Second-hand fashion can do without corrupt virtue-signallers.


No month, these days, are allowed to pass without a good reason, and in September – the month in which fashion magazines deal with big issues – our focus is on the insatiable need for new clothes. Oxfam’s annual campaign “Second Hand September” urges consumers to buy only second-hand clothes for 30 days.

“Not only are you helping to keep clothes out of landfills and revamping your closet, you’re also raising money to help people overcome poverty,” says the campaign’s mission statement.

It suggests posting pictures of the month’s pre-loved purchases online using the hashtag #SecondHandSeptember.

The face of this year’s campaign is award-winning actress Felicity Jones, whose roles span a decade as Emma Grundy, The Archers’ most sulphurous love triangle, and Jyn Erso in the Star Wars prequel, Rogue One. A lifelong fan of charity shops, Jones loves “the mystery of second-hand shopping and the narrative behind the clothes”.

But when we explore second-hand railways this September, while doing our bit for sustainability, we can question the campaign’s claim that such shopping is “kinder to people and the planet”. It’s common to find good quality donated clothes next to fast fashion labels, which sell for less than they sell for when new and are often sent overseas to developing countries to join unsold clothing.

A telegraph Investigations in Ghana, the largest importer of this type of clothing, found trashed clothing with charity shop tags strewn in poorly managed landfills and on the beach in Jamestown, where local fishermen draw in their nets.

As hashtags go, “#sustainablestyle” lacks the “wonderful feel-good vibe” promised by Oxfam’s campaign, but it’s closer to the truth. The narrative of clothing that enchants many of us does not end when we remove them. It may go on to please someone else, or it may become part of an ugly story on a distant shore.

Access to all entertainment venues is, well, one thing. Now, inspired by activists like comedian Sophie Hagen, fat access has joined the list. Venues such as the Gulbenkian Theater in Canterbury and the Old Fire Station in Oxford offer online listings of seat sizes and seats without armrests.

Some of our most beloved actors are generously proportioned – the late Richard Griffiths, Hattie Jacques and Orson Welles come to mind – and it was once universally accepted that opera singers carry more weight than the tubercular heroes they embody. One stage level and another would be unfair to the audience, especially when government statistics record that the majority of the UK population (62.8% in 2020) are overweight or obese.

Still, in the midst of the festivities, spare a thought for the slimmer minority. Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse features a mouse whose house is invaded by a plus-size toad, Mr Jackson. She finds him “sitting in a little rocking chair” to her dismay. Anyone occupying an armless seat next to Mr. Jackson on a plane, train, or theater would struggle to suppress the thought of Mrs. Tittlemouse, c’est moi.


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