In anticipation of my semester abroad, I often dreamed of the second-hand finds I would discover abroad. Without a doubt, my thirst for fabulous vintage has been quenched, however, the sustainable fashion landscape here in Europe, namely Florence, is far more exclusive than I had previously imagined. With a great emphasis on luxury, the market is much less accessible than that of America.
My expectations of sustainable shopping shaped by my experiences back home in the US failed me in Florence. There is no Goodwill or Salvation Army offering flights for less than $10. On the contrary, I have found myself investing in unique, high quality pieces that will last me a lifetime. And honestly, this new perspective on second-hand shopping has enlightened me about my shortcomings in what I once considered my very “sustainable” lifestyle.
For the past 3 years, I felt like I could call my buying habits sustainable just because I was buying used. Here in Florence, I’ve developed a much more meticulous hand when it comes to what I pick up when I go shopping, which has led to a serious deceleration in the amount of new clothes that come into my wardrobe. As I reflect on this new quirk I possess, I recognize that even though I felt like I was practicing sustainability by saving at home, I still gave in to profuse overconsumption. Italy has taught me to be much more conscientious about my shopping habits for a multitude of reasons, namely the fact that I’m on a tight budget and making sustainable choices costs me more here (I try also to remember that I don’t have much room in my suitcase for my eventual return home!).
A glaring problem with the sustainable fashion narrative being developed in America is that, regardless of buying second-hand clothes, the vast majority of people view clothes as disposable, including themselves! What’s the harm in buying exorbitant amounts of clothes as long as it doesn’t cost me too much and I don’t support fast fashion, right? Bad. Not only does overconsumption lead to a fast track to the depletion of natural resources, but it leads to a circular mode system that is far too vast to control. It is reported that 90% of the clothes we donate are sent to developing countries. Many of the economies in these regions operate largely thanks to the fashion industry and the factory jobs it creates (which, admittedly, are not ideal workplaces). As a result, the return of used clothing not only litters these landscapes with piles of clothing, it simultaneously depletes their developing economies and robs their societies of local industry.
Ethical consumerism is a difficult balance to strike, and the biggest hurdle to overcome is admitting that you are part of the problem. My stay abroad has already shown me that I am no exception to this question. Here in Florence, it’s often hard to walk away from the shadow cast by the huge windows of Zara and H&M when they stand directly in front of my school building. Despite the extra effort it may take, searching for sustainable options is far more rewarding than stopping at the fast-fashion brick-and-mortar establishments that litter downtown. Florence is a treasure trove of hidden vintage shops waiting to be discovered, each artfully curated to suit different tastes and desires. In my 4 months here, I won’t even begin to scratch the surface, but below is a list of favorites from fashion-conscious Florentines.
- Piazza Santo Spirito: The second Sunday of each month,
- Piazza Independenza: third Saturday and Sunday of the month
- Piazza S. Ambrogio: last Sunday of the month.
- S. James Church: thrift shop of the American church OPEN ONLY the first Wednesday of the month (9:30-11:30). Via B. Rucellai 9. (not in service in July, August and September)
- Pimp My Vintage Market: Lungarno Soderini, 21, Florence, Italy (events usually take place once a month; check their facebook for dates)
- MELROSE – Via de’ Ginori
- VERABIS – Via Maggio
- STREET MAKES VINTAGE – Via dei Servi
- ANCIENT – Piazzetta Piero Calamandrei
- NADINE SHOP – Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli
- PITTI VINTAGE – Sdrucciolo de Pitti
- 9 ROSSO – Borgo S.Jacopo
- THIS IS CHIC VINTAGE – Via Maggio
**THE LIST WILL BE INTERMITTENTLY UPDATED TO REFLECT CLOSURES AND NEW DISCOVERIES**