Circular Economy: Fashion Edition


I'm in Germany visiting friends in Kisslegg (near Munich) this week - watch for my posts from the road about trends and ideas for living sustainably and connecting with nature in southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Last night on an evening stroll in Bregenz, Austria, I happened across a local shop that sells new items and gently used clothes. I've been doing more shopping at thrift stores with recent news coverage about the importance of making fashion sustainable.  

Making new clothing has an environmental impact, and the more we can reuse or repurpose clothes that are already made, the better for our world.  This is a key part of living the Circular Economy.  See this recent article for more on sustainable fashion from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

Known as Siebensachen Alt und Neu (Siebensachen translates to "belongings" or "paraphernalia" and Alt and Neu translates as "old and new"), the Bregenz shop had a great display in the windows, which was enticing.  I was also curious about the circular economy in action here in this part of Europe.

I came back to visit this morning, and here's what I experienced.  The first floor of the shop had a nice selection of tastefully arranged used furniture and household items, as well as new linens, plates and serving utensils, etc., and ecoproducts (such as local honey, etc.).

The second level had an excellent array of used clothing for women, children, and men.  There also were accessories (I found two great scarves for a great price!) and also a good selection of shoes (I found a barely used pair for just 10 Euros, a 10th of what I'd pay in a regular retail store).

There was a retail associate on the floor, folding the clothes and working to ensure they were displayed nicely.  There were many similarities to shopping at a full-price retail clothing store.  She asked if I had questions or if I was looking for anything in particular, just like at Nordstrom.  

And, there was a very nice changing area that had an attractive curtain -- again, similar to what you would see at a nice small women's clothing store.  I take nothing away from the large chains of thrift stores, but this shop clearly understands who they are competing with -- other small shops in Bregenze.

Together, these elements reinforced the care and attention that the store gives its customers, and it also enhanced the experience for me.

When it came time to pay, the shop "walks the talk" with shopping bags.  I proudly carried out my purchases in a used Lidl (German grocery chain) paper bag.

Overall, this was a great experience and I encourage you to visit Siebensachen if you're in Bregenz or a local thrift shop near you when you're looking to freshen your look.  I visit thrift stores or secondhand stores, as they're called in the U.S., and sometimes I find really good items there too.  

Thrift stores are also going online with success.  For example, ThredUp is one that's becoming more known and the Current Boutique (a chainlet in the greater DC area), are two that you may want to check out.  

Sometimes it's time to get rid of clothes that don't fit any longer or that you're just tired of wearing.  One option is to sell your clothes to ThredUp (see their site for details) and receive a credit towards future purchases.  Other thrift or consignment stores near you may do this too.

Overall, be willing to explore.  Part of the experience is curiousity about what you might find -- as well as an interest in getting something cool for a great price -- while also reusing a resource that's already been created.

Have any tips or suggestions for living a Circular lifestyle?  Please drop me a line and I'll share them here on the True North blog.


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