Parents worry about everything, right? It’s in the job description. Stressing about the planet - and the state it will be in when our precious bundles grow up - is top of the list. So, how can we mitigate the damage of all those nappies?
Growing kids are always outgrowing things. Parents can’t NOT buy stuff. But as someone who’s spent the past decade opting for second hand, preloved, and re-using everything, I’d argue that second hand isn’t second-best. It’s way better than buying new, from every perspective. It’s a more interesting, considered way to shop. It can save you money, and it starts all kinds of conversations with the kids.
My journey started with a second hand Bugaboo Cameleon for my first baby. It was 2010 and it cost £250. Since then, I’ve said ‘yes’ to all hand-me-downs from friends, which was particularly resonant over lockdown when we couldn’t see people, but felt a connection with them whenever the kids slipped on Izzy’s puffer jacket or Bo’s gold Moon Boots.
We’ve rented clothing from The Little Loop, and use charity shops for toys, clothes and (bonus: second hand toy kitchens and doll’s houses are not only cheaper, they come pre-built). FARA Kids’ charity shops - scattered around London - are veritable treasure troves, where I’ve picked up everything from a Stella McCartney reversible wool cape for £6 to Micro scooters and roller skates.
As Tessa Clarke, mum and co-founder of food waste app OLIO, says: ‘Kids really don't care. New to them is what counts.
Do start ‘em young, though. Tweens really love fast fashion. However, I can attest that ranting about the horrors of unethical labour practices and overconsumption does work (sort of).
While adults are increasingly willing to dip a toe into preloved waters, there are still some negative connotations when it comes to second hand for our kids. Isn’t it old, dirty, damaged? Does it smell? Or maybe it reminds us of painful experiences wearing hand-me-downs ourselves, watching our parents struggle financially. But things are changing.
‘Nowadays, there are totally opposite reasons why you buy and choose second hand. You’re saying: “I'm conscious, I'm environmentally friendly, I want to consume less, I don’t want to expand the supply” and so on,’ says Milda Mitkutė, a mum-of-four and co-founder of online second hand marketplace, Vinted, which has 45 million users (the kids category is the second-biggest on the site).
Resale collectives like dotte offer a fully circular solution where parents can buy, sell, donate and recycle kids’ clothes in one spot, scooping up covetable indie brands like Mini Rodini and Tobias & the Bear at roughly 50% off their retail price.
There’s also My Wardrobe HQ Kids, which gives you options to buy or rent, so you no longer need to purchase a ski jacket or special-occasion dress your child will grow out of by next year - unless you want to.
As well as clothes, you can also buy designer high chairs and baby carriers for up to 80% off the RRP at Cheeky Cherub, a pre-loved consignment business founded in 2020 with the aim of ‘changing the second hand experience and making it feel luxe.’ ‘We try to make everything as easy and streamlined as possible because the common denominator with all mums is regardless of budget or how many kids you have, they’re busy,’ explains founders Erika Abd-Allah and Lucy James.
For vintage Levi’s denim and workwear like Carhartt, try Hortens Vintage and Liverpool-based Smaller Explorer, which also stocks its own designs. ‘We concentrate mostly on older children, as I found a lot of my customers could never find vintage for older kids. I do believe a lot of vintage is made to last, which can be passed down to younger siblings,’ says Smaller Explorer’s owner, Rebecca.
I stumbled upon Petit Pays Vintage when I last visited Brighton and can’t remember when I last enjoyed shopping for kidswear quite so much. It’s a sea of candy colours and gorgeous silhouettes, stocking (primarily) French vintage pieces from the 1960s-1980s, with prices (on average) in the £16-£24 range.
‘The main thing for me is really giving meaning to a purchase. It means maybe you will keep it longer, you won’t throw it away, you will pass it on to someone else. It becomes something that matters,’ says Petit Pays Vintage owner Anna Berthe of preloved buys.
Anna-Louise Plumb owns children’s vintage brand, Wolf & Mabel, which specialises in pre-1970s items for girls, boys and now women (check it out for kids’ party dresses, including vintage Laura Ashley). She knows first hand what it means to see a cherished piece find a new family and to ‘complete the circle’ of a garment’s life. People contact her with their vintage treasures, looking to sell pieces that were specially made for them as children and, sometimes, rather wonderfully, she’s able to keep dresses made for sisters together as they move through time. ‘I love the emotional triggers vintage has; for their stories, or for the obvious layers of history within each stitch and skill, from how a hem was fixed, a button created, or smocking laboriously done,’ she says.