Vintage: the sustainable alternative to fast fashion

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Shoppers in Ireland are increasingly aware of the harm fast fashion is doing to the planet – but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to look good.

All this week as part of Reach for Zero, Buzz has been looking at the most sustainable fashion options for people. There is bartering, there is renting, there is buying from charity shops. But there is also vintage.

Vintage shops are on the rise

The increased interest in vintage fashion comes from a greater awareness of the fast fashion industry. Many sought out sustainable and Irish fashion alternatives.

Patrick Cunningham, who set up his business Dublin Vintage Wholesale in April 2020, said the vintage fashion industry in Ireland is growing.

Created just under a year ago on Depop, Sourced By Sab sells vintage and reworked clothing. Sab Medlar runs the business from his home in Donegal.

She believes the Irish vintage fashion industry has yet to meet Irish consumer demand.

“We are seeing an increased demand for vintage streetwear across the country, independent vintage shops that cater to this consumer taste are still not very common outside Irish urban centres,” she said.

Globally, the second-hand market is expected to grow by 15-20% per year over the next five years.

In developed countries, growth will be even greater and could reach 100% year-on-year growth.

The youth market



Young women seen outside a vintage clothing store in Dublin city centre. Ireland is taking another step towards normalcy by allowing all non-essential retail businesses to resume from today. On Monday, May 17, 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto)

Cunningham, who started his business just before Covid-19 hit Ireland, also said he thinks there will be more people in Ireland doing what he does – selling vintage fashion – than the future.

“The more people interested in the industry, the more people there will be interested in all aspects of the business. I’m sure I will have a lot of competition in the future.

Emissions Awareness

Oisín Manning of vintage fashion boutique Durt told Buzz that people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and buying second-hand clothes is a great way to reduce this.

“You can reduce the carbon footprint of your clothes by about 40% if you only buy second-hand,” Manning said.

“Obviously not everyone will buy second-hand only, but that’s the kind of impact you can have. And then there are other changes you can make in terms of reducing returns and the packaging you ship in,” he said.

Medlar said more and more people are becoming aware of all things sustainable. “You can see it in their aversion to plastic, their use of take-out coffee cups, their abandonment of fast fashion.”

While buying second-hand was once seen as bargain-hunting, buyer motivations are now often driven by sustainability, Medlar believes.

“The motivation now is very much driven by sustainability concerns and a desire to find a unique piece that likely has a story and a mode of expression,” she said.

Another reason why demand is increasing, Cunningham says, is because people are realizing how much better the quality of vintage clothing is compared to fast fashion.

“I easily see five, six or seven thousand garments a month. So I see the level of quality that is there,” he said.

“Before I started the company. I bought a few vintage clothes or whatever, but I got to a point where I was looking at the quality and I was blown away.

“My wardrobe would now be 90% vintage, not just because of the style and because I have my first dibs, but the quality is 100 times better.

Cunningham thinks many more consumers will turn to second-hand clothing once they see what’s on offer. “It actually means very high quality, unique clothing; I think a lot of people are going to start changing their consumer habits because why not you?”

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