Leading London-based fashion stylist, Bay Garnett has long been an champion of vintage clothes and the re-loving of past threads. And whether found in charity shops or thrift stores, there are treasures to be discovered, and of course, there’s the thrill of the hunt too.
More than this though, shopping for second hand clothes positively contributes to the circular economy, and thus, reduces the environmental impact. Fresh from #SecondHandSeptember, a campaign brought to you by Oxfam and their fashion advisor, Garnett (and fronted by self-proclaimed magpie, Sienna Miller) — here are Bay’s top tips for sustainable shopping.
Shop with something in mind
Always go to a charity shop with something in mind that you would like to find – it’s always good to be engaged and connected; antenna out! You might not find that exact thing, but chances are that you will find something else that you are delighted with.
Visit the mens section
Always go to the mens section. Go through those shirts – one by one! I have found amazing old Pierre Cardin, YSL, Dior shirts that I would have totally missed. They often look as good as new, and I love a mens oversized shirt. I also recommend going through the sweater rail of the mens section too. I often find much better ones there; plain grey and navy cashmere roomy sweaters and roll necks, in classic shapes. No waist nipping that you often get in women’s knits in charity shops.
Go around the shop twice
Always (assuming you have time) go around the shop twice. I often find something the second time round, when I’m doing less scanning and more looking.
Visit charity stores in upmarket locations
Probably the most important tip is this: if you are looking for some luxe cashmere, great blazers, beautiful vintage ‘70s shoes then go to charity shops in more expensive areas. And in areas where old people live! For me, this is epitomised in the charity shops in Chelsea, London where I have found an old YSL safari suit, tons of ‘70s YSL etc. The same can be said for the thrift stores on the upper east side in New York, and I’m sure it applies to charity/thrift stores across all cities. And this applies to a posh town in the county too.
Get to know the staff
I would also recommend getting to know the people who work at the vintage/charity shops that you love – so often, over the years, I have been let into a back room or have been told about a special sale that I wouldn’t have heard about it unless I had had those chats. It’s always nice to have those chats anyway, it makes the experience more fun and uplifting.
Be inspired by fashion
Another tip is to be inspired by fashion and what you see in magazines or on the runway. All the coolest and most stylish people I know all do this, but find their version in second hand. The worlds of fashion and second hand are not separate on the outside, just different on every other level.
Buy what you love
A basic tip but a very important one, and one I try desperately to follow is only buy if you LOVE it. I think you have to LOVE the item. I have bought so much stuff I haven’t loved enough over the years, but got it because it’s cheap and I can’t quite let it go. It’s good to be ruthless. Otherwise it turns into clutter and goes on the to do list of taking it back to the charity shop! You know when you really love something the moment you see it and try it on.
Make it into a fun day out. Go to the clothes market or a bunch of charity shops. Go with a friend. Or listen to you favourite playlist, drink your favorite coffee. This is the fun bit in life, enjoy!
Keep tailoring in mind
Another tip – if you do find that thing that you really LOVE and it is too big, of course you can get it tailored. But you can also get it made bigger (I love the ‘70s thing and it’s usually smaller than now) and I have sometimes put a panel down the seam. And it works. It’s not perfect, but I never mind that kind of thing.
Brand credentials are vital
When buying new I would suggest looking into the brands’ sustainable credentials and spending more on items that are better made, better quality, and not exploitive to the people making them, and less harmful for the planet.
And in the words of Sienna Miller “Be a magpie!”