Pre-loved market moves online


WARDROBE PORTALS As with many other services, secondhand shopping and swapping has moved online to freecycle groups, charity-shop websites and preloved-fashion apps.

Green Living
McKinley Neal

Recently a customer mentioned to us that due to Covid restrictions, he had not bought any new clothes in a year, and we could say the same. For undergarments we might have to soon make an exception, but the general trend of buying less and buying better is one we hope is here to stay.
Since the start of the pandemic, the dirty secrets of the fashion industry have been exposed: most people are now familiar with the abysmal labour conditions for workers producing low-cost ‘fast’ fashion, and the environmental cost of the constant over-production of garments, many of which are discarded without being sold.
At the same time, though, restrictions have made it much harder to shop in charity shops or to organise social swaps, so we’re having to find new ways of sourcing secondhand items.
Luckily, local ‘freecycle’ groups exist on social media, where you can claim items people offer, or post if you are looking for a particular item. These are generally for a specific location (town or county), so are great for picking up and offloading items without having to travel too far. You’ll find all kinds of clothing and home goods on offer.
As with many other services, secondhand shopping has moved online, and there are a number of sites and apps. Thriftify ( calls itself ‘the online charity shop’, and is based in Dublin; it aggregates clothing and accessories from across Ireland and proceeds go to charities. Another site is Depop (, which is a global platform on which local sellers can create a shop and sell their own items, which can be preloved, vintage or upcycled. Nuw ( is an app that allows users to swap preloved fashion, and it operates in Ireland and the UK (@wearenuw on social media).
Another friend of ours recently shared how she goes ‘shopping’ in her own home: when she tires of clothes, she boxes them up and puts them in the attic with a date on the box. Then, when she thinks about buying something new, she first goes through the boxes to see if there’s anything that she wants to start using again. If not, she can safely rehome her items, but if so, she reintroduces the item to her wardrobe and happily wears it again, like new. This approach works well between relatives and friends as well, to swap and re-swap over time.
What has helped me the most is to try to hone in on a set number of pieces and styles that I really like, and then to decide where I can source these. I have not had a lot of luck with secondhand jeans so I usually try to buy them from an ethical brand every couple of years, and care for them well.
For tops and dresses, I plan to swap or buy secondhand when I have had them in rotation for a long enough period. I keep all tops that are not good enough on their own anymore to wear as base layers in colder weather, and I have even learned to darn my socks.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.