Spice Vintage’s Grace Collier on keeping the Second Hand September enthusiasm going all year long
Second Hand September may be over, but sustainability doesn’t start and end with just one month of the year and Grace Collier of Spice Vintage has some very useful tips on how to continue the momentum.
Searches for second hand goods surge every year during the month of September, all fueled by a 30-day campaign spearheaded by Oxfam. Encouraging people to re-evaluate their shopping habits and only purchase pre-loved items (if at all!), the movement has really taken off since its inception with countless people around the world agreeing to partake.
Great as that is though, it’s important to ensure that the momentum continues beyond just one month. Deciding to curb your shopping habit for four weeks, only to then splurge and buy it all in October, defeats the purpose.
How do you encourage people to move forward after Secondhand September though? It’s all about small steps according to Grace Collier of Spice Vintage who shared some of her top tips with me. Likening it to Veganuary, another trend that’s cropped up online in the past few years, Grace notes that making the move over to more sustainable shopping methods can be intimidating for some.
“I feel like a lot of people find it quite daunting to move into sustainable fashion and I think with Sustainable September (or Second Hand September) it kind of makes people realise that ‘Hey, that actually wasn’t that hard. It wasn’t that difficult’. My auntie did Sustainable September a couple of years ago and she kept it going and she did a full year – which is amazing! I’ve never even done a full year… I’ve broken it for socks and knickers,” she laughed.
“What I would say to people is, if they feel connected to Sustainable September – if they had a good time and they found that it was easy and it suited their life and their budget and everything – then they should definitely move forward and just buy less. That would be my advice,” she continued.
It sounds simple, because it is (or at least, in theory it is).
“Whenever I do sustainable fashion talks, that’s kind of what it always boils down to. Just buy less and buy less frequently. Ask yourself the question at the checkout, ‘Do I need this?’, and generally if you tap into that feeling of ‘Do I actually need this?’, nine out of 10 times the buyer won’t actually need what they’re about to buy. I know myself, I use it and it actually really, really works.
“I suppose other tips are to get involved in second hand websites, so, Depop, Etsy, eBay. The way that I shop is that if I see something that I like, say on an Instagrammer or in the window of Zara as I’m walking by, I’ll take down the description and I’ll pop it into Depop. Nine out of 10 times, I’ll get the item second hand. It’s just that extra bit of effort but that’s how I like to shop… it’s also cheaper as well.”
Recounting how she came across a pair of trainers that she loved (but that were super expensive), Grace simply searched the exact product description on Depop and managed to get them for half price. “I like putting specific things into Depop. A lot of girls ask me, ‘Oh, do you follow certain people?’, but that’s just not how I shop on Depop. I always just look for specifics.”
Another must is opting for well-made products that last. “My sister, she doesn’t shop sustainably but what she does is, she doesn’t shop often. She literally wears things that she’s had for 10 years. She’s still wearing H&M from 10 years ago because she buys well and she buys classic and timeless pieces that mean she can keep churning them out year after year.”
So, essentially it’s about: clever buying, buying less and engaging with second hand shops (such as Depop etc.) online.
Navigating the charity shop scene
Charity shopping and thrifting have also become much more the norm in recent years, but they require a certain “come what may” attitude. Unlike Depop which offers users a huge catalogue of products to search through, or big retailers where you know you can walk in and find twelve different types of blazers, there’s no guarantee that you’ll come across exactly what it is you’re looking for. So, flexibility is the key to success here.
“It is hard for people and I understand that. It’s not for everyone; if you have a natural flair for it great, but if you don’t then it can be harder to get into. If I was trying to get into charity shopping [as a newbie], I would kind of go with no specifics in mind. Just go based on feeling. If you have a day to kill you can just mosey around and just see if you can find something. The price point also makes it so accessible.”
Second hand all year round
While many people discover a love for second hand during September, keeping those same levels of enthusiasm for the rest of the year can be challenging. With no big social media campaign to drive you forward, it might be easy to fall back into bad habits. But it’s not about perfection!
“To continue it on, you kind of have to reflect on how it served you and how much you actually enjoyed it,” Grace pointed out. If you did enjoy it (and found it suited your lifestyle and budget), try to make it a part of how you shop moving forward. Don’t be too hard on yourself though. As with anything sustainability-related, even small steps amount to big ones and there’s no point setting yourself unrealistic goals that you’ll never achieve – going cold turkey and vowing never to buy fast fashion again, for example.
“Don’t make big commitments, be easy-going about it. Incorporate it into your already-existing shopping habits and that’s half the battle. Small changes – just start small. I think a lot of people are very, very hard on themselves but it’s just about making small changes and being kind to yourself… if you are making changes, that’s amazing and that’s all you can do. After that it will grow and grow and grow for you.”
“Being a complete sustainability crazy person just doesn’t work and it also scares other people off from joining you!” she joked. “I shop sustainably nearly all the time but I have no problem saying when I don’t because I’m only human and I don’t do it often, you know? I think there needs to be a little bit of compassion there, to just give yourself a little bit of leeway and if you’re making an effort in any capacity, that is so much better than making no effort at all.”
As social media followers of Grace’s will know, she’s been advocating for sustainable and second hand shopping methods long before they were considered to be in vogue. It’s not an exclusive club though – there’s enough room for everyone and she’s more than happy to help you find your dream ‘fit through her own vintage shop.