Introducing Heulwen and #SecondHandSeptember

This month, Oxfam Cymru welcomed our new Media and Communications Officer Heulwen Davies. Heulwen joins the team after a successful career in media production and the marketing and events industry in Wales. She is also known as the founder of the bilingual magazine for mums and also an author with the Lolfa press. Heulwen is passionate about helping people, especially women and families, and has already used her skills to launch Oxfam’s new campaign – #SecondHandSeptember in Wales.

“I’m really excited about my new role here at Oxfam Cymru. This is the first time I’ve worked in the third sector and I’m looking forward to using my skills and contacts to ensure that everyone in Wales has the opportunity to learn about the amazing work done by Oxfam in Wales and around the  world. Having the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people in need is a great honour, and I’m raring to go!

Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve been obsessed with clothes and fashion all my life! I was therefore excited that my first campaign here at Oxfam was #SecondHandSeptember, and I can honestly say that it’s been an eye opener. Oxfam’s research has shown that people in Great Britain buy two tonnes of new clothes every MINUTE and the carbon emissions produced in the creation of these clothes is the same as driving a car around the world six times! If that wasn’t bad enough, 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill sites in Britain every week. We are in the midst of a climate crisis, and we must work together to bring about change.

Oxfam launched #SecondHandSeptember to raise awareness of our shopping habits and to challenge us all to commit to not buying any new items of clothing throughout September. I have made this pledge.  The collective action will have a positive effect on the planet, we’ll reduce waste and make a statement to the fashion industry that we don’t support fast fashion. The long-term goal is to stop wasting money on fast fashion, to support our charity shops where you will bring a new lease of life to new clothes and know that you’re supporting a charity which helps those in poverty. Spending just £10 in Oxfam allows us to buy water for 10 people.  I’ve always loved buying second hand clothes from charity shops and vintage shops as I like statement pieces. During an interview about #SecondHandSeptember on S4C’s Heno last week, I had the opportunity to show some of my favourite charity shop finds, and I wore my favourite Oxfam dress and shoes (total cost of £8.80!).

If and when we do buy new fashion items, it’s better for our pockets and for the planet, that we invest in clothes that last, clothes which will be in our wardrobes for years to come, clothes that are made in factory’s where workers get paid for the skills they have and have a supportive working environment.

Oxfam’s video about Lan, a factory worker in Vietnam is heart-breaking. It’s what inspired me to apply for this job. As a mother and a woman, I don’t want to live in a world where women are treated like this, and all to feed our desire for fast fashion.

Vivienne Westwood and other famous names in the fashion industry as well as celebrities like Sara Cox have shown support for our #SecondHandSeptember. I’m also really happy that people in Wales have been inspired to take part. One of these is Branwen Mair Llewelyn, Communications Manager at Literature Wales, I spoke to her to learn more.

First of all Branwen, Why have you signed up for Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember?

Firstly, because I know I buy too many new clothes and I’m also obsessed with looking for the next item to buy, despite the fact that I know that fast fashion is so bad. We all have responsibility to change our shopping habits and to prove to the industry that we have to change for the sake of our planet but also for the poor factory workers. Oxfam’s campaign has inspired me to change.

Why are we so obsessed with fashion and clothes in the UK?

Because of the industry. The industry is always looked forward to the next trend and makes us feel we need to invest in new clothes all the time. My inbox and social media feeds are full of adverts and trends and special offers, the industry targets us everywhere.

So, what have you learnt since signing up?

I’ve spent a lot less this month which is a massive bonus! I’ve learnt that I need to look at my wardrobe and see what I need, then make a list before going out or online shopping. I’ve always enjoyed creating new looks with the clothes in my wardrobe and this month I’ve enjoyed being even more creative with my clothes, it’s been great fun. The challenge for me now is to continue this good practice.

I see you enjoy shopping at Oxfam too?

Yes! I enjoy the charity shops and also the Oxfam boutique in Cardiff. I’ve found lots of bargains including a Whistles skirt for £10, it wold have normally cost about £200! Knowing that your supporting the work that Oxfam and other charities do is a great feeling too, my money is making a difference to people’s lives and that’s very satisfying. You’ll also never bump into anyone wearing the same outfit and you never know what you’ll find when you shop in charity shops! 

A massive thank-you to Branwen for sharing her experience, I hope Branwen and Lan’s stories will inspire you to change the way you shop. The people on the front line feeding our fast-fashion habit are exploited and poor, often women and mothers who don’t get to see their children. It has a massive impact on the planet and even though people think that they are getting a bargain they are actually not as the quality is often poor and we end up buying and throwing away even more – quote my husband, ‘Buy Cheap, Buy Twice’.