Recycled and Second-Hand: Your Sustainable and Compassionate Wardrobe

February 2, 2015

Hello everyone and welcome to the 5th post of our cruelty-free wardrobe challenge. Have you implemented some of the previous notions? Are you reading labels thoroughly now? If you missed the previous posts and you’re interested about a sustainable and cruelty-free wardrobe, go check ’em out now. And then come back to this post because you’ll probably like it, too 😉

Did you know that I have published a book about cruelty-free fashion? You can find it here on Amazon at the price of a Frappuccino OR you can get it for free upon subscribing in the box below:

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Enough with the chit chat now, let’s get to business! What happens when you have collected all the leather, silk and wool items you have in your wardrobe? What happens if you usually buy second-hand? What’s our stance on recycled wool fibers or vintage items?

What to Do with Clothes You Don’t Want to Wear Anymore

Ok, you now know that leather, fur, wool, silk and down are cruelty ridden materials. What happens when you were a big fan of those materials before realizing you don’t want to contribute to the cruelty anymore? Should you keep wearing them or should you get rid of them?
This is the million-dollar question no one has an answer to. Actually we all have a different answer for it, because it’s really up to you.

Some people think that if you don’t stand for animal cruelty, you shouldn’t wear something that promotes animal cruelty. Mainly because it could contribute to the idea that it’s ok to wear animals skin for our own pleasure and vanity. It doesn’t matter if you bought that item before going cruelty-free, if you wear it, you’re still supporting the animal cruelty in some way.
But fake leather looks like real leather: to be honest, if you follow this philosophy you shouldn’t even wear fake leather because it supports the idea that it’s ok to wear leather (sometimes you really cannot tell the difference from fake to real when you see it).

Recycled Second-Hand Vegan Wardrobe Challenge

Another way to approach this problem is that you keep what you bought before deciding to go cruelty-free. For example, if you own a pair of leather shoes you bought years ago and they can still be worn, you keep wearing them. Same goes for leather jackets, fur trimmed jackets or silk dresses. You can have different approaches as well: in my case, I didn’t own many leather items and no fur items at all. I own a down filled jacket that I’m keeping though. I didn’t even buy it in the first place, it was given to me by someone who didn’t wear it anymore, but I’m keeping it. I also kept some vintage wool sweaters I found in grandma/aunt/mom’s wardrobes. I don’t wear leather or fur because frankly it grosses me out and I don’t like the smell. I still own a pair of Cult leather biker boots but I never wear them. I should give them to someone in need and I probably will, along with the down filled jacket 😉

Last but not least, if you have a lot of quality items you might think about selling them. Again, we have many different opinions about this as well. Someone doesn’t feel good about making money on animal derived items. If you agree with the idea that you shouldn’t wear something that promotes animal cruelty, you shouldn’t sell those items either. Why? Because selling them means that someone will eventually wear them, therefore spreading the idea that it’s ok to wear animal skin or fleece.
But you could also look at it this way: 1) you’ll need some money to replace the items you don’t wear anymore and 2) if someone buy from you s/he won’t buy a new product and consequently increase demand for cruel materials. I know it’s a cold comfort, but it’s actually true, and it takes us right to the next chapter.

Whatever you choose to do, the most important thing is that you are now awake and won’t contribute to animal cruelty anymore.


What About Second-Hand Animal Derived Items

What if you’re the one who want to buy a second-hand leather bag? Again, this is entirely up to you. You’re not contributing to the production of new items and therefore to the killing of more animals so you’re technically ok. It’s fine to do so. In fact, it would be amazing if we all bought second-hand clothes. Think about it from a sustainable fashion point of view: buying a second-hand leather bag is way better than buying a new faux leather bag. Faux leather is basically plastic, so by buying a new faux leather bag you’re probably doing a couple of things that aren’t exactly compassionate or good for the planet. You’re probably contributing to pollution and to exploitation of workers in developing countries. That very same bag will one day end up in a landfill or in the ocean, and it will also harm animals. Is it a conundrum? Not really.
If I had to choose, I’d always go for second-hand. If you can avoid buying leather, fur or wool even if it’s second-hand, so much the better. But if you do, I won’t point my finger at you 😉

Recycled Second-Hand Vegan Wardrobe Challenge

Recycled/Upcycled/Downcycled Items

There is yet another option for you if you don’t want to contribute to animal cruelty but still would like to have a wool sweater or a silk blouse every now and then. Fibers can be recycled, which means they can be unraveled and transformed into something else. H&M did this for its denim collection last year: they recycled all the clothes they collected from customers dropping their used clothes at H&M shops and upcycled cotton into denim. This can be done with many fibers, so if you decide to buy a coat that was made with upcycled wool you’re not exploiting sheeps, you’re re-using something that was already done. This doesn’t make it right for the animals, but at least it doesn’t contribute to the suffering.
Another way to approach recycling is creating new items from clothes you don’t use anymore. Or buying from producers that do that. Examples: a bag made from an old leather coat, wool beanie hats made from old sweaters and so on.
Once again, it’s up to you. If you feel comfortable wearing wool and leather, do so. It’s vital that you choose carefully where to spend your money though, because we don’t want to contribute to more animal cruelty. We want to stop that. And possibly make everyone happy in the process 🙂

There will be a time when there won’t be animal derived products anymore, new or second-hand. I look forward to that moment but that’s not going to happen very soon: even if we all suddenly stopped buying leather right now, there would be enough to go around for ages. That’s how consumerist we are, and that’s the huge amount of suffering we cause to innocent beings.

Check out all the posts in this series:

  1. Creating a Cruelty-Free Wardrobe (5/01/2015)
  2. Unexpected Cruelty in your Wardrobe (12/01/2015)
  3. How to Read Clothing Labels (19/01/2015)
  4. Top 10 Cruelty-Free Fashion Brands (26/01/2015)
  5. Recycled and Second-Hand: Your Sustainable and Compassionate Wardrobe (02/02/2015)
  6. Top 10 Cruelty-Free Fashion Blogs (09/02/2015)
  7. Cruelty-Free and Sustainable Fashion: It’s Possible! (16/02/2015)
  8. Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe – Become Fashion ‘Conscious’ With This Comprehensive Guide (17/03/2015)

Did you enjoy this post? What’s your opinion about buying second-hand and recycling? Let us know in a comment below, we’d love to have you in the conversation! I’m blowing my own horn here by telling you that you will find a whole lot more of info in “Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe” ebook I have recently published on Amazon. Get it now for FREE and help the animals:


About the Author


Hey, it’s Elisa, founder of I’m a social media specialist by day and blogger by night (honing my multitasking skills since 2006 ;). I’m an atypical Italian, freedom lifestyle advocate and modern spirituality enthusiast. Feel like we could get along? Join me just above this box or get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter.

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I love this post and love shopping second hand. Not only are the clothes beautiful and soft (not starchy), you can often grab great designer clothes and I can’t help get a little nostalgic at what journey they have been on.


    Thank you Sara! I love the romantic aspect of buying used clothing too! Also, you end up looking unique and not like everybody else who probably just shop at Zara and H&M and end up having the same clothes!


I love second hand shopping but there arent many place for that where i live. Most of my vegan “thrifting” has to be done through ebay which doesnt normally scream “bargain.” Though you can occasionally find some good stuff like this english retread bag
If only it was at auction instead 🙁


    Sarah I know that buying from cruelty-free brands gives us a peace of mind like no other thing, but you can actually find a lot of clothes that have no animal derived materials in them pretty much everywhere. If you can’t afford buying expensive English Rethreads bags, just go for what you can afford. Your commitment to check labels and be careful about what you are buying is more than enough for the animals and the planet 🙂


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