Steve Powdrill meets Sarah Bennett Brixton’s maker and mender
The battle against fast fashion was waged all last month, with Second-hand September in full swing. Oxfam’s new initiative encouraged shoppers to ditch the high street and buy only second-hand clothes – with some taking the challenge of sustainable fashion even further.
“I’m not buying new for a year,” says vintage-lover Sarah Bennett, who runs Make Do And Mend in Pop Brixton.
Brimming with corduroy, tweed and denim, her much-loved stop for retro fashion is now in its fifth year. Despite the daily challenges of running your own business, the vintage clothing trade certainly comes with its perks. “If anyone can commit to not buying new clothes for a year, it’s got to be me!”
“Making do and mending” is an ethos that has been catching on, says Bennett, as Oxfam was reporting that 11 million items of clothing are sent to landfills each week in the UK.
“I’ve noticed a shift in the last few years … vintage has gone from being a niche thing, to being fashionable, to now, when people are seeking it out and making it a conscious lifestyle choice and committing to doing that.”
While buying from second-hand and charity shops is a great way to help save the planet, a knowledge of how to repair stained, ripped or ill-fitting clothing can save you pennies in the process.
Other initiatives to help combat the fashion industry’s burgeoning carbon emissions are under way. Love Your Clothes, a campaign started by London Recycles, is offering 20 free workshop classes to fashion-conscious Londoners on how to repair and adjust the clothing they love.
The classes will cover everything from mending buttons to altering waistlines and can be booked via their website.
Make Do and Mend’s popular alterations service has taken a short break – but Bennett tells me she hopes to bring it back – “That’s always been the idea of the business, to open somewhere that is a vintage shop, but also doing workshops and classes to help people learn how to repair or alter their clothes.”
Local second hand shoppers can instead look forward to the Brixton Vintage Kilo Sale, organised by the Make Do and Mend team. The sale is an eclectic mix of seasonal, trend-led items and vintage staples on offer for £15 a kilo at Pop Brixton.
For those who have never been to a kilo sale, clothes are weighed on a scale at the end – and Bennett tells me that just one kilo could contain a whole new outfit for autumn.
“There are rails and rails of clothes in all styles. It’s such a fun event with music, staff are really cool and friendly and it’s just a great atmosphere,” says Bennett.
Second-hand September may have ended, but for many the mission of sustainability in the fashion industry is far from shutting up shop.