ThriftingVintageWomen empowerment

What sustainable fashion means to me: as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast

What sustainable fashion means to me: as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast
By Renoon

Meet Zoe: graphic designer and graduate in communication and media studies in the Netherlands. She shares with us her sustainable journey and experience with second hand.

If you like buying second hand, you will love the “vrijmarkt”! This huge street market takes place place in the Netherlands during Koningsdag, a national holiday celebrating the birthday of King Willem-Alexander on 27th April. There, you can buy and sell all the stuff you don’t use anymore – kitchenware, books, toys… and of course clothes!

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast

To give you an insider perspective on the magic happening during this special day, we met with Zoe Poel, graphic designer and second-hand enthusiast, and expanded our talk with her thoughts on sustainable fashion in general, women empowerment on top of her experience with the “vrijmarkt”.

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast

Empowering women through my work

Zoe is a young graphic designer based in Utrecht with a passion for thrifting. She works for hashtag workmode, a female-focused co-working space founded by CEO Emilie Sobels, with four different locations across the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen and Rotterdam). There, women entrepreneurs not only share a working space but also ideas and inspiration to empower each other and team up for encouraging women to be their best selves.

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast
Hashtag Workmode in The Netherlands

“When I started working for the company as an intern, I simply couldn’t get enough of it. This made me decide to join the all-female lead team to closely work together in envisioning new ways to make women stronger and more confident in being their own bosses. Hashtag workmode also organizes the “Self-Made Summit” every year, where (female only) business-owners or simply passionate speakers can share the lessons learnt on site and pass their knowledge to the audience.” As you can imagine, we fell in love with the idea.

So, what is the vrijmarkt?

If you walk in the streets of basically any city in the Netherlands on April 27th, you will soon realize there’s something different than usual. First, you would notice the great number of national flags that suddenly pop out from every window; then, the fact that the color orange is literally everywhere: clothes, gadgets, sunglasses (it has been estimated than on average dutch citizens spend around 26 euros on orange merchandising for this day!). That’s because it’s Koningsdag, a holiday marking the Dutch King’s birth, very important to the local population. On this special day, among the many traditions, there’s one that us at Renoon particularly love: a nation-wide closet cleansing event.

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast
Zoe Poel on sustainable fashion, vintage and women empowerment

Zoe explained to us that it gathers thousands of people across the whole country, where anyone (even kids) sell their second-hand goods (without paying taxes on them), from handy gadgets to vintage pieces, from pre-loved furniture to antiques. “You just need to wake up early in the morning to get the best spots, place your things on a blanket or table, wait for potential clients and you’re done!”

Pro-tip by Zoe: “if you want to both sell and buy, you might want to split the whole day into two parts — maybe sell early in the morning, and just before lunch take your unsold stuff and go bargain-hunting with your friends — you might still find amazing, inexpensive pieces!”

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast

Positive and Negative Sides

However, a specific question might arise: how sustainable is this initiative? On the one hand, we simply love the idea of crazy flea-market shopping, making deals for second-hand unique pieces and reducing waste by promoting a circular economy — especially if this is affordable to many! (usually people spend at most 5€ on an item).

However, there’s also a negative side effect we can’t turn a blind eye on: a lot of plastic waste.

“During the day you don’t really see clutter because there’s many people in the streets but when everybody is gone, it’s just plastic, cups and good packages laid out on the floor. It is also a day that companies produce lots of orange stuff, like crowns and sunglasses, creating a lot of waste”

In fact, even though the vrijmarkt is undoubtedly a great idea to be more environmental friendly, plastic overuse is still a an issue that needs to be tackled!

So, like everything it’s the responsible mentality that wins on everything.

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast

So shopping sustainably to me means

“I love shopping pre-owned and vintage!”

Definitely Zoe’s take on the issue is the re-use of fashion that is already out there, on top of her value of supporting women-owned businesses that is also part of her daily work.

What is sustainable fashion to me : as a graphic designer and second hand enthusiast
Sustainability, vintage and women empowerment

Head over to Hashtag workmode‘s Instagram to see Zoe’s work in action (all social media assets are made by her or a colleague) and after her take over on Renoon’s account, keep an eye for next year’s 2022 Kings Day.

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