With the wealth of information and resources readily available online combined with frequent media reports about unethically produced fashion there is absolutely zero excuse to continue supporting ridiculously cheap brands and yet these unethical companies continue to thrive and expand while the people actually creating the garments live in extreme poverty. This is a frustrating never-ending cycle that can only be broken by consumers making a conscious choice to say “no” and stop buying the unethical products until changes are actually made and not just promised for some random time in the future. Sadly the average shopper simply doesn’t care.
Reusing, upcycling, refashioning and shopping second hand are fabulously economical alternatives for creating your own unique, trendy style without supporting the corrupt companies behind impossibly cheap fast fashion however, is thrifting really ethical?
Discover my views on this controversial topic and then share your thoughts in the comments below:
We all know that attempting to find 100% ethical and sustainable products in regular stores is a challenge. Even with the searchable resources and detailed brand reports provided by The Fair Wear Foundation and The Clean Clothes Campaign there are no guarantees that the garments were actually manufactured under ethical conditions.
Unfortunately stitching up your own clothing from new textiles is also an ethical gamble as most of the material in fabric stores is manufactured in similar conditions to fast fashion.
Unless you are buying something that is clearly marked as ethical and sustainable you can be pretty darn sure it is not. Companies who actually care enough to take the time and spend the money to ensure that their products are ethically and sustainably produced absolutely shout it from the rooftops, add it to the tags and proudly display extensive information about their production methods and labour policies on their websites.
Thrifting is most certainly a sustainable way to shop but is it also ethical?
In my opinion it is. By shopping second hand and reusing I am not contributing a penny to the multi-billion dollar fashion industry nor am I unintentionally supporting an unethically produced brand.
But what about second hand fast fashion? Buying fast fashion at thrift and charity shops is definitely a personal choice. On the one hand the money is no longer going into the pockets of the unethical brand but on the other hand, you’re still a walking advertisement for the company when you wear the mass produced, recognizable garments regardless if they are second hand or not. (I’ve made a conscious decision to steer clear of fast fashion brands entirely – knowing that a garment was most likely created unethically is more than enough to reason to leave it behind and hunt for something else.)
Unfortunately there are absolutely zero guarantees that any garment from any era was 100% ethically produced. The unethical treatment of garment workers has been happening since mass produced clothing was invented. Unscrupulous companies have (& will) always find a way to cut costs regardless of labour laws and sadly illegal sweatshops can be found in every country in the world.
Outsourcing the piecework to factories in poor countries began in the mid-1970’s and from there unethically produced “fast fashion” truly began and had completely changed how the general public shopped for clothing by the 1990’s. The rise of the internet has finally given garment worker rights activists an open, worldwide platform to spread the ethical/sustainable fashion message and educate the buying public about just how and by whom fast fashion is made and the actual costs involved behind their throwaway-and-buy-more clothing & accessories. The sad truth is that the average consumer simply doesn’t care and the instant gratification of scoring a new steal of a deal item is more important than pausing to think about who made the garment.
What do you think? Is thrifting really ethical? Let me know in the comments below…
and if you’re still on the fence about thrifting and shopping second hand take a peek at my Why Not Thrift? video and meet my amusing cast of characters and discover why thrifting and reusing should be an important part of everyone’s life:
Disclaimer: I am not at all an expert on the big business of fast fashion however I am a concerned consumer who has chosen to learn & share as much as I can through my own personal experiences & the wealth of resources available online.