How secondhand clothes can save student budgets – and the planet

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How secondhand clothes can save student budgets – and the planet Clearing 2019 Vintage fashion How secondhand clothes can save student budgets – and the planet

Fed up of fast fashion? Start a revolution with your wardrobe by swapping, sharing and repairing clothes

Melanie Lehmann, 24, sells clothes on Depop to help pay the rent. Photograph: Ophelia Wynne/Guardian

It may be cheap and on-trend but fast fashion isn’t the answer for cash-strapped students. For Mia Smith, a fashion communication student at Liverpool John Moores University, it’s not an option. “I am strongly aware of the effects fast fashion has on the environment and I believe they’re too catastrophic to ignore,” she says. “More people need to be aware.”

Thanks to our hyper-connected world and ethical fashion movements such as Fashion Revolution, we know more about the industry than ever. We know that garment factories pump toxic chemicals into local rivers, farmers use dangerous pesticides to grow the huge amounts of cotton needed, and thousands of gallons of water are used to make just one T-shirt. “The industry’s dirty secrets are now easily uncovered and once revealed they’re hard to ignore,” says Jessica Donnelly, programme leader of fashion communication and styling at De Montfort University.

And fast fashion not only has a negative impact on people and the environment; it’s also not that great for your bank balance. Our favourite brands encourage us to buy more and more and it all adds up. In fact, we now buy 60% more clothing than we did 15 years ago but keep it for half as long.

Instead of shelling out on new clothes, why not get creative and make the most of what you already own?

Melanie Lehmann, 24, is a third-year student, BA fine art, Central Saint Martins

I started selling clothes I didn’t wear, on Depop 18 months ago, and after about half a year it became a business. I started off looking for stock in charity stores and at car boot sales, and I go back home to Thailand a couple of times a year where there are loads of vintage clothes that are really cheap. Wherever I go, I’ll make sure that I find charity shops or markets to go to. I’ve dedicated two wardrobes just for Depop.

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When you take photos, it is best to put the clothes on someone – that’s when people buy them. It doesn’t even take that long – an hour or two to take pictures of everything I have in stock. I don’t upload them right away; Sundays are very good days and I’ll leave quite a bit until payday, because I know instantly there are going to be loads of customers.

I recommend selling your stuff, especially when you’re a student, because you can save the environment and earn money from it. I didn’t know that it would become my business, but I think it’s about taking chances. It started off being pocket money and now it’s helping me pay my rent.

Ethical tips

• Want to update your old jeans? Cut the hems with scissors and pop them in the wash for an instant frayed look.

• Gently run a blunt razor over the surface of knitwear to get rid of bobbles.

• Add fringing to the hem of a skirt, sew patches on to a vintage denim jacket, glue sequins to your sliders or embroider a slogan on to an old T-shirt.

• Dyeing your clothes is a great way to completely transform them. Go for a uniform colour or grab some elastic bands and embrace the tie-dye trend.

• Instead of hiding your repairs, make a feature of them, whether stitching up holes with colourful thread or patching jeans with printed fabric.

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