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Lagom x Koha Apparel—second-hand, circularity and community

Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Words by Tracey Creed

Published October 25 2021

A few weeks ago our friend Charli, founder of Koha Apparel, dropped off a box of clothes, Amandine wore them and I took the photos. All images were taken within our block over a week during lockdown. All the pieces will be available exclusively online at Koha Apparel.

Buying second hand, whether that means consigning another pair of Acne pants or purchasing vintage Levis from Etsy, provides this opportunity to extend the life cycle of a product, supporting the overall ecosystem and preventing waste. We both also try to support brands in the primary market, open and accountable people. That said, the space can sometimes feel pretty judgemental with people comparing what is more sustainable—but there is nothing 'sustainable' about getting rid of clothes because of their care label. Perhaps they no longer reflect an ethos.

Against the fence: Amandine is wearing an oversized olive blazer, over a pale blue second-hand Glassons crop top, paired with Agolde Riley jeans. Top, Amandine’s own.

The lifecycle of a garment is key to sustainability. Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term that has various layers and nuances sitting underneath. And sustainably is not as simple as buying something made out of organic cotton. It can be damaging only to consider one aspect of a garment's sustainability credentials. It is essential to consider the durability and overall life cycle of a product—how long will it last and what will happen to it once it is no longer functional on your terms.

Crossing the street: Amandine is wearing beige Anine Bing Thalia trousers. Second-hand Ralph Lauren shirt, Trace’s own. Thrifted belt borrowed.

One of the more exciting aspects of second-hand culture is that it can be more about the design and quality—and not the brand or logo. You can dress well without spending a lot of money or sacrificing your values. It just requires time and thought. Circularity, the appeal of second-hand, culturally transcends labels and terms. For some, there is no consideration of ethics behinds these choices.

We have always liked the uniqueness inherent to second-hand. Buying worn clothing—there’s a significance that goes beyond utilitarian character or commercial value, redefining societal standards and norms. And you won’t look like everyone else. Size becomes less relevant, each piece discovered further curating a personal uniform and informing how we express our personalities through the act of dressing. For this photo essay, we selected garments with considered cuts, building a silhouette with details complimenting the body while maintaining ease and comfort. The pieces in these photographs are all second hand, from Koha Apparel, unless otherwise labelled.

In the wisterias: Amandine is wearing a vintage wool blend sweater paired with Anine Bing Thalia trousers. Thrifted belt borrowed.

More recently, we have seen resale suffering from perceptions of being expensive and niche—the gentrification of second-hand has been covered quite a lot on the Internet. Gentrification takes from the people and systems that existed before it, eventually displacing individuals and businesses, destroying communities and culture. And it remains highly problematic where capitalist thinking promotes resale through highly curated Instagram feeds as a sustainable solution to hyper-consumption. But at prices that make fast fashion more desirable.

In truth, Western modern societal culture is profoundly dependent on consumption. The wider trend of upcycling that has been taking overemphasises a modern sensibility of luxury that focuses on reworking the old into the new. But some peer-to-peer sellers are also monetising it in a way that it wasn’t before.

Rock and roll: Amandine is wearing Anine Bing Ryder Leather Pant. Old t-shirt borrowed from Trace’s boyfriend and second-hand Le Spec sunglasses, her own.

Charli Cox is the founder behind Koha Apparel, a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting our marginalised community. Since January 2019 Koha Apparel has been a constant fixture at St Kevin's Arcade alongside Everybody Eats. Today, pre lockdowns 50 volunteers support communities across 4 regions—Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Wellington and Whangārei with 13 pop-ups each month. And when it becomes possible to gather and move between regions this rotation will include Hamilton and Hawkes Bay. We've known Charli since forever. We lived together. And so we've seen the truth behind the clothing we give and throw away and how it can be remade into ever-better things.

Clothing is given a new life in more than one way. Purchases support the ongoing community work, unfortunately becoming increasingly vital. The crisis pre-pandemic—housing, remains highly problematic, severely unaffordable, deteriorating incomes and living standards. People turn up to emergency housing without shoes on their feet. It’s this massive overarching problem and it’s also disproportionately affecting underprivileged communities.

Bring the funk: Amandine is wearing a leopard patterned, green jacket. Vintage RayBan sunglasses, Amandine’s partners’.

Online sales also support repairing and restoring plus manufacturing from recycled fabrics—part of a broader ambition contributing to making fashion circular. Charli works with local tailors to repair any rips or tears in a defective manner. Old fabrics and garments that no longer have a useful life are transformed into scrunchies and furoshiki. This form of reinterpreting something that already exists provides local machinists with part-time income who might not otherwise engage within a traditional industry setting.

Daily walk: Amandine holding a Valenti vintage black leather handbag with patina. Second-hand Ralph Lauren cotton shirt, her own.

Depleting garment lifetime and declining enthusiasm for wearing what we already own combined with widespread irresponsibility of brands, governments, and consumers alike requires action led responses. So progressing the re-use culture remains a focus for Charli. Price points also remain accessible—a pair of unbranded wool trousers for $20, a vintage print shirt circa the 90s for $10. Koha Apparel provides an opportunity for anyone to take steps towards a more sustainable industry and encourages those with unwanted garments to donate. Physical pop-ups utilise a pay-as-you-can model, it’s a donation to the cause further broadening access.

People are realising that facets of the fashion industry will have to be reworked, redefined to progress, and transparency is the first step towards a different culture—including resale. When we purchase second-hand, we consider the financial incentive to buy and sell. Are we purchasing from those who consign rather than leaving garments unused in a wardrobe, or are products taken from thrift stores and sold using aesthetics at less accessible price points for capital gain?

It’s simple: Amandine is wearing a Superette white singlet. Gold Sea Shell chain from Found Treasure.

Everything we create is an effort to participate in a culture shift. All products featured are independently selected and curated by the authors, and we only feature items we use or would use ourselves that align with our values. As part of our business model, we do work with affiliates such as Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases if you decide to purchase through our links. The price would be the same to you either way, but if you find value in our work, then these affiliate links are a way to support it. We only recommend brands, makers and products we use — that we support. Transparency is important to us, so if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

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