Why Buy Vintage? Sustainable Fashion at Beyond Retro in Bristol
If shopping more sustainably is one of your resolutions for this year, then a spot of ethical clothes-shopping around the vintage shops in Bristol could be a fun place to start.
The latest addition to Bristol’s vintage scene, Beyond Retro, invited me to come and test their wares, with the generous incentive of a shopping voucher. I don’t think I’ve bought second-hand clothes for myself since my student days so I thought I’d give vintage shopping a whirl!
In this article I’ll be looking at:
- reasons to consider buying preloved fashion
- whether second-hand shops are a workable option if you’re not an average size. I am not and need tall clothes.
- my own sustainable shopping habits (or lack thereof?)
- our shopping experience at Beyond Retro vintage store in Bristol.
Read on and you may be pleasantly surprised at what treasures you can unearth in the name of being environmentally friendly!
WHY BUY VINTAGE CLOTHING?
If you’re buying new clothes, there’s a huge range of shops to choose from – both on-line and in the high street. What’s the appeal of buying used clothing? Here are a few reasons to consider opting for pre-loved.
- SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING
We’re increasingly aware that the fashion industry is responsible for a ridiculous amount of waste and how damaging this is to the environment. Giving a second lease of life to existing pieces is one of the most eco-friendly ways of clothes shopping.
- GOOD QUALITY
Older items are often good quality and outlive their modern, fast-fashion equivalents.
- UNIQUE STYLE
Vintage clothes are likely to be more individual than chain store purchases. This could be the moment to embrace your own unique style!
- GOOD VALUE
Second-hand clothes are often less expensive than new – and we do love a bargain here!
DO YOU SHOP SUSTAINABLY?
As a mother of three, I like to think I’ve been pretty good at recycling children’s clothes over the years. Relatives, and occasionally friends, have given us used clothes and these have subsequently been passed down between my sons.
A few select favourites may end up being stored for the future or passed on and the rest goes to the charity shop or into a textile bin. There’s virtually no waste. And we’re not just talking second-hand clothes here. Some of the children’s clothes, particularly school uniform, might be worn by three, four or five people, if not more!
However, as they’ve approached their teenage years, they’ve become more fashion conscious and aware of labels. This is particularly true with sports brands which they tend to ask for as presents. These pricey trainers, joggers and hoodies are unlikely to be ethically sourced. They are certainly valued and appreciated before being passed onto the next in line though.
When it comes to my own clothes, I am NOT a pre-loved clothes kind of girl. In fact, I’m a bit set in my ways and tend to shop the same few brands. I know, I know. Could try harder. Enter Beyond Retro . . .
WHAT IS BEYOND RETRO?
Beyond Retro is a large fashion retailer and the newest of the vintage shops in Bristol. They sell carefully chosen second-hand and vintage clothes through a combination of an e-commerce site and bricks and mortar stores in a few trendy cities in the UK and Sweden.
By recycling and upcycling, they save a huge amount of textile waste from landfill. They’ve already achieved a carbon-negative status and their aim is for every aspect of their business to be as green and sustainable as possible, right down to their shipping and packaging processes.
The Beyond Retro branch in Bristol is a large shop selling men’s and women’s pre-loved clothes and accessories in the main Broadmead shopping centre near Cabot Circus.
OUR EXPERIENCE OF BEYOND RETRO VINTAGE SHOP IN BRISTOL
As Mum and I walked into the Bristol shop, we were greeted by a vast array of sustainably recycled men’s and women’s clothes. Carefully chosen retro fashion in all shapes and sizes hangs neatly on rails, along with attractively displayed shoes and accessories dating back to the fifties.
We were interested in checking the shop out but both had our reservations: Mum wasn’t sold on the idea of second-hand clothes and I’m a bit of a giant at 5′ 10½” so I tend to stick to shops I know cater well for tall women.
I was looking for summer dresses and we both had our eye out for something to wear to a couple of family weddings which were coming up.
Our cheery assistant guided us to the appropriate sections and we had great fun rummaging through the rails. It’s easy to forget that the clothes are second hand as there’s no musty smell or creased clothes falling off mismatched hangers.
I’M NOT AN AVERAGE SHAPE. WILL VINTAGE CLOTHES WORK FOR ME?
At first I had my eye on some fancy numbers in the designer label section. Unfortunately there was nothing to suit my stature. Mum is more average size so initially I looked on a little enviously as everything seemed to fit her and not me.
With 10,000 items to choose from, even I eventually found a pile of possibles. In fact, I ended up having to cull as there was more than I needed.
This polka dot top was a bit tight but the pretty straps across the back were calling out to me and obviously I couldn’t try it in a bigger size. I’m on a weight loss and fitness mission so I took the risk and bought it anyway. Update: It now fits. Hurrah!
The clothes I was gifted came to about £85 and were:-
- a sheer dress to wear to the wedding,
- two long tunic-style tops which double as cool, short holiday dresses
- a beautifully cut, short sequined evening dress
- the red polka dot top with an unusual strappy back design
I also bought myself a cute turquoise jacket which turned out to be suede but you wouldn’t have realised it from the twenty-something pound price tag!
Everything I bought really was ‘as new’ and it was refreshing to find that most of the clothes were much less expensive than I’d expected. Some of them even came from the reduced rail – yes they have one of those too!
WHICH IS BEST? VINTAGE OR BUYING NEW? THE VERDICT!
How was the vintage shopping experience compared to a regular clothes shop?
Disadvantages of buying vintage:-
- Because the clothes are from all sorts of labels with varying sizes, you have to be prepared to kiss a few frogs to find what you want. We certainly spent longer looking around and trying things on than we would have done if buying new.
- If it doesn’t fit, tough! You can’t ask for it in a different size.
- There’s no ‘tall’ clothes section. If you’re not a standard shape, be prepared to rummage for your perfect find. I found plenty in the end but it took me a little while.
Advantages of buying vintage:-
- We found some absolute bargains. The ticket prices were quite reasonable PLUS there was even a sale rail.
- The items we found all had something about them which I wouldn’t have expected to find without paying a lot more. We loved the unusual straps on the polka dot top (pictured above), the cut of the green dress and the detail on the dress below.
As Mum and I left with our purchases, we said we’d definitely go back and started thinking of other people the Beyond Retro range and sustainable fashion ethos would appeal to.
Our trip may have taken us a while but we enjoyed our leisurely outing. Perhaps sustainable fashion calls for slow shopping! Rummaging around a trendy store with vintage clothing pieces which reach back through the decades isn’t too much of a hardship after all. And maybe I made good choices by being more conscious of what I was buying as the clothes I bought have already become firm favourites.
How about you? How sustainable is your shopping? Do you buy preloved clothes? If not, would you consider trying it? Let me know in the comments below.
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DISCLOSURE: We received a gift voucher for the purposes of this review. Practically Perfect Mums retains full editorial control and all opinions are our my/own.