The Highsnobiety Better Earth Manual is a guide for style enthusiasts in the age of ecological crisis — a crisis caused in part by the fashion itself. Here, you’ll find a growing set of resources about conscious consumption and the pioneers who are making change in our industry.
Gill Linton is the CEO and editor-in-chief of contemporary-vintage shopping app Byronesque. In this op-ed, Gill explains the problem with resale, and why good taste is a crucially overlooked virtue when it comes to responsible consumerism.
Resale is killing creativity and it’s an environmental issue.
The soon-to-be $52 billion industry is designed to encourage over-consumption. It’s the shortcut to outdated signifiers of status that anyone can buy on the cheap, knowing it can easily be dismissed and resold to the digital landfill in the cloud, disguised as sustainable fashion democracy to sell as much as possible.
Instead of supporting this culture of disposability, it’s everyone’s responsibility to cut consumption, which will cut emissions — including magazines that promote sustainable fashion but still push full looks with no old clothes.
So, where do we start? Understanding the distinction between "resale" and contemporary vintage might help. Anyone can now own designer clothes and sneakers, but not everyone knows the backstory of an item that not everyone else has. Not everyone knows its provenance and its meaning. And beyond the shape and color of things, not everyone respects the ideas that changed the course of fashion history (usually by pissing off the fashion establishment in some way).
When you look back at pivotal cultural moments in history, fashion’s role in shaping identity, attitudes, and beliefs is obvious by the "uniforms" worn: mods, punks, skinheads, new romantics, grunge (pick your gang). Each had a point of view and you were either with them or against them. Diverse groups creatively inspire — and alienate — each other. That’s how subcultures inspire, morph, bifurcate, and grow. Just like creativity.
Fast forward, and society has become numb and reliant on "fashion curation by data" in order to decide what to buy, wear, and do. The necessary discovery and cultivation of taste has been abandoned for easy access to excess. But taste matters. It matters because it creates the boundaries necessary to cope with over-consumption; the boundaries to stay within the margins and the fringes. Having boundaries means having respect for our choices and for fashion history, creativity, and the planet.
Contemporary-vintage and future vintage are about the emotional and financial worth of clothes that inspire a culture of longevity; buy it, keep it for a long time and sell it as something you’ve invested in.
But don’t confuse this with choosing classic and timeless design, which doesn’t move creativity or culture forward. Ironically, timeless and classic is not lasting. It’s safe and copied to the point where it becomes obsolete and unnecessary. It’s the equivalent of fast fashion. It just keeps us going around in ever-decreasing, derivative creative circles. And like fast fashion, the speed of compulsively selling one season to buy the next is the wrong kind of circularity.
A slower approach to buying better can be more expensive. And like expensive hotels during a pandemic that stops people travelling unnecessarily, it can stop over-consumption and force consideration. It’s a genuinely sustainable eco-system; we stop overconsuming and fashion will stop over-producing. Unless you are a collector making wise investments, having too many clothes is the new smoking and the new "busy." We have to stop glamorizing it.
It’s really simple, when everyone is buying the same thing — one branded T-shirt is the same as the next — ideas can’t grow. Ideas come from the past and there are less and less of them. Creativity is in danger of becoming as extinct as the planet.