Is buying second-hand ethical if it is a fast fashion item? Answering your ethical fashion questions!

Seeing as I do get asked quite a few ethical fashion questions in real life (and should probably do a post about these q’s so I shall try to remember them!) I thought I would take to the internet and ask them on here as well! It is a great way to find out answers to questions you might not have thought about before, or ones that even I had thought of so I hope I can dispel some of your queries regarding buying ethically. Maybe this may turn into a series on my blog?

Is buying second hand considered ethical even if the item wasn’t produced ethically?

I think this isn’t just a question of the item but also the language that surrounds clothing that is either ‘ethical’,’sustainable’ or both. So yes the item isn’t produced ethically but it is still sustainable as it didn’t go to waste or landfill and you’re giving it a loving home. I think as a result of the principles as to why you’re buying that item it can be ethical. I did a quick google as to the definition of ‘ethical’ and it came up with: relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these so I think that you are definitely ethically buying because of the principles that have guided you to make that purchase. With buying second hand fast-fashion though, be careful about what you buy! Have a look at the labels and see what material it is made out of because it may be that it is a fabric that might not last that long. I think on my next solo charity shopping trip I’ll bring my camera and write a tips and tricks of charity shopping post because there are definitely ways in going to second-hand shops with a more attuned eye: Becky from Cruelty Free Becky is someone who does this incredibly well.

Do you think it’s okay to spend gift cards in unethical shops?

I’m divided on this question. Whenever I get given a voucher from an unethical shop, say Zara for example, I know that the voucher will most probably be better used by someone else so I usually give it to my mum or a friend. I know it can be hard to see me writing that as someone who should probably be advocating ethical fashion all the time but I’m all about being honest on here and that is my honest answer, we can’t be the perfect consumer all the time. However, if it is a shop like New Look or Urban Outfitters I will use the voucher myself, for things that will last. Homeware, books or notebooks or for example; Urban Outfitters in particular is great for selling independent artists/authors. There are more sustainable ways of spending a voucher in an unethical shop but it just depends how strong you feel about boycotting them.

Do you feel a pressure to buy ethical clothing as you advocate ethical fashion? 

Yes and no. Yes because I feel that if I were ever to buy something from a fast-fashion brand or a brand that wasn’t totally ethical/controversial in its information about the brands ethics then I would feel responsible for putting that out online for those of you that read my blog to see. I always try to practice what I preach so of course that would come with some guilt if I were to do that. On the other hand, I absolutely love what I do and want to continue advocating ethical and sustainable fashion because in today’s society it is something needs to be discussed, the recent news stories about Bangladesh ejecting safety inspectors is testimony to the constant up and down state of workers rights and of concerns with fast-fashion. I’ve been in contact with some amazing people as a result of ethical fashion; they spur me on to be a better consumer and ultimately it feels great to buy something that is ethical and thoroughly loved.

What made you want to start buying ethically?

I’m not really sure what the point was where I was like… ‘YASSS!! This could change something’ but it was more like a lead up with little changes that made me realise it was a possibility to buy ethically without spending all the money I earn on one item of clothing. In Year 9, so when I was about 14, my Geography teacher set us all a project about Primark and its manufacturing methods. Needless to say I was shocked and vouched never to buy from Primark again. On top of that, given that I did Textiles for GCSE we had to learn about organic cotton and I actually made a toy fox from organic cotton and dyed it using onion skin. Learning about more the sustainable side of fashion also aided my desire to write about it and learn more and share what I’ve learnt. I’d like to think that my blog would become kind of a portfolio for ethical fashion tips, whether that is as a student or just those looking for ethical inspiration.

Is buying ethical clothing only possible if you’re in a position of privilege?

Yes and no. While it is true that some new ethical clothing brands can be incredibly expensive, they’re purchases with the intention of lasting for years longer than usual fast fashion items. So it may seem like a lot at the time to spend but the price per wear may be the same. That said, it isn’t like a lot of people have the funds to be spending extortionate amounts on new clothes. I did a post about buying ethically as a student but it really applies to anyone who is on a budget. There are ways to buy ethically beyond the face value brands that you may consider a lot more expensive. If you do have your heart set on buying new clothes, however, try and hunt for the clothes that you desire in the sales! People Tree in particular are so great for this. The truth is, if you do have the money available to spend a lot on ethical fashion the options are definitely there. But for most of us that don’t, there are other ways. Don’t lose faith!

Favourite place to shop vintage? 

I thought this was quite a nice question to end on. I personally just live for charity shops and there isn’t a particular vintage shop that I would recommend, especially in the UK as I don’t live in a big city like London or Bristol. When I went to Stockholm, there was this incredibly curated vintage shop called Humana Second Hand so if you’re ever in Sweden I would highly recommend checking one out! Online, I’m a huge fan of Depop and I’ve finally caved and bought my first purchase from ASOS Marketplace as well so I would highly recommend them for online vintage goods. I know there are lots of gorgeous vintage stores on Instagram but most of them are based in Paris or America *books train/plane ticket just to be able to purchase their clothes* so they’re just a figure of inspiration at the moment. Also, a lot of vintage clothing can be priced so expensively so it is always worth hunting out the best buy. One brand based in the UK and that I found through Tolly is Dirty Disco who also happen to be on ASOS Marketplace 🙂 

If you got the end, I applaud you! The ethical content is dwindling on here but then my content is petering out as a whole. I promise I’m not going to disappear in thin air; life is just a lil’ busy (as I have expressed in every post since September it seems).

To conclude, I got quite a few questions about just living more ethically in general so if you would like me to do a post on them then do like me know! Also if you have any subsequent q’s I shall try my best to answer them in the comments/twitter/instagram.

lots of love, eleanor xx


  1. Kate 2nd December 2018 at 8:40 pm

    Loved reading this post Eleanor and such beautiful pictures!! I’ve been looking into dying fabric with vegetables as I saw someone do it on YouTube and it really fascinated me! I think I might dye some fabric with vegetables in my textiles work this year!!
    I’m trying to be more conscious myself but I find it so hard to steer clear from Zara and shops like that! I haven’t stepped in Primark in absolute months though! But now I just buy things that I know I ‘need’ and Depop is my fave place !! I really edmire your ethical shopping and fashion!!
    Kate Xxx

  2. Kate 2nd December 2018 at 9:33 pm

    I loved this so much! I’ve been an avid thrift shopper for years now, but surprisingly I had never actually thought about it much from an ethical point of view-I just loved it because it was cheaper for my student budget and you can find some super unusual things! This post really made me think about the ethical side of things and it’s definitely something I’d like to get in to a bit more. I’m also low key addicted to Depop, haha-I suppose there are much worse things to be addicted to? :p xx

  3. Grace 3rd December 2018 at 4:58 pm

    This post was so insightful Eleanor! I always love reading your ethical fashion posts and it has definitely inspired me to be more concious of what I’m buying. I am definitely trying to limit myself on what I buy from fast fashion shops even though it can definitely be tempting at times!
    Grace xx

  4. venus 5th December 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Love this post! I’ve recently made the decision to stop buying from fast fashion brands and reading your responses to these questions (and your other blog posts) were great! It would be so great to know your tips and tricks for shopping at charity shops!

    venus |

  5. Beth 16th December 2018 at 4:15 pm

    I really enjoyed this, Eleanor! I think a lot of people will find it useful, especially now the impact of fast fashion is being talked about more. I’ve been trying to shop less and buy more ethical, sustainable clothing, and I’m also trying to get into the habit of going to charity shops. There’s a vintage store in my town that I’ve never been to and this has reminded me to pay a visit! xx


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