Saving the World with Fashion

Often unfairly criticised as being a culture built on excess, fashion can instead be  a liberating force for social good. Darla Dryland investigates the glamour behind Oxfam’s festival reselling.

As the fabulous festival season draws to a close, many of us will be suffering from the unavoidable post-festival blues. Getting back to reality and returning those feather boas, neon tutus and crazy wigs to the wardrobe can be a real challenge and it feels as though they’ll never come out to spread their joy again! But for Oxfam’s festival volunteers, the wonderful world of festival fashion continues all throughout the year. 

Selling clothes at various summer festivals, including Glastonbury, Womad, Boomtown Fair, Leeds and many more, Oxfam provides the British public with an array of gorgeous garments that are specifically tailored to align perfectly with the genre, location, theme and type of festival being targeted. Behind the seemingly spontaneous and effortless arrangement of clothes sold in the Oxfam marquees, a rigorous process of selection takes place months before. In the Oxfam Warehouse in Batley, just a 15-minute train journey away from Leeds, around 12,000 tonnes worth of clothes are donated per year. Here, a group of specially trained volunteers sort through the mass of clothing in their recycling plant, known as Wastesaver. The items gradually get more and more refined until they reach their perfect destination in the festival fashion sorting area. When they then arrive, the clothes are carefully inspected to ensure only highest quality garments are selected. The process is a lot more complicated than you might imagine, with each festival category having a number of sub categories and specific criteria which the donated garments must fit into. Mood boards are created and discussions are held to establish coherence between the collections of clothes that are eventually sent off to the various festivals. Not only must the volunteers make careful decisions about what clothes to sell when and where, but an engaging and exciting selection of items must also be assembled to create the perfect set up for displaying the clothes and enticing all you festival goers into the stores.

And of course all this hard work pays off! Thousands and thousands of pounds have been raised through these little glam- filled gazebos and every single penny spent this summer at one of the Oxfam festival shops has gone towards fighting extreme world poverty. Oxfam has a wide range of developing projects set up in order to help particular crises. The Yemen crisis aims to combat the famine that many families are becoming increasingly exposed to and the Iraq crisis focuses more on the humanitarian needs of the people, providing food, shelter, medicine and water to the people in central and northern Iraq. The impact of this festival fashion, therefore, extends to all parts of the world and Oxfam have certainly taken the concept of ethical fashion to a far greater level than ever before. Not only does the money you spend at these stores improve the world we live in, the clothes are all recycled or re-used once the festivals are over, returning to Batley’s Warehouse where they are re distributed and sold at another suitable festival. 

So when you feel yourself getting down about leaving those festivals behind and returning to the real world, just remind yourself of the fact that your impulsive summer purchases have gone towards the process of eliminating extreme poverty. It just goes to prove that fashion really can be a part of saving lives and changing our world.

Darla Dryland