How a cute blouse with little birds changed my worldview

For a long time, I told myself there was nothing wrong with shopping at Primark stores. When I was ‘grown up’ and had a real money paying job, there would be enough time for conscious consuming and more expensive stores. Fashion, shopping and expressing my identity through the clothes I wear is one of my biggest hobbies. So I wasn’t willing to compromise in that area. “And so what,” I told my grandmother, if the clothes were worn out after a year? There was a big change I wouldn’t wear them by then anyway.

But my views changed drastically this fall. It all started with a nice, cute Primark-blouse with little birds all over it. I was in heaven and named the piece my new interview blouse. Nevertheless, the fairy-tale wouldn’t last long. After one wash, the blouse shrunk to size extra small… The only duty left for the blouse was hanging outside my wardrobe being pretty. But then it struck me: my best friend has a more petite anatomy, perhaps I could do her a favour.

“But the wastefulness of consuming bad fabricated clothes is just as shameful”

The situation got me thinking. I was always silently apologizing to the little children who presumably made my Primark-clothes. But the wastefulness of consuming bad fabricated clothes, which only last one season before falling apart, is just as shameful. I always praised myself as a conscious consumer for buying less meat than average. But those clothes are also made of energy. Energy that should last longer than one wash. And if the clothes do not stay with me, because I grow bored of them, at least I should give them to a new owner. In this way, the way I consumed over the past four years, I was a big supporter of the linear economy. Most of the time, I didn’t even try to donate my torn clothes to charity. All my Primark clothes ended up at the waste disposal. This ought to change, I want to participate in a more circular economy.

Apart from an old army bag, I never really bought any second-hand or vintage clothes. Sometimes I swapped clothes with my sister, sure, but that’s it. Even though those stores are all the rage nowadays. So after the blouse-incident, I explored the options Leiden had to offer. I was surprised. For example, Hartendief, a new vintage store in the famous characteristic Breestraat, became one of my favourite stores – they even have a jar full of ‘lost’ Scrabble stones! But in Modejacht and Olive Oyl’s Rusty Zipper I also found some nice pieces. Last month I even visited the famous Vintage per Kilo-sales in Rotterdam, which travels through the Netherlands. How nice would it be if the next one was in Leiden?

“The only thing that could improve, is a pick-up service for old clothes in the way they pick up trash”

Fortunately, the municipality of Leiden understood the importance of circularity somewhat sooner than I did. They constructed a complete information brochure summarizing all ways to donate, sell or dispose your old clothes. They explicitly mention the thrift store Het Warenhuis – almost as nice as an IKEA – which also gets all the bikes, to patch up and sell, the municipality takes away in the citycentre. How wonderful is that! I’m grateful to live in a city that stimulates a longer lifespan and new purpose for ‘old’ clothes. The only thing that possibly could improve, is a pick-up service for old clothes in the way they pick up trash. Maybe this is some nice idea for the future? Although I still would have given the cute blouse to my friend!

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4 thoughts on “How a cute blouse with little birds changed my worldview”

  1. Hi Laura, I really liked to read how your mindset was changed! I try to ear clothes as long as possible, and I donate them to charity afterwards. Donating to charity is very easy: the organisation drops a plastic bag in your mailbox. On the bag, information about the pick-up date and time is provided: you just have to dispose your unwanted clothes in the bag and put it at your front door on that time and date.A pick-up service makes it indeed much more easier for people to give their clothes a new life! Do you happen to know if a charity organization is doing such a thing in Leiden? Furthermore, do you think a recycling program, like H&M’s program: https://about.hm.com/en/sustainability/get-involved/recycle-your-clothes.html
    is a good idea(recycling is better than just throwing away) or only will work in the opposite direction?
    In the opposite direction meaning: people get rid of their clothes with a ‘good feeling” (because they are doing something sustainable) and will buy new clothes sooner because of the 10% off they receive when they hand in their old/unwanted clothes, so this will result in faster disposal & more buying, which is in the end less sustainable.

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  2. i think the H&M’s program should be effective. even if people would end up buying the clothes faster it would also mean that nothing is lost as long as they are reused. But with their plans i would like if they would not only make it about clothes but also other materials like towels or the cleaning cloths they mention themselves so the fibers would not be lost and can be used for the reproduction or recycling.
    But If that could be actualized and adverrtised it might be needed to be done by the government.

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  3. I have been thinking about this clothing issue a lot because I, too, enjoy expressing myself with clothes. I have come to a conclusion that the best option for me is to really limit the overall amount of clothes I own and buy, and overall slow down. I always used only a fraction of all my clothes. It is inefficient because the individual clothes get very little use compared to the used resources. Also, if/when my taste changes, having a great amount of clothes I “need” to update is greater. Now, I do not own as much clothes as before but as I have become more thoughtful, most of them are “my favourites” that I use intensively until they break beyond repair. This change does take some thought, because I want to make sure that most of my clothes can be paired with as many others as possible, that they are not too much in fashion (because those pieces tend to go heavily out of fashion again at some point) etc. However, I don’t have to struggle with “not having anything to wear” so much anymore and my closet is (slightly) neater than it used to be. Anyway, this is only my one person’s version of a long and intensive life cycle of a piece of clothing. Cycling clothing from person to person is indeed another good option if I sometimes get tired of a piece before its time. I want to check those second hand stores out, thanks!

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  4. @fennaworld Thank you for your reaction about the charity! I didn’t know there already was a good working pick-up system, I’ll definitely check it out. Especially because Ive read a lot about the strength of creating such an initiative in a local community. Supposedly, such initiatives work better on a smaller than on a larger scale; a short supply chain is easier made into a circular economy. On the other hand, the Netherlands are already kind of small, aren’t they?

    @fennaworld @lysannestolk Personally, I’m not crazy about the recycling program of H&M. It’s not that it isn’t a great initiative; more big, leading clothes stores should follow the example of the Swedish brand! But over the last few years I noticed my H&M-clothes are sometimes of even poorer quality than the ones from Primark… Since that time I’m kind of avoiding the store.

    @emmikimppa Thanks for your comment! I can really relate to that myself – although I’m not that successful yet in limiting the overall amount of clothes. But I found the perfect mobile app to assist with that goal: Cluise. https://itunes.apple.com/nl/app/cluise-wardrobe-organizer/id860000213?mt=8 Maybe it could be useful for you too! It takes a bit of time to photograph each piece of your wardrobe, but it’s worth your while. It is so well-ordered afterwards. You can make outfits, get insight in which clothes you have nothing to combine with and Cluise also helps to convince you that you don’t need that fifth pair of jeans.

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