Updated: Feb 27
The environmental impact of the fashion industry has grown significantly over the last 20 years. While clothing production has doubled since 2000, from 100 to 200 billion units a year, a 'throwaway' mindset has developed in relation to our wardrobes: the average number of times an item is worn has decreased by 36%. The State of Fashion report (2019) cites charity Barnados' findings that in Britain, one in three young women consider clothes “old” after wearing them once or twice, and one in seven consider it a "fashion faux-pas" to be photographed in an outfit twice.
We spoke to Lauren from Portsmouth-based Vintage Trainers about the small business' thoughts on fast fashion and their approach to sustainability, as well as their wider efforts to encourage more eco-friendly living within their community.
Hello Lauren! What is your role at Vintage Trainers?
I am the social media and marketing manager, and I create all of the posts and take photos of the trainers for our website and social media. I also create our blogs and much more!
Please can you give us a bit of background on Vintage Trainers?
Vintage Trainers is a small family business. We fully clean and refurbish trainers to give them a second life. We started up during the first lockdown in 2020. We knew that over 300 million pairs of shoes and trainers are sent to landfill in the UK alone and Vintage Trainers exists to do something to reduce this incredible wastage. The environment is incredibly important to us and we aim solely to try and stem the fast fashion wastage that is so prevalent in today's society.
We have a website, as well as a showroom based in Waterlooville, Hampshire — we only opened this at the end of October 2021 and we are incredibly proud of it. We have already had the opportunity to work with local schools on term projects of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We aim to work locally with the community as much as possible.
What type of products and services do offer as a business, and why is sustainability important to you?
Currently we are able to offer fully cleaned and refurbished trainers. We offer these
second-hand trainers to help reduce the 300 million thrown away each year. There is
absolutely no need to buy new every time, as when we have finished cleaning and refurbishing these trainers most turn out almost like new. We refurbish the trainers
using only eco-friendly products. It is very important to us that we use eco-friendly
cleaning products as we are trying to be part of the solution to sustainability rather than the problem. We also offer these cleaning products for sale in our showroom and our website.
Can you tell us more about how you engage with your local community to encourage sustainable living or reduce waste?
We recently worked with a local junior school on their reduce, reuse, recycle project. The Year 6 children had a whole term on this subject. We attended the school and gave a presentation to the whole year group. The children in the classes were then asked to design a poster to promote recycling and being more environmentally aware. Vintage Trainers then chose 12 winners from the best poster designs. The winners were invited to come to our showroom and choose a pair of trainers to refurbish. Matt taught the children how to clean the trainers using our eco-friendly products. The children learnt that — with a bit of elbow grease and good cleaning products — the trainers could be bought back to a good standard to be worn again, and they can now enjoy their second hand kicks! Obviously the children got to keep their chosen trainers and hopefully they were able to teach their friends! We already have plans in place to work with two other schools locally.
Vintage Trainers also has a trainer donation basket in our showroom. When customers visit our showroom they can either sell to us and we clean up and sell on, or they can donate to us and we clean up and give to people who need them. We guarantee anything that is donated will be cleaned and given to people who need it. We work with a local homeless charity based in Portsmouth — LifeHouse. LifeHouse can go through 60 items of footwear a week, so every item that is donated to us really is helping make a difference. We are also actively looking to work with groups that support families in need to help children with sports footwear.
You mentioned that 300 million pairs of unwanted shoes are sent to landfill each year. Why do you think this number is so high, and how can this figure be brought down?
So many trainers are just thrown away due to fast fashion and quick changing trends. People want to keep up with the current trends. This may mean that they are just throwing away trainers they no longer wear and buying a new pair to stay in fashion. Or even just keeping them at the back of their cupboards, and throwing them out when they have no space left.
"People need to be shown the harm and damage that fast fashion causes to the environment. We are trying to educate locally within schools, but the huge cogs of large corporate brands will take a lot of effort to slow down."
If we can make second-hand more fashionable, and if we can make vintage and retro more acceptable, then it will help. If you do wish to get rid of your old trainers, choose to donate or sell them to us rather than throw away to landfill. This way they can go on to a new home rather than being part of the problem.
What's in the pipeline for Vintage Trainers?
For our second year we have many events booked in! Mainly music festivals, to be honest. We will be at our local music festival ‘Victorious’ for the second time this year. We will also be attending the Isle Of Wight Festival, Camp Bestival, and Latitude. Later on in the year we will also be attending the Arnold Sports Festival at the NEC.
"We would love to hear from any trainer customisers that we could collaborate with. We have the ability to showcase and sell some great work in our showroom and online."
Locally we are supporting various initiatives. There is a Creatful family crafternoon to support families during half-term. We are also attending a Go Eco: Fashion event in Romsey in March.