First class second-hand at London Fashion Week

February 24, 2012

Aesthetics, Events, Fashion, The Info Pages

Last week I featured Oxfam in my London Fashion Week preview, making the bold statement that ‘old can be just as good as new’. This might be a litte controversial considering the fashion industry relies on renewal, innovation and change, but I decided to put my theory to the test by attending this LFW wearing only second-hand clothing, buying nothing new.

Second-hand dress, first-class fashion approval! Dress and belt from Oxfam, bag by Dialog, shoes by Terra Plana, necklace antique shop

This idea was also a reaction to the predictable fashion features I see each February and September entitled something along the lines of ‘What to wear at London Fashion Week’, or ‘How to dress like a fashion editor’. The implication being you must buy new stuff and be ‘bang on trend’ if you are to fit in amongst the fashion pack. This seems to me to be a) rather pointless for the millions of Brits who do not attend LFW b) just another way to get us all looking like fashion clones and c) simply encouraging us to buy more stuff that we do not need.

Ok, I am the first to admit that fashion is rarely about need. Rather, it is about creativity, self-expression and having an emotional connection to what we wear. However it can also be about tribes, social ‘uniforms’ and fitting in, hence why we might feel the urge to wear what we are told or what is deemed acceptable. But, it seems to me there isn’t much creativity or self-expression in buying new stuff in order to emulate someone else and I generally avoid wearing what’s ’bang on trend’ (I didn’t buy a pair of skinny jeans for years after they came back into fashion in the noughties, so adamant was I that I did not want to just follow fashion).
Zoe Robinson at LFW wearing Beyond Retro dress

As good as new: dress from Beyond Retro, bag, shirt and belt Oxfam, boots are my Mum's from 70s!

Right, ranty bit over. Back to my challenge. When I cured myself of my fast fashion addiction five years ago, browsing through second-hand rails became my new hobby. Much of my wardrobe hails from one fine charity shop or another, so this little self-imposed second hand challenge was not a stretch. But how would I know if I was successful? I guess the test would be whether my second-hand outfits were well-received – or would I stop the show and get laughed off the front row? Would I get as far as registration and be rejected for not wearing the ‘uniform’ of a fashion editor? Or, worse still, would the security at the gates of Somerset house not only refuse me entry but throw a black cloak over my head, bundle me into a taxi and send me back to whence I came, never to darken those famous flagstones ever again?

Well, I am pleased (but none too surprised) to report that it all went rather well. In fact I was stopped a number of times by people who just wanted to tell me how much they loved the floor length vintage shirt dress from Oxfam I am wearing (left). In one fashion show I was even recognised by my coat – up-cycled by Junky Styling – from a blog I’d written about it a couple of weeks ago. And my vintage Oxfam knitting bag, paisley dress from Beyond Retro and my Mum’s 70s boots (above) were a bit of a talking point with designers at Somerset House.

Close-up: Vintage knitting bag from Oxfam

The only bits of my LFW outfits that weren’t strictly speaking second hand were my Terra Plana shoes and Dialog bag, but as I’ve owned each for a couple of years and both have recycled elements, I figure it wasn’t really cheating…

I am lucky to live right by the longest high road in Europe so I have my pick of charity shops, but if you don’t have one on your doorstep, then I highly recommend having a look at Oxfam’s online second hand and vintage store (and check out their clothes care guide for tips on how to make your wardrobe last).

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About Zoe Robinson

Zoe is the founder of Think Style, an award-winning ethical style consultancy. She writes and advises on ethical fashion and has a brilliant eye for vintage and charity shopping. Zoe aims to dress the world in future-kind fashion.

View all posts by Zoe Robinson
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