The Ethical Dilemma of Thrifting
When my friend bought up the issue of ethical thrifting, I had no idea how complex the subject was. After weeks of reflecting on the problem of over thrifting and not being able to come up with a solution, I turned to fashion enthusiasts and avid thrifters in the community. There is always more to be found when everyone contributes their perspectives. Hopefully, this will provide a platform for further discussion that is larger than our individual thoughts.
Thrifting is becoming an ethical problem. The overconsumption by thrifters has left the marginalized communities with a scarcity of items for themselves. What is your opinion on this issue? And what solutions do you think we as a community can do to face this?
“So I don’t have a great way to completely fix this issue. But I think that one way to make sure stores aren’t being over thrifted is to take into consideration the community that relies on thrift shops and bring items of clothing with you to donate when you do go thrift. This gives back into the system and gives others some great pieces to thrift!” – Merideth Fisher
“Overconsumption in any capacity should signal a red flag (even in the slow fashion world). I’m sure thrifters can get carried away with their purchases thinking it’s less harmful to the earth, therefore it should be ok. Even with second-hand clothing, we should continue to ask the
same questions. For example, are the workers in this company (Goodwill is a great example) getting paid fairly? Are they paid lower just because they’re marginalized? Do the extra rounded up totals really go to programs that help them or to someone’s pockets? Another example is the word “handmade. “Even in fast fashion, the clothes are essentially handmade by marginalized workers overseas. Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t matter. We must never accept the status quo and with a curious & inquisitive mind, continue to ask important questions.” –Nina Winter
“I think people need to be mindful of the whole reason thrift stores exist. It’s meant to be affordable clothing for those who need it. I feel like because it’s affordable people buy more than they need without stopping to think “Am I really going to get a use out of this?” and I’m definitely guilty of that. I think people should thrift with intention. And try to always give back to thrift stores! Give and take.” – Jessica Edward
“Thrifting and buying second hand is always a great way to decrease one’s environmental footprint. However, overconsumption due to the increasing popularity of thrifting exists. Over thrifting tends to leave fewer clothing options for people who need it (whether it be because of economic reasons, body size, or more). I believe thrifting is great as long as it’s for the staple/statement pieces you intend to keep as long as possible. And once they don’t fit, options other than discarding the pieces is to alter them or make them into something new (a great opportunity to learn how to sew!)” –ANRi
“I think when anything grows in popularity, there are going to be ethical issues that arise as well. Growing up, when we went to a thrift store like Goodwill for school clothes, there was a lot of shame and embarrassment attached to it, but we were there because it was an accessible
option and money was limited. Luckily, that has changed and it’s “cool” to thrift, but we have to keep in mind that second-hand goods are one of the only accessible sustainable options for people who are low-income. We shouldn’t shop just to shop, period, but rather think about what we are buying, the purpose, how the purchase can impact others, where these clothes come from, and the overall lifetime of the clothing. It takes practice, but it’s important to consider others when shopping because the supply chain impacts so many lives. (From farmers, factory workers, consumers, etc etc etc) Also, I think it’s generally good to avoid resell second-hand clothing. It can seem innocent at first, but hoarded clothing intended to be accessible and making it less accessible by tripling the price and taking it from the thrift store to online isn’t a good idea.” –Sydney Lenox-Barkus
“This is something I definitely have been thinking about myself. Thrifting is really big right now because of sustainability and the style but I think if you do have the money, there are ways you can still shop second hand or ethically without taking from those that actually need it. I typically shop at the buyback thrift stores a lot like Plato’s Closet and Uptown Cheapskate because while it’s cheaper, it’s not as low budget as places like Goodwill. Online thrift stores are becoming big now as well and they charge more money so people with a fairly low budget probably couldn’t afford it anyway. Hosting clothing swaps is another option because you’re trading clothes with people with your inner circle instead of taking what is at the thrift stores.” – Kalene LaBar
“As a reseller, I source a lot of my inventory from thrift stores. I try to source at thrift stores located in higher-income neighborhoods. But it isn’t always easy. I think as a community, it is hard to fix the issue of overconsumption as thrifting has become more popular. I think the best way is to thrift in neighborhoods accordingly. If you have the money source in higher-income neighborhoods compared to neighborhoods where they would need to thrift more.” –Jade Nguyen
Thank you so much to everyone that contributed to this blog post. With these opinions, I hope this will bring awareness and a solution may be found. Feel free to reach out to me or anyone mentioned above to share your opinion on this issue. Have a great Sunday, and keep an eye out for my next blog post!
Source: Sartorial, Magazine, Imperfect, Idealist