Practicing Sustaining

What A 100-Year Old Sweater Says About Fashion Today

“Hand-me-downs” are having a moment in fashion. There’s a hot trend of selling gently used high-end clothing, like those TV ads you see for Poshmark. Several top designers have featured outfits on the runway that are from a few seasons back but are remade to reflect their new influences and inspiration.

Currently, there are stylists who counsel their clients to have another look in the closet to see how they can reimagine pieces they already own versus buying new ones. That’s the stylish way. Vintage stores – both brick-and-mortar and online — are booming among Gen Z’ers who appreciate both the quality and unique designs of clothing from the past.

Second-hand shopping (or “recommerce”) is on fire, growing twice as fast as regular retail, in large part due to thrift-conscious buyers.

All of this is a very good thing. It’s estimated that we ditch 92 MILLION tons of clothing-related waste each and every year. Finding new ways to utilize what’s already available helps the planet, and offers creative opportunities versus disposable “fast fashion.”

“Fast fashion” allows us to quickly purchase trendy, often cheap, clothing to refresh our style. The downside, however, is the impact it has on our planet — since we tend to toss these items once we get bored with them. Then there’s how these inexpensive items are made, often using child labor in poor countries. These kids are paid hardly anything, and are typically taken out of school.

Taking a fresh look at existing clothing is a solution to many of the these problems. Designer Yuki Fujisawa, for example, has a particular love for old pieces. Her Tokyo atelier specializes in remaking vintage items (sometimes things that are a century old) into unique new items. And when one of her customers feels the need to refresh that vintage piece again (rather than throw it out), she comes up with yet another one-of-a-kind design, extending the lifecycle of clothing even more.

Want to dig a little deeper into this new trend of rethinking the clothes on our back (not to mention in our closets)? We recently helped to produce a TV series on sustainability for Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK. The third episode, Less Really Is More, features a story on fast fashion, plus some other stuff we think you’ll like. Please have a look and let us know what you think.

-Cindy Grogan

Photo by Markus Winkler (

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