‘I go to charity shops, buy ugly clothes, design, rework and sew them then sell them on. It’s better for the environment, I make money and someone gets a cute top.’
Proudly sitting in front of her sewing machine, Harriet lets me know that it too was thrifted, ‘For only a tenner’. She shows me reworked halter tops, jackets made from curtains and claims that despite the difficulty, she can even sew wool in a straight line.
Harriet Best runs her small business, You’ve got great taste, from social media and Depop, repurposing and selling altered clothes. An interior design student from the University of Gloucestershire, this is how she makes money on the side. However most of her money goes to foundations because unlike most clothes makers she buys her material from charity shops.
‘I know all the best thrifting places in Gloucestershire, and which days to go to get the new stock’
Thrifting has grown in popularity this past decade, with Gen Z resizing and repurposing pre-owned jeans, jackets and tops. But how has it gotten so popular?
‘I think people, especially teenagers, are waking up to fast fashion, the right people got into thrifting and have influenced others, made it trendy to wear your nans old clothes.’
According to McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2019 report, ‘Nine in ten Generation Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues.’ After COP26 this opinion has not gone away and the public seem to be waking up to greenwashing.
Harriet started her business with sustainability in mind: ‘Sometimes you have to be the voice of action, to actually get the voice of reason and to get things changed.’
The environment is not the only ethical reason customers are going crazy for vintage with controversies of unethical treatment of workers and unsafe working conditions in garment factories, such as the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, more people do not feel that buying clothes in bulk is morally right.
A study by ClothesAid showed that more than 30% of donated clothing ends up at the landfill.
Harriet says that small thrifting businesses like hers, ‘make something beautiful’ out of what isn’t wanted, preventing it from going to waste.
But there is more to being a sustainable brand than just the product. Shipping and packaging are also heavy hitters when it comes to plastic waste, with only 54% of packaging being recyclable. Using recyclable packaging and tape from other small businesses, Harriet tries her best to think about her business ethos when purchasing supplies
‘I think you would be a bit hypocritical if you said charity shopping and repurposing clothes is really good for the environment and then turning around and putting your product in plastic.’
Harriet wanted to add transparency to her brand, so she disclosed her spending and costs to her customers, with more than 30% of profits going back into charity shops and 15% going to other small businesses for packaging.
Sewing clothes from a young age Harriet took to running her Depop business easily, but she says that the hardest part is dealing with customers.
‘Sometimes people message you but they are just time wasters. You have to put a lot of effort into having a conversation with them, replying on time and fitting the product to them. At the end of it all, they might not even buy anything.’
She also mentioned about some users misusing the app. ‘You do get some weirdos as well, who want to smell your clothes or something, which is not nice. Sometimes harassment can happen from disgruntled customers or just general trolls.’
However these issues can be easy to report, Depop’s terms of service states that any, ‘unlawful content, bullying, threatening, harassing, offensive, defamatory, derogatory or uses bad or rude language’, is in breach and will get the user banned.
Recently bought by Etsy, Depop is growing fast with over 30 million users across 150 countries and £1 billion made by the Depop community to date. Buying and reselling clothes is becoming the new norm, whether it’s to make wardrobe space or for the environment, anyone can do it from any place. For low income earners like students, it can be a great way to help the planet whilst making a few pounds.