The circular economy – part 1

About 20 years ago, shopping in thrift stores, charity shops, or consignment stores was slightly shameful. Even the words brought to mind untidy, cluttered shops with a certain musty smell, packed with junk. Racks of droopy, pilling sweaters, dusty VCR players and broken lamps, greasy shoes, and battered bookshelves.

My family had a second hand shop for years. Sure, there was tat that passed in and out, but there were also beautiful items sold for fraction of what they cost new. Things came in for several reasons.

  • estates of people who had passed on
  • things from house moves
  • families downsizing
  • change of decorating style
  • people needed money
  • emigration
  • unwanted gifts

In my family’s shop I discovered that older items were often beautifully made and not mass-produced. Many things are brand new. They are often unique. Some of my most beautiful items come from that shop. One of them was a glorious fold-down writing desk, with little drawers and cubbyholes for stationery items.

When it comes to clothes, many consignment stores and even charity shops are beautifully designed and curated these days. You can find unworn items with the tags still on, carefully worn items for next to nothing, unique beautifully-crafted vintage items. Often for a fraction of what you would pay brand new. Plus, if you buy pre-loved, you are keeping the items in circulation and helping the environment.

I read Vogue interviews with head designers of high fashion houses last year on the future of fashion. They unanimously declared that fast fashion cycles and disposable fashion had to become a thing of the past. I noticed this fashion season that many designers were using deadstock* fabrics from their archives. In Stockholm, so many fashion brands now offer a second-hand section on their sites, where you can buy reconditioned or past season items. H&M and several other stores allow you to bring old clothes (as tatty as you like) into their store, and receive gift vouchers.

Also in Stockholm, many beautifully-curated second hand stores are popping up. The items in them are exquisite, and really well priced. Some of my favourite Stockholm shops are

  • Judits This is where I sell most of my clothes and jewellery
  • Herr Judit For men
  • Brandstationen Furniture, jewellery, homewares
  • Arkivet my favourite place at the moment (the pictures are from there)
  • Agora a gorgeous outlet at the back of the shop
  • Lisa Larsson
  • Re-Robe
  • ReTuna – the world’s first recycling mall. There is an IKEA here that sells discontinued, vintage and reconditioned IKEA items. So many discontinued IKEA items are epic!
  • Green Squid 

Things to bear in mind when buying second hand:

  • don’t look at the size label. Vintage sizes were much smaller than today. If you like something, try it on. If it is too big or sleeves are too long etc, you can have it altered, but bear in mind this will add to the total cost
  • avoid clothing with stains or a smell. These seldom come out
  • sometimes second-hand clothing can be overpriced. Think what YOU would be prepared to pay, and if it is too much, leave it
  • for jewellery, buy a loupe so you can look for silver and gold hallmarks. Sometimes things are mislabeled.

Things to bear in mind when selling second hand:

  • don’t expect to make a profit. Stores can take up to 60% of the sales price to sell your item. Which is fair enough as they are doing all the work
  • if you are never going to use it and don’t want to sell it yourself, take what you are offered and use that towards something you WILL wear. Not selling it because you can’t make your money back, and having it in your closet chiding you forever is not a win for you
  • if you are not sure about selling, put it where you cannot see it for about six months. If you haven’t missed it, it’s time to sell
  • consignment shops have to make a profit so they are often ruthless about what they will take. Don’t take this as an insult.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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