Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

It is a shock to no one that 2020 joins the growing list of years of unprecedented events brought about by humanity’s misuse of the planet. You need only look at the climate-induced megafires that have ravaged land from Australia to America and the flash floods that have followed. Even COVID-19 itself can be linked to humanity’s ever-increasing encroachment on nature and the mass disruption of Earth’s ecosystems.

Our destruction of the planet seems to stem from every aspect of modern life and appears completely out of control. However, according to Sir David Attenborough, “if we make the right decisions at this critical moment,” we can still “create a better future.” One major change we can all make can be found in a decision we make every single day — what are we going to wear?

Fashion in its current form poses an enormous threat to the health of the planet and its people. To take just one example: 1.1 billion people currently lack access to clean water, and yet the amount of water used to make one cotton t-shirt could provide a person with three years’ worth of safe water. Moreover, the sheer levels of consumption in the industry are stomach-churning. While clothing production worldwide has doubled since 2000, the amount being thrown away has also skyrocketed. The UK alone disposes of two million tonnes of garments and textiles per year, with the vast majority ending up in landfills. However, hope is not lost.

Enter, Bay Garnett. Garnett, whose enviable career in fashion includes British Vogue, Chloé and Selfridges, has made a name for herself through championing alternatives to fast fashion. By donning Kate Moss in a thrifted top for British Vogue in 2003, Garnett cemented her reputation as fashion’s ‘Queen of Second-Hand’. This year is no exception as she is bringing charity shopping to the luxury department store.

Since teaming up with the charity back in 2017 to style the radical runway show, ‘Fashion Fighting Poverty’, Garnett has been Oxfam’s Senior Fashion Adviser and this month is promoting ‘Second Hand September’ in an Oxfam pop-up at Selfridges. “It’s about shifting the perception of second-hand clothes,” she told the Evening Standard, “to make it a premium experience.” Premium, certainly, but also affordable!

Though brands such as Bite, Phoebe English and Stella McCartney work sustainable fabrics and circular production models into their DNA to produce environmentally-friendly apparel options, the average consumer is priced out of their market. It is unsurprising that not enough change is being brought about when it is simply not feasible for most people to create a wardrobe if each item will set you back three, or even four, figures.

On the other hand, prolonging the lifespan of each garment by keeping it in circulation for much longer is a proven sustainable option which has the dual benefit of combatting the vast waste at the heart of fashion and being cheap while doing it. Certainly, it is possible to spend your three figures on vintage designer pieces, but Oxfam’s popup and online platforms such as Depop prove that it is possible to have a curated, personal and sustainable wardrobe without having to break the bank to create it.

By taking cues from the likes of Bay Garnett, we can all build sustainability into our daily lives. While it is ultimately up to policy makers and corporation giants to enact truly substantial change, it is nevertheless necessary for us all to play our part. Once more in the wise words of Sir David Attenborough, “what happens next, is up to every one of us.”