I bought the pictured Icelandic sheepskin cape by the designer Titania Inglis four years ago to wear to Burning Man, reasoning that a. It is a fantastic coat, and b. it’s ethically made and totally worth it. I told myself I would wear it over and over. I did wear it to two burns, and lent it to a friend for another. This year I decided I wanted something a little more lightweight and that doesn’t take up so much room in my closet, so I’ve been trying to resell it so someone else who will appreciate it. But surprise, surprise, nobody has taken me up on it. So, I offered it for rental to a large group of burner girls, and last night a friend of a friend came over last night to try it on. We instantly hit it off. She’s a fellow journalist, a cat lover, and grew up on a merino sheep farm in New Zealand, so she appreciated the cape for what it was. She Venmoed me $50 for it and after 20 minutes of us excitedly talking about merino wool and Burning Man, she finally left to go home.
At this rate, I’ll never make up what I paid for the coat, not even come close. But that’s what festival fashion is. It’s crazy stuff that you honestly will only wear a few times. I have some amazing memories with this coat. It gave me my playa name, Munchkin. And now it’s introduced me to a woman who I would actually like to make my friend. Hopefully, I’ll see this furry thing bobbing through the desert at some point and can run over to her and give her a hug. But if I’m honest, I still feel a bit like a schmuck about paying so much for this stupid but beautiful cape.
This past two weeks I’ve had the secondhand market on my mind. Everyone can see it’s growing exponentially, and it’s easier than ever to buy secondhand offline or in a brick-and-mortar store. But selling it? Forget about it. There’s a glut of it coming into stores, to the point where retailers — both online and in the city — will only take certain brands that everyone recognizes and if they are in perfect condition and just right for this particular season.
I wish I could bottle up the feeling of watching a Buffalo Exchange employee sneer at a perfect plant-dyed silk dress, or the feeling when a Tokyo 7 employee sighs, “We only take upscale brands that everyone knows” after looking through my bag of artisan-made wear, with a look that implies I’m both poor and hopelessly frumpy and passé. I would keep that bottle of frustration and depression on my desk, and dab a bit under my nose every time I’m tempted to buy something new. I would put it in my purse and carry it with me when I travel, misting it on my face before plunging into a sustainable boutique.
Because we’re not going to solve the fashion crisis by streamlining the secondhand market. We need to look at how much we’re buying in the first place. I’m even more guilty than you, quite likely, of falling for fashion and bringing it home with me. I love the stories behind it. I love the way it makes me feel. The difference is that I’m trying to support small brands, who — as it turns out — have no value on the resale market. Maybe I just have to face the fact that buying from an unknown artisan brand is a charitable act, both when I hand my money over to buy it at full price, and then when I donate it to a thrift shop with the hopes that they can extract some value from it for their operations. I feel like a total chump, and quite depressed when I drop off such beautiful things at Housing Works. But maybe I just need to reconceptualize it?
Next time I have stuff to move out of my closet, I’m going to try selling it on Instagram. But I feel like Instagram only wants Everlane and Suzanne Rae. Would you be interested in hearing the story behind the artisan-made items? Would you potentially be interested in buying them? Let me know in the comments.
Sustainable Fashion News
Why inclusive fashion is the next wave of conscious consumerism. | South China Morning Post
The challenges of building a socially conscious brand. | Vogue Business
I write about fashion and yet I barely participate in NYFW. Why? Because there’s hardly a word about sustainability. Now, people are calling to cancel London Fashion Week. I say, issue an ultimatum: either they put our climate crisis and other fashion issues front and center, or they’re done. | The Guardian
I’m calling out this piece for, yet again, making nonsensical statements about the fashion industry. “Bangladesh’s economy is 85% garment workers.” Um, what? 85% of their exports are fashion. One in 25 people are employed by the fashion industry. Come on, how am I supposed to read the rest with a straight face? | Dazed Digital
In case you doubted how in the pocket of advertisers women’s fashion magazines are, I present to you: editor-influencers. | WWD
“At least in New York, where the cost of living is sky-high and inhabitants are constantly looking for creative ways to budget-trim, it’s possible to get rid of just about anything.” | Curbed
Inside that famously sustainable denim factory in Vietnam. | Fashionista
The leather industry is dying. And yet not one cow is being saved by this fact. | Bloomberg
What’s the benefit for a fashion company of getting B Certified? And is it a trustworthy certification? | WWD
Fashion brands should do some other things before they launch a sustainable collection. | Quartz
Though, that’s exactly what Tracy Reese just did. | Gizmodo
A scrappy solution to the fashion industry’s waste problem. | Grist
Working in fashion is bad for your mental health. | Business of Fashion
Everyone is looking for biodegradable sequins. | The Guardian
Stella McCartney taps anti-consumption activists to sell more clothes. | Business of Fashion
Consumers want to know more about their clothing, but not too much. | Sourcing Journal
5 ways to fix fashion’s biggest pollution problem: dye. | Vogue Australia
How long will it be until notoriously controlling luxury fashion brands co-opt the resale model? | The Fashion Law
Scientists have created a fabric that smells better the more you sweat. But is it eco-friendly? | CNET
Consumers say they feel guilty about fast fashion and are more likely to buy secondhand. | Sourcing Journal
Sustainable Beauty News
This influencer has had enough of free beauty products. (I gave up on them years ago.) | The Cut
A new generation of leaders understands that individual actions won’t save our planet. | Ensia
Companies are moving away from Fair Trade and creating their own labels, sowing confusion amongst consumers. | The Guardian
“As a company, I’m not going to individually fix inequality by overpaying my workers, because then someone else is going to come in and undercut me and pay less to their workers. We need policy interventions. We need to give companies the incentive to do the right thing.” | Fast Company
Brands Doing Cool Things
Ethical Indian brand Behno partnered with the National Down Syndrome Society on some beautiful red purses in homage to Behno’s founder’s sister.
Madewell did a collab with the sustainable LA brand Christy Dawn.
There’s a new sustainable online store in town: Buho.