How sustainable is vintage or second-hand fashion?

When we think of vintage and second-hand fashion, we often think of sustainability.

But how sustainable is it really to shop second hand? And what about fair fashion?

First of all, a brief overview of the clothing cycle, from production to the end customer:

After the clothes have been produced, they end up in our wardrobes via retail sales or online shops. When it is time for us to get rid of bad buys and unworn clothes, the items end up in the old clothes collection. From there, the clothes are pre-sorted into clothing and accessories such as shoes, belts, hats, etc.
The clothes are then sorted again. In the post-sorting stage, the clothes are then sorted according to quality, brands, trends, intactness and cleanliness.
Clothing that is still usable is packed for resale and sold to wholesalers (VintageFiasco) and shipped. The clothes are sorted again and sold to other traders. Afterwards, the goods end up again in the wardrobes of the end customers as second-hand fashion.

It’s quite a long way that vintage fashion has to go by the time it reaches the buyer.
So the process of transport and the long supply chains are not necessarily very sustainable.
Another point to consider when buying vintage and second hand is the mostly unfair conditions of the production of the clothes.
You continue to indirectly support these by buying the fashion. However, the difference between second-hand and vintage is that second-hand fashion is often not old and high-quality clothing. Vintage fashion, on the other hand, is at least 20 years old, so that the garment was not bought last year and has already been sorted out again. In terms of longevity, vintage fashion is definitely above second-hand fashion.

Buying vintage fashion is resource-friendly in that you buy clothes that have already been produced and continue to use them. If we look at fair fashion labels, the positive values here definitely lie in the socially sustainable production and the fair working conditions of the workers. In addition, materials are used that have been grown sustainably and ecologically. However, this production also consumes resources and the fair working conditions are also reflected in the price.

Vintage, second hand or fair fashion? So what is the best and most sustainable option?

The best purchase decision is probably still to consume consciously and to focus on quality and thus on longevity. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of consumption. But if everyone would cut down on mass consumption and question purchasing decisions more, we can all contribute to the conservation of our valuable resources.