Second hand, the other side

A world tour for your clothes

Alternatives to fast fashion are becoming more and more numerous. Among these alternatives, the second hand is the most widespread. This one is really democratized and touches more and more people in view of its accessibility, its prices and the proposed choices. It also allows to stay stylish and to cultivate one’s style without going through the traditional stores.

Nevertheless, all is not rosy on the market which would be twice as important as the fast fashion market in 2030, according to Cross Border Commerce Europe.


Behind the scene

Nowadays, second-hand clothes shops are more and more popular and attract more and more people ready to consider a more ethical consumption.

These stores are springing up in every street corner with original concepts, and above all, clothes that can appeal to all types of profiles. Everyone can find what they are looking for in a thrift store, but you have to be willing to look for it…

This is why thrift store owners have the difficult task of proposing a selection of good quality clothes that can be worn at all times, which is not an easy task. Indeed, thrift stores usually work with donated clothes, but faced with the growing demand, owners have to change their basic vocation by using suppliers who offer clothes from other continents such as Asia or America.

The very essence of a thrift store is thus completely revisited and its impact on the environment, which is supposed to be positive, becomes nuanced. Clothes travel and therefore inevitably produce CO2.

The ecological impact of thrift stores is still less than that of fast fashion, but we must keep in mind that a garment bought in a thrift store does not necessarily mean that it has no ecological impact.


“Never mind, I can always resell it!”

The world of second-hand clothing is reaching an ever-growing audience. According to Cross Border Commerce Europe, the second hand clothing sector is growing 11 times faster than the fast fashion sector. This is due to the fact that second hand has become more accessible in recent years. Indeed, many individuals are turning, among other things, to online platforms that allow to sell clothes that are no longer used.

Generally, the prices are still quite attractive and the system is quite simple. The seller is happy to get rid of the item and on the other side, the buyer can refresh his wardrobe without going to the mall. Nevertheless, this process is slightly distorted when the seller continues to buy without limit in fast fashion stores. The possibility to resell on these platforms allows the buyer to relieve his guilt about his purchases.

These platforms become fast fashion nests where you can find new clothes never worn with their labels that are sold at attractive prices. Some are worn a few times, are then sold and this is how a vicious circle is created. People resell to be able to buy more and more. The famous second life of these clothes is questioned since their first life may never have existed. This is still fast fashion that is sold through a different network, but which is just as harmful. Thus, buyers contribute to fast fashion without realizing it.

The overconsumption is thus pushed to its paroxysm thanks to the tacit complicity of these platforms that do not advocate an ethical mode of consumption.

Overconsumption…even in second-hand clothes!

Thrift stores can also indirectly push to overconsumption. The principle of second life is very popular and, despite everything, quite noble.

As a result, some people buy without counting the cost and want to take advantage of all kinds of bargains.

Thrift stores accentuate the concept of immediacy in which we tell ourselves that it’s now or never. This is sometimes true since a beautiful piece seen today may be gone tomorrow and therefore forever. Thus, it does not leave room for a time of reflection allowing to really make a mature choice where we realize that we really want this piece. Thus, overconsumption also increases in thrift stores.

Many of the clothes we find at thrift stores are sometimes never worn because of the spontaneity that initially guided these purchases. The second life of these clothes is lived in the closet without them ever seeing the light of day again.


Poisoned gifts…

Unfortunately, the donations are no longer of the same quality and cannot be sold. In 2018, over 4 million clothing donations ended up in the trash each year. Many donations therefore end up being sent to less privileged continents to be sold to local populations.

However, since these clothes are of poor quality, they end up being thrown away and this creates landfills with huge piles of clothes. Local populations and people from very modest categories are also fond of good quality clothes that they can wear at will. This is due to the fact that the quality of clothes has, overall, decreased significantly over time.

The fast fashion industry is not making any progress in this area and there is no innovation to create better quality clothes.

The materials used are less in line with environmental concerns. Thus, donations of fast fashion clothes do not help the cause much and move the problem elsewhere. A donation only makes sense if it can really be used and really live this second life.


All is not bad!

It’s always time to think about clothing purchases. It is certain that we should not banish second hand purchases, because the basic principle remains positive. Nevertheless, we must cultivate sobriety by buying clothes that we will really wear and that have earned their place in our wardrobes. The goal of second hand is to give a second life to its pieces so these purchases must respect this great principle.

Moreover, we must avoid falling into the trap of ephemeral trends that disappear after a few months or even a few weeks. These are often clothes that are not worn much and that are found at knock-down prices on online resale platforms and that often lead to overconsumption in both directions. Thus, clothing purchases should be motivated by the desire to build a wardrobe and a style that crosses all types of times and trends.

Lending clothes to friends and family is also a great alternative. Indeed, it allows you to dress in a more circular way without having to buy for every occasion without exception. Sometimes, the piece we are looking for for a certain occasion is already in the wardrobe of someone we know who doesn’t use it much either. This reduces unnecessary purchases and clears out large wardrobes.

In general, buying ethically, sustainably and responsibly should be the watchwords when buying clothes. Favouring timeless and good quality clothes that you can count on indefinitely without feeling the need to replace them allows you to limit breakage.

©Picture – AFP, Martin Bernetti.

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