A passion for wellbeing with Katie Webber:
As so many do, I formed one of my closest friendships at school.
As well as connecting through the Churston choir and hockey team, Caroline and I bonded over our mutual love of rummaging in charity shops for clothing.
We both got great joy and satisfaction from discovering a pre loved piece that nobody else would be wearing.
Back then, our motives were mainly financial. We could buy a lot more with money from our weekend jobs this way than we could on the high street.
We didn’t realise back then that this way of dressing would soon become popular for another, much more important reason: the negative impact that the fashion industry has on our planet.
At university, a round of parties led to a friendship group I was part of pooling a dress each to create a pile that we all rotated, again to save money.
The popularity of online fashion rental websites has rocketed in the past few years, and more and more people are now sourcing outfits for weddings, parties and one off events this way.
When I moved to London, I would scour the charity shops along the King’s Road on Saturdays, and find treasures clearly only worn once or twice: often quality designer pieces, some of which I still wear today.
The Rowcroft boutiques and other charity shops around Torbay are now as beautifully curated and filled with just as many covetable finds as my London favourites all those years ago.
When I lived in Sydney I challenged myself to buy only secondhand clothes and furniture.
It was a liberating experience, and I ended up with some really lovely things that hold very special memories.
I still buy new things, but a quality secondhand piece always gives me so much pleasure, not least because I like to imagine its back story.
When I came home from Australia, I brought most of the clothes and my favourite blankets and pillowcases with me.
A friend who had come out after me, and decided to stay, took the rest to help her set up her own home there.
That felt like a lovely, complete circle.
It was in my early days in London that fast, cheap fashion really became popular.
But then the real impact of fast fashion began to be explored. The human cost was acknowledged first, and the environmental one came next.
As an industry, fashion has one of the biggest negative impacts on the global environment.
Of course it’s also a huge contributor to the economy, and creates many jobs.
Now that the environmental impact is undeniable, big designers are joining the small enterprises who have been creating sustainably sourced products for years and looking at new ways to make money by using sustainable materials, investing in the revival of traditional artisan methods and dressing film stars in pieces from their archives for red carpet premieres and parties.
Buying things from charity shops has so many benefits: you are keeping something out of landfill; you get that same buzz of having something ‘new’; you are donating to an important and usually local cause, one that you or someone you love may need one day, and you probably won’t turn up to the party to find that you match somebody else.
Sourcing quality items that, if looked after, will last a lifetime, as people used to not so long ago, is also a good strategy.
We use a wonderful cobbler in Preston who has re-heeled and given a new lease of life to my favourite boots on several occasions.
It’s like being handed a brand new pair each time.
There are tailors around the Bay who do alterations, so if you buy something that isn’t exactly right for you, that can be remedied.
On a recent charity shop trip with Caroline, we were told that after a huge influx of contributions during last autumn’s lockdown lift, the result of clear outs we had all been meaning to get around to for years, charity shops are struggling for stock again.
Perhaps consider taking something you no longer wear along to your local charity shop to donate in the next week or so.
Who knows, you may pick up your new favourite piece while you are there.
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