The Sustainable Shopper: “If you need to buy, buy secondhand”

Written by Harriet Davey

Each week on the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Emily Beere – co-founder of charity shop platform Thriftify – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about how to shop secondhand to find the best bits. 

Do you have a penchant for a good charity shop rummage? Searching endlessly until you find a hidden gem? If, instead, you prefer the ease of online shopping where you can filter everything by brand, size and colour, you’re in luck; Thriftify is the platform that combines all the best picks from multiple charity shops all on one site. This means that you don’t have to rummage IRL, as you can simply shop the pre-loved pieces in one spot. Genius, right? Previously only in Ireland, the website has now launched in England to spread the secondhand love. 

Secondhand and vintage shopping is on the rise and Thriftify has tapped into this sustainable shopping trend by partnering with a whole host of charities – from Oxfam to Self Help Africa. With everything including fashion – from New Look to Prada – to homeware and DVDs (remember those?) all in one space, the handy filters mean you can find your favourite charity shop, clothing brand and size so you can see what’s on offer with ease. You have to be quick though, as they’re all donations; once they’re gone, they’re gone. 

Here, Thriftify co-founder Emily tells the Sustainable Shopper all her tips and tricks for nabbing the best secondhand finds. 

Emily Beere: founder of Thriftify

What is your earliest memory of sustainability?

Emily: I have to admit, I was a late bloomer when it comes to fashion sustainability but thankfully joining Thriftify, an online marketplace that connects consumers with stock from charity shops, set me on the right path. I had already dipped my toe in the sustainability waters – I went everywhere with my metal water bottle and coffee KeepCup – but I still had a long way to go. I was living in New York working for a tech company selling a database to investment bankers, so quite literally working on Wall Street where convenience is king. However, I had studied social entrepreneurship and innovation at University and had always imagined doing business for good and making a difference. I woke up one morning and it really hit me how far I had diverged from my dreams and decided to make a change. I quit, moved back to Ireland and very luckily was introduced to Rónán Ó Dálaigh, who had just started Thriftify and the rest is history.

Thriftify charity shop partner

Reselling and reusing existing clothing is undeniably sustainable as it utilises no additional resources beyond transportation

Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?   

As an optimist, I truly believe that there is. The move to fast fashion was relatively recent and happened quickly – people enjoyed the change in pace and the convenience and the idea of a different outfit every day was endorsed by celebrities and media alike. But now the same people are realising the true cost of this and the harmful effects on the environment from the fashion industry are widely known. 

Customers are more educated than ever and while access to sustainable fashion isn’t as readily available as access to fast fashion, a shift is definitely underway. And in the meantime, reselling and reusing existing clothing is undeniably sustainable as it utilises no additional resources beyond transportation – meaning you can stay fashionable while being guilt-free.

Shop at Thriftify for secondhand gems

Before I make any new purchases, I look through all of my clothes to remind myself what I have already and ask: do I really need it?

Secondhand vs throw away fashion: how do you get customers to care?   

Education is key. If people truly understand the negative effects of their purchases, they will do their best to modify their shopping habits. The cost of human lives, landfill increases and water pollution is horrifying when you really look at what’s happening within the fashion industry. However, it’s important to remember the onus should be on the companies to make the switch. Fast fashion companies by their very nature can never be sustainable and the current greenwashing that’s prevalent in the industry can be confusing and distracting for consumers.

 My advice would be to make small simple changes, the first of which should always be: if you need to buy, buy secondhand. Even now, when I look in my wardrobe, I can find items I haven’t worn in months, if not years. Before I make any new purchases, I look through all of my clothes to remind myself what I have already and ask: do I really need it?

Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?

Venetia La Manna is definitely my favourite when it comes to educational content in the fashion industry. It’s easy to consume content and doesn’t shy away from the hard topics while managing not to be negative or shaming. Plus I love her style and she has an infectious smile.

What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?

Ultimately, we need to see a significant shift in the way the fashion industry operates. Currently, there’s a new trend every week; we used to have two fashion seasons in a year and now there’s what, 16? In an effort to curb this, it would be great to see requirements on fashion companies to be open about their carbon footprint.

 In the same way, in which the food industry needs to be clear about the ingredients sourced and nutritional contents of its food, the fashion industry should be held accountable for its product’s origins, journey and impact. Any truly sustainable fashion brand is already open about its production processes and material sources.

Give us three charity shopping tips 

My first tip is more of an insight but you would be shocked at how many brand new clothes with their tags still on are sold in charity shops. About 70% of the items for sale on Thriftify are listed as ‘new with tags’. A real tip though is to look for unbranded items with the tags cut off – these tend to be corporate donations. Some of your favourite high street brands will have partnerships with their local charity shops to donate unsold clothes. Part of the deal however is that they must have the tags removed.

My second tip would be to make friends with your local charity staff – charity shop managers and volunteers are some of the nicest people I have ever met and it can’t hurt your chances of finding an especially valuable or unique gem if they know to give you the heads up on any new donations.

Finally, the gift of online shopping is that now you can now browse for specific items. So if you’re not in the mood for an old-fashioned charity shop hunt and have a specific gem in mind, get onto Thriftify and use our filters or search function to find it.

      Sustainable Shopper edit by Emily:

      • Alexander McQueen dress at Thriftify

        Alexander McQueen dress at Thriftify

        My favourite piece currently for sale (maybe not for long) on Thriftify. You can pick up your favourite designer brands for a fraction of the price, not to mention the feel good factor of helping to support a good cause.

        Shop Alexander McQueen dress at Thriftify, £150

        BUY NOW

      • Prada boots at Thriftify

        Prada boots at Thriftify

        Statement boots are always a worthy addition to any wardrobe. With a range of categories from handbags to jewellery to shoes, you should be able to find the gem of your dreams online.

        Shop Prada boots at Thriftify, £180

        BUY NOW

      • Vintage coat at Thriftify

        Vintage coat at Thriftify

        This vintage coat gives me serious New York vibes, a good quality wool coat is a staple in any wardrobe. Charity shops are definitely the go-to vintage treasure trove!

        Shop vintage coat at Thriftify, £49.50

        BUY NOW

      • Vintage teapot at Thriftify

        Vintage teapot at Thriftify

        It’s not just fashion available on Thriftify, you can pick up some gorgeous homeware pieces or your next favourite summer reading material while supporting your favourite charity.

        Shop vintage James Sadler teapt at Thriftify, £36

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      • Batoko swimsuit

        Batoko swimsuit

        During lockdown, I got very into sea swimming so a durable sustainable swimsuit was a must and thankfully I came across this brand that makes suits out of recycled plastic.

        Shop lobster print swimsuit at Batoko, £50

        BUY NOW

      • Grown sweatshirt

        Grown sweatshirt

        My style is very casual – a t-shirt and jeans are my uniform – so I love this Irish brand focused on simple sustainable pieces. The best part? One native tree is planted with every purchase.

        Shop Raw Nobo sweatshirt at Grown, £69

        BUY NOW

      • People Tree skirt

        People Tree skirt

        I love flexible clothing, this skirt can easily be dressed down or up and made suitable for almost any occasion. Clothing that tells a story makes investing in your shopping decisions more enjoyable and this brand will never let you down.

        Shop V&A Anya print skirt at People Tree, £95

        BUY NOW

      Images: courtesy of Emily/ Thriftify and brands mentioned

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