So you don’t buy ANY new clothes? I get this question all the time, and for the past year, the answer has been yes. I have committed to buying nothing new since I took a #NoNewClothes pledge in June 2019. One day, I randomly told someone “I only shop second-hand” and from that point forward, I did. I am not sure what brought me to that statement, but I was talking about my interest in sustainable fashion to one of my friends and it just came out. I made the decision to commit to this random statement because I decided it was important for me to live my values and literally practice what I preach. For this reason, I have been buying #NoNewClothes for a year. Although it has been hard at times (especially during my first #NoNewClothes Black Friday!!), I am so glad I made the change and I have no regrets.
#NoNewClothes looks different to everybody. For some pledge-takers, they literally buy NO new clothes. I have followed #NoNewClothes in a way that works for me. I think people get turned off by the idea of #NoNewClothes because they think you just have to wear your same, old clothes, day after day. This is definitely not the case. Just because you’re not purchasing new apparel, does not mean you can’t be the best dressed in the room! I have bought clothes from thrift stores and consignment shops. I have worked with personal stylists specializing in second-hand clothing. I have purchased clothes from online thrifters. I have even participated in clothing swaps with friends and family.
There are endless places to get clothes and update your wardrobe when you pledge #NoNewClothes, and not all of them have to lead to you browsing thrift stores for hours.
When I first got to college, I worked at a small consignment shop called Fifi’s in Durham, North Carolina. I was looking for a fashion-related job to gain experience in the industry; however, Fifi’s was my first experience with second-hand clothing retail, and I was able to experience the entire second-hand process from intake to sale. Like a lot of people, I was not a huge fan of second-hand at first — I thought it was dirty, and I was not interested in wearing other people’s clothing. My mind quickly changed when I realized I could get a Chanel bag for $200. From that point forward, I had no issues with second-hand shopping. After having a great experience with Fifi’s, I became a dedicated thrifter.
For those who have been thrifting before, you know that it is an EXPERIENCE — one that I grew to love. While thrifting can be daunting at first, I have learned the best way to make my way through a store. You always have to be prepared to spend an hour plus shopping and you always have to check the sales before shopping. When you are prepared to spend at least an hour shopping and you are aware of the daily sale, you are ready to find cute clothes for cuter prices! Thrifting became a lifestyle for me, and my interest in thrifting was completely outside of my interest in sustainability. As a college student who loved to dress up, I always wanted new clothes, but I was on a budget. The thrift store allowed me to update my closet regularly without breaking the bank.
At Duke University, I am creating my own major — Philosophy of the Fashion Industrial Complex: Production and Consumption. It’s basically fancy Duke speak for studying how fashion impacts society. Ever since arriving at college, I had been interested in fashion; however, I was not aware of the effects of the fashion industry on people and the environment until I started my study of the industry. People told me I always dressed nicely and thought I should be in fashion — but my studies forced me to look beyond the buying and selling of clothes and to take a hard look at the industry. I realized how terrible the fashion industry truly is.
From non-livable wages and abuse within factories to the extreme water waste and emission of carbon dioxide equivalent gases: Fashion is failing.
For me, it was not enough to learn about it. It was these truths that sparked my journey to becoming a sustainable fashion activist. I became so passionate about the issues I was learning about in school that I started to work on trying to change them outside of my university as well. One way that I knew I could have an impact was by making the decision to pledge #NoNewClothes. #NoNewClothes allows me to practice what I preach. However, that’s not to say it’s easy.
It is the hardest to continue when I feel like I am really not making a difference — sometimes, it feels like my work means nothing. Why should I continue to take more time to buy second-hand clothes when everyone else is continuing with their non-sustainable actions? This is not the right way to think about it. Even if it does not feel like it, every article of clothing I buy second-hand instead of first-hand matters. Each cotton t-shirt takes approximately 450 liters of water to make — that is more than 2 years of drinking water for one human being — and those 450 liters are saved each time I buy second-hand. Everything I do matters.
I decided to pledge #NoNewClothes because I wanted to do my part in changing the world. I know the negative impact the fashion industry has on people and I wanted to lessen my part in this. I think everyone should participate in #NoNewClothes for at least 90 days. It serves as a great time to reflect on your shopping habits before entering into the world of first-hand again. We all need to #wearourvalues and #NoNewClothes is a great way to reset and restart.