As Earth day nears–it’s April 22–thoughts of the environment are plentiful, and embracing the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mentality can begin with your clothes. Tina Davis does just that at her retro upscale shop, Cheeky Vintage, which she opened 11 years ago with her best friend.
The store, the result of a long-standing passion for vintage fashion in particular, is like a real-life dollhouse where every room is filled with color-coded racks of clothes. Davis hand-picks them herself, a continuously rotating collection of gems salvaged from estate sales or purged from other people’s closets.
“It’s more classic,” Davis says of vintage fashion. “You set yourself apart from the crowd.” Plus, she says, elements of old-school styles are regularly recycled and can be seen on modern-day sale racks in popular items like ‘90s-esque crop tops and overalls or the bell sleeves popularized by ‘70s boho frocks.
Besides being fashionable, vintage has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. It’s central to the “slow fashion” movement, which describes the forward-thinking, deliberate choice to buy higher quality items less frequently.
“Buy less and buy well,” Davis says, noting the harmful consequences of piling up a wardrobe that’s rarely touched: The mass production of cheap goods, including apparel, contributes to pollution and depletes environmental resources in great quantities. Making a single shirt requires about 2,700 liters of water, 10 ounces of cotton, and long, laboring hours.
“Once you dispose of it, what happens to it then? Often it ends up in a landfill,” Davis says. “What impact does that have on the community?”
The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association reports 3.8 billion pounds of unwanted clothes are discarded annually, a troubling statistic to Davis, who’s working to chip away at the massive waste through her resale shop. She first considered the slow fashion movement when she opened Cheeky Vintage.
“The silver lining is we are doing something kind for the earth,” she says, encouraging infusing vintage pieces into a wardrobe rotation to add depth to an outfit while helping the planet. “Vintage clothing is the ultimate in slow fashion because it’s already out there; it’s already made.”
Never worn vintage? There’s hope for you yet. “A great way to start is with an accessory,” Davis says. “Anybody can put on a handbag.”
For Davis, it’s a matter of both style and ethics. “Every piece has a story—where it was worn, why it was bought, how it was handed down across generations,” she says. “To me, that is so much cooler and chicer than fast fashion.”