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Nica Cornell, co owner of fashion company

A model of sustainable fashion

Fast fashion can offer some easy shopping options, but often it leaves much to be desired in terms of sustainability – which is why local people are being encouraged to rethink, recycle and reuse when it comes to clothes they no longer need.

There are so many options to make the best of clothing you have finished with – and one local group is even turning today’s excess garments into tomorrow’s glamour items ready to fly off the shelves of a local charity shop.

Elegance in Ealing is an initiative that promotes the best second-hand clothing in the boutique charity shop Mary’s Living and Giving in Ealing Green.

Husband-and-wife team Nica Cornell and David Traub have teamed up with the local charity shop to set up fashion shoots showcasing preloved fashion in local sites and businesses, using local people as models.

And in only six months, the project has gone from strength to strength, as Nica explained: “We wanted to work with Mary’s Living and Giving to show that fashion can be accessible and inclusive and that everyone can have a sustainable outlook when it comes to buying clothes.

“We trialled a photoshoot in Walpole Park and got some really nice photos of our model wearing some of the clothes that the shop had to offer. We put them out on social media – and got a great response.

“Mary’s Living and Giving ethos is celebrating community, creativity and collaboration and we have started expanding and building Elegance in Ealing to feature local businesses and artists.

“We’ve seen an increase in trade at our shop which raises funds for the crucial work of Save The Children; and we’ve doubled our social media following. As well as this, it’s brought fresh inspiration to our manager, volunteers and community.”

Elegance in Ealing did a photo shoot especially for Around Ealing magazine and EalingNewsExtra in Gunnersbury Park, featuring second-hand clothing and footwear. They were modelled by Yolanda Sissing and you can see some of the pictures in the carousel above.

‘They can be stylish and fabulous’

Fast fashion tends to rely on clothes that are made and sold cheaply, so that people can buy new garments often. Elegance in Ealing is hoping to help people switch more sustainable habits inspired by the idea of the circular economy, emphasising reuse, share and repair, when it comes to unwanted clothes.

Nica continues: “Elegance in Ealing is about showing people all the benefits of shopping local and second-hand. Not only is it sustainable and supportive of some really good causes, you can also pick up some genuinely great clothes at a fraction of the cost on the high street.

“Look around in the same way as you might on the high street – there’s often lots of really nice stuff. It’s about making fashion more accessible and it also helps promote local shops and good causes.

“We are trying to promote a circular economy of clothes and busting myths of expensive, inaccessible fashion that is not sustainable being the only option open to people.

“People might have a preconception that second-hand clothes mean grubby or old, but we are showing that this is so far from the truth – they can be stylish and fabulous.” 

Our own bargain hunt

We decided to try it ourselves, and sent out a member of our team to local charity shops. You can find out how she got on.

‘No excuse to throw them in the rubbish bin’

As Elegance in Ealing has shown, donating our older clothes to charity shops is a trusted option to ensure nothing is wasted, but there are other ways to ensure you avoid a fashion faux pas when it comes to sustainability.

Ealing Council also has a textile recycling service that makes it easy to say goodbye to unwanted items. Textiles can be recycled as part of your kerbside collections, on your normal recycling day – just make sure you put them in a clear, secure bag on top of your blue bin. Keep the bags dry and alongside each other and tie any pairs of shoes together. Recycling left in black rubbish bags will not be collected.

Alternatively, there are textile collections bins in each of the borough’s town centres and you could take your textile recycling to the re-use and recycling centres at Greenford and Acton.

Councillor Mik Sabiers, cabinet member for environment and highways said: “The last thing we want is clothes and textiles being sent off to landfill when they could be re-used or recycled.

“Every year, across the country, around 300,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill. Disposing of this is far worse for the environment and is a huge cost to taxpayers – diverting money that could be spent on other important services.

“Elegance in Ealing is showing how easy it is to shop more sustainably; and, if your old clothes aren’t suitable for donation then you can recycle them using the council’s collection service. There is no excuse to throw them in the rubbish bin.”

You can keep up-to-date with Elegance in Ealing on instagram through the @maryslivingandgivingealing handle. Mary’s Living and Giving can be found at 2 The Green, Ealing, W5 5DA.

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