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Why It’s Nifty to be Thrifty- Charity/ Thrift Shopping, The End Of Fast Fashion And The Circular Economy

Photo credits- the qmmunciatemagazine.com

Second-hand clothing has become a celebrated trend in the fashion industry. This interest is fuelled by a desire for unique and individual pieces, as well as an environmentally conscious mindset.

The desire to be more environmentally conscious can be seen in many areas of the changing fashion landscape, for example, the inclusion of this an environmentally conscious approach  in the brief of the biggest fashion event in the calendar year, the met gala.

There are many benefits to second-hand shopping, as afore mentioned, the biggest draw to thrift or charity shopping is the ability to express your individuality through one-of-a-kind pieces.

There is also the matter of fashion’s twenty-year cycle. This is the idea that fashion trends move like clockwork, recycling or reviving the style of trends from approximately twenty years prior. This idea is solidified by the re-immersion of y2k fashion in the past three years.

In essence this concept is summed up by the infamous Taylor Swift lyric “we never go out of style”, the best trends are always sure to bounce back. As a result, the search for vintage pieces, or in this instance pieces that are authentically y2k, drives and encourages the increasing interest and popularity of second-hand shopping.

Second-hand shopping is also the more affordable alternative to fast fashion, in addition to being the more environmental approach to this industry that is renowned and prominent in our society.

Clothing has always been a backbone to social life and social interest. This can be seen dated all the way back to the gilded age (to borrow this year’s met gala theme) where fashion was lavish and inspired by Parisian couture as a response to the economic boom, making getting dressed an elaborate process. This example illustrates the importance placed on clothing as a way of presenting yourself to the world, certifying the dominance of the fashion industry, and the extreme environmental repercussions of fast fashion.

Fast fashion consumes a monstrous amount of water, around 93 billion cubic meters. 20% of global wastewater comes from textiles dying causing havoc to the natural ecosystems, such as rivers or the ocean, where this water ends up.

92 million tonnes of clothes-related waste are discard every year. This means that the mass amounts of water used (or wasted) in keeping up with fast fashion is not even put to good use as it is not invested in long term items.

To better visualise this, earth.org says that a garbage truck full of clothes is either incinerated or sent to the landfill every second. The cause of this abominable issue is mass consumerism and the demands of fast fashion. Fashion is seasonal, this marketing technique necessitates new trends, styles and items at least 4 times a year, with old styles, or what is considered “out of style” being carelessly discarded.

The term slow fashion was coined in contrast to fast fashion, encompassing an awareness and approach to fashion that considers the process and resources require to make clothing. Slow fashion encourages the purchase of better quality garments which will last long, honing in on reducing consumption and production specifically. Slow fashion embodies a thoughtful approach toward clothing, with careful consideration to the huge ramifications the industry has.

Second-hand shopping is a part of slow fashion and is a way to participate in this movement without breaking the bank. Elizabeth Cline, author of the conscious closet, says “I am a huge advocate for resale and second-hand shopping and looking for higher quality brands on the Real Real and Thredup…you can get a better price, and you can even resell at the end of the season”.

The idea of reselling is a huge topic with many moving parts, this crosses into the idea of the circular economy. There has been much debate around the ethics of reselling because of the way it affects and reshapes thrift and charity shops. Thrift and charity shops have been gentrified through the rising popularity of second-hand clothing. The stores which sell second-hand clothing have noticed their increase in sales as people lean towards this environmental option and increased prices in order to maximise profits. This also affects the stock and availability of second-hand clothing.

The issue that arises are the negative consequences faced by those who are dependent on second hand shops because of their economic status. The concern is taking away this resource from those who are dependent on it, turning second-hand fashion into something inaccessible or even elite.

So, is the increasing popularity in second-hand clothing ultimately positive or negative? Although concern has been expressed about the gentrification of charity and thrift shops through the increased engagement and appearance of reselling, what cannot be forgotten is the tonnes of clothing that ends up in landfills. Finding alternative ways to extend the life of clothing by maximising the use of charity and thrift shops can only be in service of achieving an ideal such as the circular economy.


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