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A garment’s trip down memory lane: Dutch ReShare initiative for second-hand fashion

By Nora Veerman


Fashion |Interview

Image: Courtesy of Leger des Heils ReShare
“I bought this dress in Curaçao. I wore it on one of the most beautiful birthdays that I have ever celebrated. Nice weather, good food and dancing for hours.” This is written in a small, curved handwriting on a clothing tag attached to a summer dress. The dress can be found on a rack of one of the ten second-hand stores of the Leger des Heils, the Dutch equivalent of the Salvation Army. For the past weeks people that brought in their clothes here had the opportunity to write down a little anecdote on the clothing tag, for the next buyer of the garment. These pieces of clothing were sold over the past week, when the third edition of the Week of Second-Hand Textiles, with the slogan ‘ReShare Your Memories’, took place in The Netherlands.

The Week of Second-Hand Textiles

The Week of Second-Hand Textiles is an initiative by Leger des Heils Reshare. The goal of the project is to highlight the sustainable aspects of second-hand textiles and clothing, says Thamar Keuning, a marketing and communications employee at Leger des Heils ReShare. Plus it is achieved without ‘wagging the moral finger’ as she describes it, “You want to make it into something fun”.

The ReShare Your Memories initiative arose from the idea that clothing has lost its value, says Keuning. “In the past, garments had a much higher commercial value than they do now. Now clothing has become more of a single-use product. We asked ourselves: “how can we recuperate that value?”

Emotional value

The value of a garment is not only determined by the material, but also by the experiences and memories connected to it, notes Keuning. “That aspect of a garment is important but is often forgotten even though it should be the focus, especially when it comes to second-hand clothing. If you look at everything you have experienced wearing a certain garment, it is worth much more than a simple piece of fabric,” she says. “Clothing from a fast-fashion chain can also be very valuable if you made special memories wearing it.”

The idea that clothing is attached to memories and stories is on the rise. Recently, the Netflix series ‘Worn Stories’ was released, which is based on the book of the same name by Emily Spivack. The Netflix series includes eight episodes in which ‘ordinary’ people tell stories about their favorite garments. Former Club Kid Ernie Glam (the Club Kids were a group of young, eccentric club goers in New York City during the eighties and nineties) for example, talks about the hand-made suit he wore when he met Joan Rivers, Miss Park tells the story of the soft, yellow sweater that she always wears to her senior citizens dance club, and Ross shows the red silken tie which his grandma once made for him and he now wears when he misses her.

With ReShare Your Memories, ReShare highlights these types of stories. “You start to look at garments in a different way, the stories add an extra dimension,” says Keuning. “It is much more fun to wear a garment if you know where it has been and the experiences that are tied to it. It is something you will carry with you for years to come.”

Passing on stories

”Keuning has heard a lot of positive reactions to the project. “Some people go through the entire store, reading all of the tags”, she says, laughing. Indeed, you can find some fantastic anecdotes. “I was wearing these wonderful pants when I met my wife while canoeing,” a man writes about his trousers. “Later she told me that she knew I was the one the moment she saw my pants.” There are also some shorter anecdotes. For instance, the tag of a black blouse reads: “Bought this for a party, but the party was canceled.” “However long or short the stories are, it is always fun to know more about the background of the garment in question. The new buyer views it as acquiring a memory”, says Keuning.

Not only those looking to buy the garments are thrilled, the donors are too. Keuning: “For some people it is easier to dispose of clothing if they know the story attached to it is not lost but passed on to the next wearer.

Could this be something for the long term? Keuning: “We are indeed considering continuing this. I don’t think everyone feels like filling out this type of tag every time they donate a piece of clothing, and they don’t need to feel obliged to do it at all. When it comes to garments without a tag, you can just as well wonder: where has this been?”

This article was previously published on FashionUnited.NL, translated and edited into English by Veerle Versteeg

ReShare Your Memories
Second hand fashion
Week of Second-Hand Textiles