Everyday, thousands upon thousands of clothing retailers are probably selling thousands if not millions of pieces of clothing items per day. Fast fashion is so popular, but the truth is the more you shop for tens of hundreds of items per month from these stores, the more you are contributing to a lot of wider issues in the world.
We all know that a lot of fast fashion purchases are thrown away within a year, because they don’t fit a new trend anymore, and a lot of us get bored of what we have in favor of newer, shinier things.
But there are still some alternatives to fast fashion that you can turn to if you need your shopaholic’s fix, and I hate to admit it but I’ve switched my mild shopping addiction to thrift stores for now. These are some of the reasons I’m obsessed at the moment.
Thrift stores are so full of many kinds of things, but we all know that clothes usually comprises the largest proportion of donations. I used to volunteer for a few different charities and see the influx of donations on a daily basis. So many people come in with a few trash bags full of stuff they want to donate, so this can amount up heavily. But the fun part was seeing what was being donated.
A few months ago, I was shopping at a local thrift store that I had never visited before. It opened up as a fairly new store and I decided to have a browse in there. Of course there was a lot of clothing, and I decided to take a look at the ‘premium’ section. Some thrift stores in the UK have this bit for shoppers who are interested in the higher end labels, which do come in from time to time.
So I had a look on the premium rail, and guess what… I saw a vintage Burberry trench coat. It was the genuine thing, the labels were all authentic, it was a classic design, that light khaki brown color that is the icon of all light brown trench coats ever, and it was only £50 ($65)!!
At that time I didn’t really know better. I thought that £50 was a lot to spend in a charity shop, and when I tried it on, it was about the right size but was a bit snug. So I decided not to buy it. Later that day when I researched the retailing price, I had found that they started at around £1000! That was probably my biggest regret so far, but it goes to show what kind of things you can find in your local thrift store when you’re not expecting it.
Better Prices for the Same Items
Charity shops are known to sell things at a better price than you would get them brand new, because in theory most of the stuff that gets donated has been used… right? Well not always. Often times you’ll find a lot of donations in the shops that have never been worn, or have hardly been worn. This is because they will often have the brand new tags still in them.
At a time when I was between shopping new and thrifting, I saw this jumper in H&M that I really wanted to buy. It was a thin, grey, cropped knitted jumper and it was £8.99. I knew I wanted it, but for some reason I just waited for the right moment to get it. Then a few weeks later, when I was thrift shopping, I saw the exact same jumper in the thrift store. It was that thin, grey cropped jumper from H&M, and you know what? It still had the brand new tags, and cost only £4! What’s more is that it was in my exact size, as if it was just meant to be.
So sometimes you never know what you will find, it might be that piece of clothing you were pining for for months.
Because the thrift stores are full of pieces donated by all kinds of people, you can often find a lot of items of clothing that you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else.
When I go thrift shopping, I usually like to look at the tags of items. Sometimes when looking at these pieces, you’ll see that the label has writing in a completely different language, or that it says it was handmade in a different country. Now not all handmade pieces are guaranteed to be unique, but you can be sure that if this was the case that there can’t be that many copies of that piece of clothing.
It’s also very fascinating to see the kinds of prints, cuts and designs that may date back from different generations and eras. I know that very recently, we’ve had a bit of a 90’s revival in fashion, from having items of clothing that have big brand names like Adidas, Levis, Tommy Hilfiger etc. to the denim jackets and the athleisure wear look and so on. And so many of these kinds of things can be found more easily in charity shops, because chances are that whoever owned these pieces may have potentially grown out of the style and not worn them in ages, and have therefore decided to donate them. But this is always brilliant news for those of us looking for these well-kept pieces.
It won’t break the bank.. mostly
If like me you’re not always fussed about finding those bigger brand labels, you can get quite a good amount of stuff for the same price or cheaper than you would in a basic fast-fashion store.
At the moment, I’ve found that tee shirts are on average about £2 -£5, and I’ve found great quality basics for that amount. I recently bought a really good quality basic blush pink tee shirt from a British brand called Hobbs. Their basic tees range from around £25 to £30. And this one which I found, in good shape and barely worn, was £2.99!
You can also find a whole outfit for a really cheap price, and you can put together a dress, blazer and even shoes and a handbag for under £20! This is especially useful if you’re needing a last minute outfit for a fancy event but you can’t afford to go brand new.
It’s good for the planet!
I know a lot of us are guilty of not thinking about where our clothes might go after we remove them from our lives. We are probably more concerned about that new piece we are getting to replace the old one, but truth is we need to think about the origin of our clothes too.
A lot of lower-end fast-fashion brands are pretty guilty of utilizing cheaper labor from poorer countries to make and manufacture our clothes, usually in equally poorer working conditions. Think about it, how many pieces of clothing in your wardrobe can you pick up, read the label, and find they were made in Bangladesh, Vietnam or countries a bit like these? I know for certain I can find this. And the issue is not where they are from, but the conditions that these factories are allowed to function in.
These workers are usually not getting paid anywhere near enough either to work in these places, and they will do a ridiculous amount of hours per day just to earn pennies worth of wages. And when we buy these clothes, we are indirectly allowing these companies to profit off the exploitation of these workers who are over-worked, under-paid and working in dangerous buildings.
You can do your research online and see about various accidents that have come to light and have put a spotlight on these issues.
On the other end of things, at the end of the clothes ‘life cycle’, tonnes and tonnes of clothes are being thrown away every year. Sometimes these thrift shops are so full of donated clothes that do their best to put them into a recycling scheme. But a lot of the time, what doesn’t sell will go into landfill, which is a massive waste and harmful for the environment.
A lot of cheaper clothing nowadays are made out of a fabric called polyester. There is so much of it because the material is very cheap to obtain, and as a piece of clothing it is pretty easy to maintain and look after. The problem is that polyester is a plastic, which contains a lot of nature-unfriendly chemicals. As a result, when this kind of material goes to landfill, its decomposition releases all these harmful chemicals into nature. What’s worse, is that plastic doesn’t decompose easily either – it can take 100 years or more to see it break down. But by then, the damage is already prevalent – you’ve seen how much damage plastic can do to the oceans, to the wildlife, and to the planet as a result. If these animals start to die off from eating plastic, if wildlife and ecosystems dies, and these chemicals stay in our atmosphere, then the whole planet is thrown off balance.
I think that thrift shopping can be not only fun and therapeutic, but also somewhat more beneficial for us in comparison to the fast-fashion industry.