I read this and felt an immediate guilty pit in my stomach. Am I contributing to the gentrification of thrifting? Am I making the prices higher for those who can’t afford them, when I can in fact, afford it at retail?
Buying for other reasons
To be fair, I genuinely want to buy secondhand as much as possible for money but also environmentally-friendly reasons. I don’t necessarily (these days anyway) go to thrift stores to buy anything, though I wish I could. I do also tend to buy more on the higher end designer side, in the $100+ range, so perhaps that absolves a little of the guilt.
I tend to prefer consignment shopping (which is higher end secondhand shopping), or if I am on other resale sites, it isn’t for fast fashion (usually) because the shipping cost is already tacking on extra dollars in my head, so it better be worth it for what I am getting.
Reselling is not just picking up a garment and listing it
That said, I think those who resell, don’t just thrift it for $2 and throw it online, snapping a crappy picture.
Have you ever seen these professional resellers? They take a lot of time to go through all the items on the rack, carefully choosing where to put their money to buy inventory (they don’t just buy everything as it doesn’t all sell), and not to mention having to dig through PILES of probably quite disgusting clothing that may or may not have been on the floor or ground, or even washed before they donated it (yuck PLEASE WASH YOUR CLOTHES BEFORE DONATING), or with still stains on there from goodness knows what.
Then they take it home, wash it, iron it, take clear sometimes beautifully staged photos of said items on mannequins or in flat lays, and then spend a good amount of time crafting, selecting the brand name, price and properly listing it with measurements and notes (I know all of this because I used to resell years ago on eBay). It is time consuming.
Example of a flatlay; just try doing one, I guarantee you, you will cry a little as I did, as it takes a lot of time, effort and a real artistic birds eye skill to be able to achieve this effortlessly:
Out of the price, the platforms 10% – 20% of the price, so a $50 sweater, you can remove $10 for fees, it’s actually $40 in their pocket, not to mention the time they took to take care of the piece or fix it for resale. It’s a real job.
A lot of what is donated, doesn’t even sell
Not that this absolves anyone of anything, but a lot of what we kindly donate, doesn’t even sell. No one really wants to buy a white tee with armpit stains that cannot come out. So where does that yellowed tee go? Into big shipping containers sent to Third World countries like in East Africa to pick through and dumped on their land like garbage sites. They are now even refusing secondhand clothing there, as a result to the alarming rate at which we are dumping clothing we buy and toss as if it’s disposable.
This makes me even more committed to pick items out of this cycle of buy and burn, and to wear it for myself instead of.. well, donating it or tossing it aside like it doesn’t matter.
Where do we go from here?
If we (collectively) cannot thrift for ethical reasons, where do we go for reasonably priced clothes? Fast fashion is evil, thrifting is out…
For me, I’d simply be able to buy new eco-friendly, sustainably made clothing for much higher price points as an option, but what about women on a budget? I can afford it (not often but I can), but who else can without feeling a pinch?
Is it a .. trend?
I for one am torn. On the one hand, I want this “trend” to last so that we stop buying at retail and we buy secondhand instead. On the other hand, it seems to be driving up prices for others. What do we do? What’s the most ethical solution here? For me, the lesser of two evils is to continue secondhand shopping, and wearing/repairing what I have or reselling it in good condition when I no longer fit in it.