Why thrift is making a joyful comeback

16th May 2022
Ellie Fazan

Rummaging in charity shops and car boot sales was once considered very much not the done thing. Now a new wave of eco-conscious shoppers are making thrifting trendy again. But is the art of thrift more of a way of life than just a movement…


“For style, fun and excitement there is nothing like an amazing thrift find,” beams stylist Bay Garnett. Often dubbed the Queen of Thrift, Bay has spent two decades pioneering the use of second-hand clothing in high fashion. “The Revival is the original event that has always celebrated second hand and vintage, ” says Bay.

Once tarnished by an association with poverty, with the support of TV shows like Escape to the Chateau: DIY and Make do and Mend, as well fashion influencers including Miquita Oliver, Alexa Chung and stylist, Bay Garnett, thrifting no longer carries the taboos it once did. In fact, according to Thredup, in 2019 the resale market grew 25 times faster than the broader retail sector, and it’s expected to keep on growing. “I think it’s amazing this huge new wave of young thrift-lovers,” says Bay. But thrift is more than a trend.


Thrift is a way of life

For some people, like Make do and Mend’s Angel Strawbridge, it’s a way of life. “My husband, Dick, has been passionate about this subject for decades upon decades,” she says. “We can see the effects that a disposable culture has and there seems to be a collective consciousness about protecting the planet and a real need to reuse and recycle wherever we can. During lockdown we were all at home looking for things to keep us entertained, so crafting, upcycling and home renovation projects that we had wanted to do for a very long time finally got the love and time they deserved.”

Bay agrees. “Everyone paused and stopped doing almost everything they had done before, and I think people really questioned not only what they spent their money on, but how they didn’t need or want all the stuff,” she says. “The climate crisis is here now and it’s so terrifying. The younger generation are so much more tapped into this. It’s cool to be conscious. And it’s cool to think for yourself and buy second hand.”


Thrift is better for the planet

The World Bank estimates that the fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions, which exceeds the footprint of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water – The Aral Sea, once the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world, is now a desert due to the demands of cotton production – and every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibres are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.

Of the total fibre input used for clothing, 87 per cent is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill. More disturbing still, according to UK charity the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) there could be as much as £39 billion of unused clothes hanging in the UK’s wardrobes right now.


Thrift is being brought into the mainstream

Shows like Escape to the Chateau: DIY and Make Do and Mend provide a platform for creative projects and encourage people to breathe new life into their possessions rather than simply replacing them. “We want to show people that you can achieve anything just by giving it a go!” says the shows’ presenter Angel. The term ‘Make do and Mend’ comes from a pamphlet issued by the British Ministry of Information in the midst of WWII, encouraging people to repair their clothes, wear them for longer, and to reuse worn-out clothes for another purpose.

It ushered in an era of people getting by with less and being more thrifty, values we still associate with our grandparents. “Both Dick and I come from large close-knit families,” says Angel. “We were raised to always respect our elders and their way of doing things has been passed down from generation to generation. When our grandparents were young there wasn’t the same disposable income, or choice, that there is today, so they did things by necessity. We try and pass these values down to our children. Car booting is one of my favourite thrifty activities. It’s been a passion of mine ever since I was a little girl. I get a real thrill from rummaging!” You can see some of Angel’s favourite finds by visiting her at home in her chateau in France, a homage to thrift and all its beauty.

Plus, thrift is better for your pocket

Thrift encompasses everything from furniture to fittings, clothing and cars and even cheaper cuts of meat. Buying vintage might sound more glamorous than buying second hand, but that’s just semantics. By giving old things a new lease of life, or looking for more sustainable ways to shop, you’re helping to save the planet, and making substantial savings as well.

This year at Revival, the Revive and Thrive Village will be packed to the rafters with artisans, experts and influencers sharing their wisdom around both thrifting and how to then repair, repurpose and restyle your haul. Learn how to transform old clothes into new looks, scrap metal into works of art and unloved furniture into stylish statement pieces. Book your tickets now to join the second-hand revolution.

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