Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Recycle, Reduce, Reuse In Style... Go Vintage"

source : vintage bulletin

Recently I found a new interest in thrift shops. And that all thanks to my lovely boyfriend. He constantly grumbled every time I dragged him in H&M and all that sorts, spitting on their "lack of soul". I tried to defend all those chain shops. Mainly the pro for me was that for cheap you can follow the trends.
Anyway, I decided to let him take me where he is used to buying his clothes : the charity shops. I wasn't really enthusiastic I must say.

In my mind, those shops were synonym with clothes with holes, stains, even worse, smells... In one word : rags!
And so wrong I was. Most of the time, the clothes collected are carefully sorted and picked, even nicely presented in the shop (according to their colours or shapes).
Besides me being rightfully corrected, I started to feel what the boyfriend described by "lack of soul" whenever I went in one of those H&M's or Primark's or whatever. Although I always knew what it meant, it never bothered me before. Now, I still shop there but I don't enjoy it as much as before, I spent far less time when I get in there... when I get in there, that is to say less and less.
After spending time in thrift stores, the blandness of chain shops jumps aggressively at my face. They are all the same, I know more or less what I am going to find in there, it smells of bleach, it's always packed. What is all that compared to the sensation that gives a thrift store? It is like browsing someone's attic. Or a treasure hunt, it can get really exciting... or uneventful. That is what I like, you never know! There's never a shop like the other.
I have to confess though that I still haven't explored the whole "clothes buying" in second hand shop (I mainly buy housewares... well paintings... being slightly obsessed) but it certainly got me thinking about vintage fashion and its positive aspects.

First, being (or trying to be) a green person, it strikes me as such a perfect way of buying. It is recycling, isn't it? You save items that won't use energy to get destroyed.
Those same items have a carbon footprint equaling to zero (or almost). Indeed, the energy produced for their transport and fabrication (for instance, it takes more than 7,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of cotton)
has been in a way returned by being worn at least one time. To the contrary of brand new stuff, obviously. And you don't push the industry to produce more and more with your consumerist behaviour.

Secondly, having done my bit of traveling, there's something that got me especially angry as well as depressed. Did you notice how our European cities look more and more the same? Even the streets between each other?
It really hit me in London. What is the sense in having two H&M's, three Starbucks, two McDonalds, etc... in the same street? And the next one, and the next, and so on... I mean, what the fuck?!
The phenomenon has gigantic proportions in London but you can witness its invasion in the other big cities of the old continent. Stockholm (Sweden being the craddle of H&M), Helsinki, Paris, Dublin, Brussels, etc... I don't want every city to look the same. Where am I supposed to experience their identity? Souvenir shops? Let me laugh.
In my sparrow brain, second hand shops seem like a solution (probably not the solution) to counter this destruction of the urban landscape diversity.
Let's confess, we are all guilty of this pest propagating on our streets. We all want to wear the latest trends and still be tolerated by our banker. It's our fault in a way that they need to build more and more shops of the same brand because we don't want to be packed like sardines inside, do we?
I am not saying I want the total termination of chain stores. No, I just think that our cities and ourselves would benefit from a bit of variation in our shopping habits.
And I don't think it would be that difficult nowadays with the whole vintage boom. Trends-wise, the 2000's have been a reinvention (a rip-off some would say) of all the styles from the 1900's (and even before).

Thirdly, it can actually be quite educational to buy vintage. It is a practical way to build a design knowledge, whether you buy clothes or furniture. A bit like a trip in a time machine.
Also, it might be a way to know yourself, what fits your body shape or not, instead of having to bend to the current trends. Who knows, you could be a twenties or sixties girl in disguise.

On a more shallow note, by thrifting you have less risk to find yourself in the embarrassing position of wearing the same dress than someone else in a party or something. And that tends to happen a lot nowadays.

At last (but not least), let's state the obvious, it is cheap ! And it is known that products made in the past have a quality about them that got lost somehow in today's ways of fabrication (unless you pay the price).
And if you purchase in charity shops, you actually help people. Isn't it like the best compromise?
If you happen to live in Ireland, I find this charity shop finder very helpful (it is not exhaustive though).

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