February 22, 2024


Youth trendy style

9 alternatives to fast fashion – from pre-loved shopping to hosting clothes swap parties

As a society, we now own five times as many clothes as our grandparents ever did.

Many of us have a tendency to buy inexpensive clothes without thinking about where they came from and treating our clothes as disposable items without thinking about where they’ll end up when we get rid of them.

As a result, Environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, has launched their ‘Fashion Forever’ campaign to raise awareness of this growing problem and to encourage people to reuse the clothes they already have, repair instead of replacing, and reimagine what’s already in their wardrobe.

As many of us look for alternatives to fast fashion, here’s 9 tips to help you get the most out of your clothes – and help the environment in the process.

1. Shop your own wardrobe

How many of us use every item in our wardrobes on a regular basis? Wardrobes can sometimes resemble storage closets with the number of clothes we throw in there and never think of again.

So the next time you get the urge to buy a new top, why not shop your own wardrobe first to see what great pieces are hidden away that you’ve forgotten about?

2. Shop sustainably

Local designer Síofra Caherty from Jump the Hedges turns truck tarpaulin and aeroplane seat materials into bags.

Many of the clothes we wear are manufactured in places that have harsh working conditions and little environmental regulations, with some brands only interested in keeping up with ever-evolving trends.

But there’s plenty of slow fashion brands that are dedicated to making sustainability simple.

In many cases, those who manufacture ethically also have better quality products, as they care more about actually making good clothes rather than mass-producing for a quick turnover. A great place to find these companies is to look at Fair Trade clothing brands.

We also have a plethora of local clothing brands, designers, and shops that have committed to manufacturing their items in this way. Some of our favourites include: Jump The Hedges, Trek NI, Lines & Current and Mala Sustainable Bags.

3. Shop smart

In a recent Belfast Live poll, 42% of you fessed up to wearing new clothes once before chucking them out. So if you feel like you want to buy from a big chain, that you know uses the fast fashion model, ask yourself: are you going to wear that item enough times to justify buying it? If not, is it really worth it?

On top of that, keep an eye out for what type of clothes you’re buying. If an item is expensive but is much better quality than the alternative, think of buying it as a smart investment.

The point of this isn’t to disapprove of every single purchase that someone makes – this is about turning people into smarter, more informed shoppers. As Vivienne Westwood said: “Buy less, choose well, make it last”.

4. Buy pre-loved

This might be one that has to wait until the end of lockdown when shops have reopened, but who doesn’t love trawling through a vintage shop and discovering some incredible finds? If you can’t wait until shops are open, a great alternative is to shop for pre-loved clothes online.

A recent Belfast Live Instagram poll showed that a whopping 62% of people have never sold their old clothes online.

With social-shopping apps like Depop becoming more and more popular in the modern age, there’s a huge online marketplace for pre-loved clothes and bargains to be had.

5. Repair before you replace

Think twice about getting rid of your ripped jeans or favourite top with a hole in it. Surprisingly, with a little TLC small rips, holes and missing buttons can be easily fixed.

There are dozens of helpful guides online for those who want to do repairs themselves. Check out for tutorials on how to repair, upcycle and repurpose.

Alternatively, get to know your local alterations shop and cobbler.

6. Sell through a consignment store

The Wardrobe, Newtownards Road Belfast sells preloved affordable fashion on a consignment basis and is passionate about sustainable, eco-friendly slow fashion.

There are loads of pre-loved stores throughout Northern Ireland, offering you plenty of choice. But have you ever thought of making cash through a consignment store? These are retailers who will sell used clothes on your behalf, either in their store or on their website. There’s no upfront charge, but the consignment store will split the proceeds of the sale with you.

Check out The Wardrobe for Belfast’s newest fashion consignment store.

7. Have a clothes swap party

Clothes swapping parties are perfect ways of trading your unwanted clothes with friends and family. Not only that, but they’re certainly much less expensive than buying new clothes full price.

Clothes swapping parties can be done via Zoom, meaning they can be a fun, social ways to catch up with friends during lockdown.

8. Give your clothes a new life with some DIY

An alternative that will unlock the creativity in you.

You can give your old clothes a new life by embracing some DIY ideas and turning them into something original. Why not paint a design on your old leather jacket? Or cut an old shirt into a halter neck top?

There are dozens of helpful guides online for those who want to get creative when it comes to reusing and remaking their clothes.

9. Give your old clothes to a recycling centre

We understand that not every piece of clothing is going to be made into something new, or will be suitable for a charity shop. But rather than simply throwing your old clothes away, you can recycle them at a recycling centre.

To do this, you should check to see if your council collects clothes and textiles to be recycled. Then, it’s as simple as dropping off your unwanted items at the nearest recycling point (these can include clothing and textile banks in supermarkets or local car parks.

For more inspiration on what to do with your unwanted clothing and textile follow Fashion Forever on Instagram @FashionForeverNI.

Live Here Love Here, a partnership between DAERA, Local Councils, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, along with BelfastLive have established a partnership to highlight the problem of Fast Fashion and inspire others to reduce, reuse and reimagine their clothing instead of sending it to landfill.