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The second life of pre-loved clothes

The second life of pre-loved clothes

By Valentina De Santis 


If you are a regular shopper, you must have experienced a moment when, after only a few times wearing a very desired trend-piece, suddenly, you’ve fallen out of love with it that finished piled up with more unwanted and unnecessary purchases.


circular fashion and recycling

Accumulating clothes is very easy indeed. WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) reports that, on average, 30% of people’s clothing has not been worn for at least one year. The good news is that old clothes don’t necessarily have to keep occupying your life or, worse, decompose in landfills for decades. There are several options to get rid of garments you don’t wear anymore while contributing to a circular consumption of fashion. Before looking at ways to recycle old clothes, ask yourself the following three questions:


1) Do I want to discard it?

2) Can I find new ways or outfits to wear it?

3) Will I want it back once it’s gone?


After dismissing the idea of owning that pre-loved garment, then you should consider alternatives that can guarantee your clothes recycle or recovery. Let’s explore some of them.   



After lockdown, two-thirds of the UK population will donate discarded fashion. Donating is a very easy and the most generous option to recycle old clothes. The UK has several charitable organisations, like Oxfam or the Red Cross, that accept donations which sale is used in support of good causes.

recycled denim and circular economy


Online, you can find guidelines on box shipping methods to send your selection of old clothes or, rather, go to a local charity shop and bring them yourself. Another choice is looking into services such as IColletClothes, Collectmyclothes and Donate that provide you with home pick-ups of apparel products. Later on, they ensure that your old clothes are either re-fashioned or recycled. Instead, if your unwanted clothes are not in the condition to be donated, LoveYourClothes helps you find the closest textile recycling bank that deals with discarded clothes and regenerates alternative fibres.



In the last years, pre-owned fashion is trending and has become a means for an easy-to-make business. Yes, you got me right, old clothes can turn into cash. There are many e-commerce platforms and mobile applications that provide ideal marketplaces for unwanted clothes. Apart from the pretty old-fashioned e-bay, there are more specialised platforms to buy or sell used fashion. To choose the most appropriate, you should consider the value and state of your unwanted garment.


what is circular fashion and how to improve our footprint

Vestiaire Collective is best for luxury pieces or designer clothes, while depop and Shpock, both downloadable from AppStore and GooglePlay, are perfect for selling high-street fashion.

Lately, Vinted, a Lithuanian online marketplace, has led the digital trade of second-hand clothes across thirteen European countries. Finally, despite being sometimes underrated, Facebook and Instagram are additional tools to sell vintage clothes.



Don’t forget that many brands are now more than happy to receive your clothes back once they are too damaged or out of fashion. Today, return or recycle schemes are integral parts of many companies’ supply chains. 

The H&M Group, which represents labels such as H&M and OtherStories, encourages customers to return empty packaging, pre-loved garments, or fabrics in exchange for a 10% voucher. Always check out a brand’s website to ensure that it provides similar services. If so, make the most of them.


If you still don’t find the options above very exciting, why don’t considering swapping? Fashion-swap is a less known, but still popular, way to insert your clothes into a circular system. It consists of exchanging clothes among shoppers who have the same desire as you to get rid of old threads and update their style.


Several London-based swap shops, like the swap studio Don’tShopSwap, specialise in the cashless bring-and-buy sale. Their system is very easy: you pass on your unwanted item to someone else and, in exchange, bring a pre-owned piece of the same value back home.


Despite the ‘buy less, buy better’ rule should be everyone’s mantra, clothes fill to overflowing in most wardrobes. Fortunately, thanks to these strategies of circular economy, you don’t have any excuse not to give a fashion item its deserved second life. Don’t discard it, recycle it.