Stella Tennant wants you to stop buying new clothes

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2019-08-29 10:55:00 –

This might sound strange, but if you were to take all the water you would be able to drink in the next 13 years, you would have the amount that it takes to make one T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Yet how many pairs of jeans and how many T-shirts must the average person own? For most, the total number is likely in double figures, which is to say: it will have taken a lot of H2O.

It is facts like these – and the environmental damage they tell of – that are driving Second Hand September, a campaign established by Oxfam and supported by Stella Tennant, who has done a shoot with her 14-year-old daughter Iris to promote it. The premise: for the month of September the charity is asking people not to buy new clothes and instead to buy secondhand, from charity shops.

With September for some a month of heightened consumption, it might not be the easiest ask. As the heat turns to cool, it can be a time to think about a new coat, to ponder the new-season woollen offering and whether you ought to invest in a new pair of boots.

But new clothes come with a cost about which we can no longer claim ignorance – there is no avoiding the ways in which the fashion industry threatens the planet. Especially this month, as Extinction Rebellion gears up to disrupt the source of so many trends with protests planned for London fashion week.

For Tennant, who first appeared on the cover of Vogue in 1993 and has stalked down catwalks for Chanel and Jean Paul Gautier during her career: “It’s going to take us a long time to change our habits, but I think that this is so obviously a step in the right direction,” she says over the phone from what sounds like a breezy Scotland.

For her, the next generation – her daughter’s, for instance – will be able to change their shopping habits more easily. Iris already visits charity shops and it can’t hurt that she has a secondhand treasure trove that most other teens couldn’t even dream of, thanks to her mum. “It looks different on them when they’re wearing clothes I’ve had since the 90s,” says Tennant. “I’m so pleased I kept them and they’re having a second outing.”

The shopping habits of the older generation are, for Tennant, perhaps a little less trend-driven – she only buys about five new items a year, she says. “At my age I think it’s probably quite normal you’re not that interested in consuming, [and not] loving shopping as much as when you’re much younger.” Although, she concedes, “we all need to think a little bit harder”.

This is why she rates the idea of Second Hand September. “In that month, you might just think a bit differently about how you would normally shop … [it is] a period of time to consider what you’re buying and what you’re consuming and why: what do you really want; what do you really need?”

The shoot, styled by thrift-aficionado and Vogue contributor Bay Garnett and shot by Tom Craig, is proof that secondhand doesn’t have to mean stained armpits and moth-eaten togs. Look particularly to the turquoise and black stripey shirt and men’s trousers that Tennant wears in one shot – her favourite from the shoot – for evidence that a move away from new threads doesn’t have to mean a move towards bad style. For Tennant, it’s “a total no-brainer”. And this campaign is “taking away any stigma [around secondhand], and saying: actually this is a really great way to shop … [plus it] benefits the charities while you’re doing it.”

The charity shops near where she lives are great on cashmere jumpers, while her favourite secondhand garment is an emerald green Yves Saint Laurent shirt from the 70s that she bought in a vintage shop on holiday.

In case you still need convincing, here are a few more facts: each week in the UK, 11 million items of clothing are sent to landfill, and every year the clothes sent to landfill weigh as much as the Empire State Building. Proof, if any more were needed that we need to curb our shopping habits.


With Second Hand September, Oxfam is hoping to make a dent. There is already something of a silver lining: the clothes that Oxfam saves from landfill every year weigh as much as the Eiffel Tower. For Tennant, it is a fun challenge for people to take on. Of course, as she puts it, “the fashion industry really is all about creating a desire that you didn’t even know you had”. This is about trying to counter that desire, or, at the very least, look to secondhand instead.

Courtesy: The Guardian

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