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Image / Style / Sustainable Style

Pre-loved gift giving could be your saving grace this year


By Sarah Finnan
12th Dec 2023

Lore Schodts via Unsplash

Pre-loved gift giving could be your saving grace this year

With the climate crisis fresh in people's minds, so too is sustainability and pre-loved gifting could be the answer this Christmas.

Festive occasions can be quite wasteful. Halloween, Christmas, Easter; they all incur huge amounts of rubbish, most of it millions of kilos of plastic that is used to make products that ultimately find their way straight back to landfill. 

It can be easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in the rush of it all though, particularly at Christmas – a time that thrives off of materialistic pursuits. Overconsumption extends to all areas of life during silly season. From excessive present buying to ensuring your fridge is stocked beyond capacity, the common mentality often is “more, more, more”. 

Even the attitude towards clothing changes in the run-up to December 25th. An increase in the number of social commitments we have coming up means that the pressure to present ourselves a certain way suddenly shoots up too. We con ourselves into thinking that none of the outfits we have hanging in our wardrobes are good enough and it’s hard to ignore the impulse to spend our hard-earned cash when it’s whispering “new coat” relentlessly in our ears. 

Nuw – a unique clothes sharing app and community across Ireland/the UK – wanted to do a little bit of digging on the theme of refreshing wardrobes though and according to their research, 56% of young people are planning to give more sustainable (and affordable) gifts a go this holiday season. So, it’s not all bad news all the time. 

Opting for pre-loved fashion has become much more the norm in recent years, largely thanks to campaigns such as Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember. Over 62,000 pledged to stick to second-hand shopping for the entirety of the month back in 2019, and thousands of people have re-signed up to do the same in the years following. 

Keeping that same momentum going year-round (without the continuous encouragement of such movements) can be a challenge, but with the climate crisis of ever-growing concern, sustainability has become much more of a focus once again. 

“There are plenty of different methods and platforms you can use to swap fashion and other items as gifts for friends and family,” Nuw founder and one of Ireland’s 30 under 30, Aisling Byrne, tells me. “Host an IRL swap event with friends – just not the group you’ll be gifting to! You can find a range of items on swapz.co.uk, which allows you to buy, sell or swap directly for a range of items.” The list goes on. 

Speaking specifically of Nuw, the app she set up eight years ago in 2015, Aisling confirms that you’ll find a huge range of clothing (mostly womenswear) to choose from. “You’ll find upcycled brands like Revival London or unique handmade pieces designed by members, as well as luxury vintage pieces and high-end designers,” she notes. “We’re talking Max Mara dresses, Fiorelli handbags, and Levi’s jeans to name a few.” The main thing to keep in mind here is that secondhand doesn’t mean useless – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes (metaphorically speaking of course). 

Opting for a pre-loved gift has many benefits. It’s usually less expensive, for one. It’s also much more personal, for another. Going into a large department shop and picking something straight off the shelf (of which there are probably tens, if not hundreds, of other copies in stock) doesn’t really show someone how much you care. That’s not to say that you didn’t put any thought into what you bought them, but it’s a present underlined by ease. You saw the item in the window, you ran in and picked it up, all without losing even five minutes off your commute.

Purchasing second-hand, though tricker, allows for more room for creativity. Each piece is almost limited edition, which not only makes for more unique gifts but means that each one has history too. Include a note about when the product was made, where it came from, or why it made you think of the person you’re giving it to – lots of smiling, guaranteed.

How does one use the app to find pre-loved goods? Well, you’ll have to list an item of your own first, so it’s an exchange system of sorts. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you decide to part with – be it an old debs dress, a coat you never wear anymore or a present you got that isn’t quite your style – just upload a photo of the item and you’ll be given a token that you can then use to grab anything you like on the app. 

Though everything sold on the app is in relatively good condition, it would probably be no harm to give things a proper clean before re-gifting them. Give The Folding Lady a watch on TikTok to see how to achieve an impressive shop-standard fold, then wrap your purchases up et voilà, you have yourself a perfectly lovely pre-loved Christmas gift.

This article was originally published in December 2021.