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Aja Barber On Her Love Of Second Hand Shopping & Why We All Need To Think About Circularity

Second Hand Fashion .


If one were to ask me about my relationship with second hand shopping, I would simply smile knowingly.  The truth is second hand shopping is a large part of my wardrobe.  Open my closet and I can show you an array of gently used designer pieces, and with those pieces come stories about the various ways that particular piece has come into my possession.

It started in high school with a patchwork jacket covered in butterflies and flowers.  It was a real old lady piece and perfect for me.  I wore it every Friday and got tons of compliments.  When I moved to London in my later uni years, I wore it then and also got loads of compliments.  I still have the jacket and it doesn’t close but I still love it to bits.  It was a compliment machine!  

Later I moved on to more pricey pieces.  You see, I’ve always understood a few simple truths about our materials economy.  

 There is plenty for everyone (it’s just not evenly divided).  Humans pretty much overproduce everything to the point where there’s always excess stock, it just has to be found.  Brands do this because they’d rather create too much than create too little and risk not making a sale.  (Unless you’re Supreme and you purposely stifle the demand of your goods in order to create artificial demand, which is sketchy and weird).

Anyway, I digress … knowing these truths, I set out to dress myself as a university student.

Who remembers the early noughties and the designer denim phase?  There was a moment where first it was “those jeans” and then it was “those jeans” and owning designer denim frankly made me feel more confident in a time where I put value on such ridiculous things (laughs to myself because I’m judging myself here and no one can drag you if you drag yourself).  Anyways the brands that I liked normally rang up around a price tag of $150-$200 USD.  Jokes!  What sort of college student has that money?  (Also a joke because I knew plenty of college students who had that sort of money in Northern Virginia but I just wasn’t one of them).  But how could I possibly tell the world that I was a fancy person in-the-know who had the right jeans of the season?

I bought them second hand.  One day I was messing about on eBay (which is coincidentally the thing I do when I find myself not getting what I want …) and what I found was a surplus of the latest denim I had been so eager to get my hands on.  I was shocked at first and then I began to realize … oh, this is actually our economy!  A real excess of goods.

Finding Gems

Good things always come to those who wait.  Take for instance my “wedding dress”.  Not the dress I got married in per se, but the dress I happened to wear to most of my favorite weddings in my twenties.  The dress was on the runway of a designer that I always loved but coming in at four figures, I shrugged and said it would never be mine.  Well that was true until five years later it popped up on a site that sells discount goods.  Now this wasn’t resale per se but a random twist of fate that a dress that was once $2000 was now in front of me for a mere $250.  I of course bought it and even though it’s now too small for me, I can’t help but to hold on to it, because we have too many good memories together and I’ve got to find a special home for it before I part with it.

But that’s the magic of waiting and being patient.  Good style is eternal and the things that you truly love, you will always love regardless of the season and the style.  And that was the thing that got me thinking about the cycle of fast fashion and why I always felt compelled to buy the newest thing season after season regardless of whether or not I loved the clothing already existing in my wardrobe.  I didn’t like that feeling, that urgency to constantly want the newest thing.  Often I was still hung up on the perfect item that got away from me the previous seasons because I didn’t have a spare $300 to spend on clothing (I mean few people do).  Checking resale sites has just become a way of life for me, not a trend, just the way I shop.

Circular Fashion 

I’m so excited that there’s so many different options from eBay to Vestiaire Collective, The Real Real and Depop.  But Shwap … is offering something I haven’t really seen before.  A chance for brands to be a part of the mess we’ve all been talking about (not just resting it on the shoulders of average citizens).  A chance for everyone to sign on to a brighter future where our clothes have a longer life.  Encouraging all of us to think about circularity is where we need to be if we want to start chopping away at the problems within our planet.  Because some of these issues are going to be more challenging than others … but working out our fashion supply chains and building better systems.  That … I think we can handle.  

Can’t wait to see you on Shwap!

By Aja Barber

To hear more from Aja, follow here Instagram here and sign up to her Patreon here. 

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