The treatment of clothing as something to be reused and repaired, as opposed to replace is the most basic way to undermine the fast fashion industry. This would decrease the demand for these materials such as polyester and cotton need to be produced and reduce the overall emissions. My personal experiences with thrifted clothing has proven to me that items that are thrifted are often more unique and since they have already had a previous owner without completely falling apart they seem to have a longer lifespan.
I’ve always been an avid thrifter and I have tried to reflect on how I interact the world around me. First off it’s probably important to clarify what I mean when I say thrifter, and how I became one. When I say I am a thrifter I simply mean that my general accumulation of clothing, knick-knacks and furniture is done through thrift stores, second hand stores and garage sales. As an art student, living with a few roommates and working part time I am financially limited in my spending of non-essential items such as new clothing. However I find great joy and self-expression in clothing, almost viewing it as artwork. This forced me to look outside of large retailers and into second hand shops to find clothing, which was within my budget and was also unique to my personal tastes.
By thrifting, I am able to refrain from participating as actively in the system of fast fashion. Fast fashion is a system that is ultimately negative for both the buyer of it products and the environment its produced in. Though I would consider thrifting a solution, I also want to consider some of its flaws as well as the other solutions some large clothing companies are pursuing.
The two concerns I have been reflecting on lately with thrifting are: Am I entitled to purchase things from a space designed for those living in poverty and how does my not supporting large companies affect the job opportunities of outsourced labor in countries such as China? First off, I have to acknowledge that though I am not in a position of extreme wealth, I still more privileged than those who many thrift stores were intended for. I have to consider if I am entitled to that space over someone who needs it more? And secondly many of these fast fashion companies rely on cheap labor outsourced from countries, such as China, which is incredibly exploitive however it still provides jobs, which thousands of people rely on. Though finding clothing by thrifting does not support the use of that exploitive labor it also puts those individuals jobs at risk. Do I not have an obligation to counter these poor working conditions by creating opportunity with where I spend my money, as opposed to eliminating the need for the position all together?
There is a third alternative, if you are in the financial position to pursue it, which is to seek out Eco-fashion companies who are pursuing the production of clothing with more environmentally friendly methods. Examples of this are companies that are attempting to sustainably grow crops to create fibers, which require fewer pesticides or make use of materials such as plastics to recycle into fabrics.
Ultimately reconsidering where your clothing comes from is another opportunity to reflect on how your day-to-day choices make an impact, and how you feel about said impact. We, in North America, are undoubtedly living in an incredibly wasteful society, and thrifting is a stepping-stone towards reducing some of that excess. Whether you wish you purchase your clothing in this way or not, I would say at the very least consider where your clothing is ending up after you are done with it. At which point you can also question, is there a place where it can be less damaging?