The Guardian view on secondhand clothes: the thrill of the old | Editorial

The Guardian view on secondhand clothes: the thrill of the old | Editorial

Big business is getting in on the act as sales of ‘preloved’ garments boom. But can the trend curb our love for fast fashion?

“Few articles change owners more frequently than clothes. They travel downwards from grade to grade in the social scale with remarkable regularity,” wrote the journalist Adolphe Smith in 1877 as he traced a garment’s journey: cleaned, repaired and resold repeatedly; eventually cut down into a smaller item; finally, when it was beyond all wearability, the fibres recycled into new fabric for the wealthier classes.

That model is almost incomprehensible in the era of fast fashion. The average British customer buys four items a month, often at pocket-money prices; though the low cost is a godsend for the hard-up, many purchases are discarded after a few outings, or never worn at all. Clothes Aid reports that 350,000 tonnes of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill in the UK each year.

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