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Thrifting: Bandaid on a Bullet Hole?

By Avni Goel

Thrifting is arguably one of the more popular trends to arise within the past few years. With an increased awareness regarding our fashion carbon footprint, thrifting is often framed as a solution to our problems. It is both affordable and sustainable. It satiates our need for cheaper clothing without succumbing to the environmental and moral destruction of fast fashion. You’re able to find everything from garments, accessories, and home decor, all at a lower price while diverting these materials from landfills. However, although thrifting may be a more sustainable option, it is important to recognize that it isn’t a foolproof solution.   

One of the main issues with secondhand shopping is that it does not address the core problems of overconsumption and overproduction within fashion. The secondhand clothing industry has always been prevalent, but social media has created a significant increase of interest surrounding thrifting. The internet is saturated with content featuring thrifting hauls, thrift flips, best thrift stores to check out, etc. Originally meant to provide clothing accessibility to lower income communities, the popularity surrounding secondhand shopping now transcends tax brackets. More people than ever are on the search for sustainable and inexpensive ways to shop. 

The rise of influence culture within fashion, to always have the top trending pieces, plays a large part in our excessive wardrobes (overconsumption) and fashion brands catering to these needs (overproduction). Where there is demand there is supply, and thrifting is no exception to this cycle. Shopping for the sole purpose of trend chasing, keeping in mind that our trends may vary by the week, the average consumer purchases far more than they need and will ever use. When we think of thrifting, we think ‘vintage’ and ‘one-of-a kind’, when in reality fast fashion and damaged clothing make up a large part of the pieces in thrift stores. We are purchasing and donating/discarding at such a high rate that until we decrease our actual consumption, thrifting, although a more responsible option than buying new, is still an enabler to the cycle of overconsumption and overproduction.

As a thrifting enthusiast myself, I am not in any way wanting to discourage shopping secondhand. It is better to shop within the secondhand industry than to shop and support fast fashion. However it is important to remember that the root of waste within the fashion industry is due to an excess of consumption and production. And practices such as thrifting continue to encourage consumption. While thrifting is more affordable and does reduce waste, we need to be aware of the ethical implications behind our shopping habits itself. True fashion sustainability lies in moderation and what’s already in your closet. 

Image courtesy of Craig McDean

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