I soon found myself browsing sites like The Real Real, Tradesy, and Threadflip that all specialize in online secondhand clothing and accessories for women, and I was floored by the amount of (really really good) merchandise on these sites. If fact, there is enough merchandise on these sites to keep all of womankind clothed and happy for all of eternity.

That’s when I realized that my usual routine was missing a really crucial step: shopping secondhand.

While I am very careful about knowing what I’m buying when I do shop (Was it made ethically? Where was it made? Are the materials sustainable and/or recyclable? Etc.), I’ve still been buying mostly new. And that isn’t really helping us solve our “stuff” problem, because we’re still creating more stuff and using more resources to make all these new things. So while the stuff might be ethically made, what about the unnecessary harm done by further cluttering up the world and using up our resources?

So if I really believe in the importance of valuing our resources and creating less waste, my habit of donating or selling my clothes is only solving half the problem. To make the secondhand market work, I also have to become a consumer of it – taking as much as I’m giving, and looking for what I need on the secondhand market first before I look to buy something new. (Luckily, between local consignment and vintage shops and the online secondhand retailers, this is even easier than trying to find something new that is ethically made.)

The same argument can apply to a million different scenarios when it comes to solving our stuff problem. If we’re recycling but not buying products made with recycled materials, we’re not really creating demand for those materials to tell the market we want more recycled products. Likewise, if we’re powering our house on solar energy but still driving a gas-guzzling car, then we’re really not committing to renewable energy.

Baby steps are important. Yes to making sure our stuff stays out of landfills, that we opt for renewable energy when we can, and that we buy responsibly made goods. But we could be doing so much more if we looked at our behaviors in a more holistic way to see what unintentional signals we may be sending to the market about what we as conscious consumers want. #economics

And anyway, perhaps the only good lesson that fashion has taught us is that vintage is just way cooler and we should know that the old will always becomes new again. So while I will by no means be a perfect secondhand shopper, I’m definitely going to do my best to close this loop.

Photo via ReDone Denim (source here!), a company that is definitely proving there is a business case to be made for secondhand fashion.

A Conscious Home

I once listened to an interview between design*sponge’s Grace Bonney and stylist Sibella Court where they reached the conclusion that you are either a fashion person or a home person. Well, I work in fashion and I write about fashion (well apparel and style), but I love home decorating too.

Even though moving is the absolute worst, there is something thrilling in the prospect of making a new space feel like home. But after the experience of writing this blog, I knew that decorating my new apartment, which I moved into in August, was going to be different. This time, I wanted to be intentional about all of my purchases, even though I was starting from scratch without even a fork or a chair to my name (literally).

It was a challenge but one that seemed inevitable. If I am so careful to make sure my clothing purchases are responsible and thoughtful, why shouldn’t I do the same for my home?

So I made some rules:
1. Always question whether the purchase is really necessary. (Do I actually need it?)
2. Try to buy used first.
3. If used isn’t possible, search for handmade, local or sustainably or ethically sourced items.

Extra points, of course, if it’s both used and handmade, local or sustainably-made.

And these rules seemed natural: I am on a budget, I tend to prefer vintage home goods with personality, vintage goods are more likely to have been made to last, and shopping used offered the opportunity to connect with people and have things with a story.

So how is it going?

Well, our apartment is only half-furnished, and literally all of my weekends have been taken up with home projects instead of blog writing. However, we have had some amazing finds. Here are a few of my favorite stories:

The couch
I am terrified of bed bugs, so I assumed the couch was the one thing we’d have to buy new, even though the only options seemed to be a disposable Ikea couch or incredibly expensive designer couches. With my friend’s encouragement, we scoured Craigslist and found a perfect lightly-used Room & board couch for half the retail price but no compromise on style. And it happens to be made in North Carolina (bonus!).

Vintage Ethan Allen table
Another fantastic Craigslist find, this table and set of chairs fits perfectly in our tiny apartment, and we got to wish the seller good luck on a new job as he prepared to move to a new city. His mom had picked up this set years ago and stored it, knowing that one day it’d be the perfect apartment-sized dining table. She was right.

Kitchenware
There’s something really tempting about going to Bed, Bath and Beyond, armed with coupons and leaving with everything you need (until it all breaks). But that place makes me miserable, and there is such a thing as going home with too much. We needed new pots and pans, but the big box stores want you to buy the unnecessary 10-piece set. We decided that we really only needed 4 pieces, so we only bought exactly what we needed. And buying from a restaurant supply shop meant it was reasonably priced and built tough.

As the apartment becomes more like home, I promise to share photos. And if this is something that you’d like me to share more about, leave a note in the comments or tweet @ThisIWear!

My Closet: Lucky Charms

This I Wear | Lucky Charms

I am incredibly lucky. As a St. Patrick’s Day baby with a classic Irish last name, I know a thing or two about luck (and fortunately, the good kind). Luck is not something to be relied on; it isn’t very predictable, and it isn’t always instantly recognizable. Luck is best left to be something to be thankful for when looking back or hoped for if looking forward. But in the present moment, thoughts of luck can be comforting. And when I say “luck,” I mean gratitude for where we’ve been, hope for something big or small to get us where we are going, and a willingness to be open in the meantime. Those thoughts of luck can be much closer with a familiar lucky charm on hand. And when a lucky charm is wearable, it is even easier to keep hopes for luck near.

I have three lucky charms, but the real power comes when I wear them together. The first is the simple gold necklace I wear everyday. My mom and I picked out the necklace together as my college graduation gift during a trip with my sister to Hong Kong. Even I was unsure how often I would wear the double-sided pendant, but nearly every single day, I wear the necklace with intention with the Chinese character for “longevity” facing in, since I believe longevity comes from taking care of ourselves, and the Chinese double happiness facing out, because happiness comes from what we offer out to the world. As I put the necklace on recently before an important meeting, I rubbed it for good luck as I so often do, reminding myself to make my mom proud, since her support has helped me reach where I am in life to have such an important meeting.

My other lucky charms are new to me but by no means new, precisely the source of their luck. I never knew my great-grandmother but wearing a pair of her earrings, which she had passed on to my mother when her ears were first pierced decades ago and which my mom recently passed on to me, makes me feel close to her. I certainly never knew the original owner of the Victorian signet ring I recently purchased, but I can’t help but imagine its past: Was it a gift to her? Did it bring her any luck? Was it worn on any special occasions? (And how were her fingers so much tinier than mine?) I imagine the nerves of my great grandmother or my mother as they got their ears pierced, or perhaps the nerves my ring’s earlier owners felt as they went through life wearing the pieces of jewelry I now wear. And while I know with no certainty, I think they made out just fine.

The concept of a lucky charm seems silly on the surface. We are ascribing power to an inanimate object. But the real power of a lucky charm is not in the item itself, but in what it reminds us of. My lucky charms have never caused miracles, but they have given me the confidence I needed in times spent outside of my comfort zone. Whenever I’m unsure of myself, I look at my lucky charms and they remind me of who I am, where I come from, how I got here, and, perhaps most importantly, who helped me to get here. My triad of lucky charms calms my nerves and reminds me to be bold not just for myself, but out of gratitude for all of the people who helped me reach this moment of infinite possibilities. And when you feel like there’s a crowd like that behind you, you can’t help but be bold.

Comment below, tweet @ThisIWear, or email me to share stories of your lucky charms, perhaps to be featured in a future post!

 

My Closet: Flea Market bracelets + Sorting through the junk

This I Wear | Flea Market Bracelets

I’m a Pisces. This fact doesn’t matter to me but now everyone knows it. Why? Because I fell in love with some amazing vintage cuffs at a flea market, though you might just call them junk.

A few blocks from my old Manhattan apartment, there was a flea market that would take over the cafeteria and grounds of a school every Sunday. It was filled with exotic African beads and drums, fancy reupholstered furniture, old prints, and tons of junk. Occasionally, after I’d done some damage at the farmers’ market across the street, I’d walk through the flea market. Yet I never have much luck in finding things to wear at flea markets. I’ll pick up a few things, put them back down, and then pull out the hand sanitizer. My adventurous spirit is limited by the perceived grubbiness of such moments.

During one visit, however, a vendor, whose stall typically consisted of a heap of unappealing clothes on a table, had a little basket filled with enamel cuffs. The mound of clothing was the last thing I wanted to touch, but this tidy basket of bracelets was intriguing. I found myself surprised to be exchanging my ten-dollar bill for a red owl cuff and a Pisces one as well. I am not particularly impressed with owls, and I don’t read horoscopes often or seriously. While I tend to have quite a lot of friends born around my birth date, I don’t think the zodiac sign is responsible for these friendships. These bracelets were cheap, their origins unknown, and their future with me curious. Yet something about them stood out to me from the minefields of junk surrounding them.

Sometimes, I see something I love or find inspiring, and it just happens to be junk. In the case of these bracelets, it is not uncommon for my wrist to be slightly green when I take off one at the end of the day. I’ve also stabbed myself with the owl’s feet one too many times. But how can you control what you love? You can’t.

Something is only “junk” if it means nothing to you. If it’s special to you personally, then price and quality are irrelevant.

And more often, it is hard to discover the special things or predict what we’ll grow to love when the surrounding junk is so overwhelming and noisy, whether you are in a flea market or a shopping mall. But at these moments, I tune out the noise, sometimes by stepping away to think, and then go with my gut. My motto always has been that if you don’t absolutely love something, don’t buy it.

Once I took these bracelets home and out of the clutter, often pairing the red owl with a simple neutral outfit and some red lipstick, the “specialness” was clear. Today, I love wearing them, they frequently start conversations, and I have never seen anything like them since. I could have negotiated the $10 price down, but they’ve grown to be worth more to me than the price paid. The value in the items is personal to me, not inherent in the bracelets themselves. They might be junk, but they are my junk.

But maybe that’s just the poetic Pisces in me talking.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...