Second-Hand September started at the Oxfam GB in the UK. It is an initiative to encourage people to go one month without buying new clothes. Oxfam GB works globally to reduce poverty and generate development in a sustainable way.
The term “fast fashion” refers to the constant flow of new trends at cheap prices for clothes made by people who are making less than minimum wage and working more than 40 hours per week. Fast fashion is on a slow and steady rise, but it’s not just the producers who are at fault. We, as consumers, have also played our part in building up this industry. It is important to do the research. Figure out where clothing companies have factories and ask them about their labour policies, and environmental policies. If it isn’t public information on their website there is probably a reason for that.
Queer Eye’s Tan France talked to Independent UK about how fast fashion is a double-edged sword. The consumer and the producer are both responsible for how the industry has become what it is today. The fast fashion industry can continue to grow because their products are not made to last, so consumers go back for more, more often. He said, “It’s a false economy to buy … five pairs of black jeans from a really low price retailer that’s not going to last as long, they’re going to last a couple months each. Whereas if you just saved that money and spent your money on one of those black jeans that are a better quality, they’re going to last you longer in the long run.”
Nanaimo has a variety of thrift stores that are well priced and are loaded with clothes. My grandma volunteers at a thrift store in another city and she’s always bringing things home to take stains out, mend buttons, fix zippers, and stitch tears. If the donation isn’t in great shape, it won’t go to the racks. Not all thrift stores have people as dedicated as my grandma, bless her heart, but they still do their best to make sure they’re putting something out that’s worth buying.
There are many selective finds in thrift stores that will last much longer than pieces bought new from a fast fashion company. This is mainly because many clothes from fast fashion can’t even go to thrift because after a couple years (sometimes less) no one would pay for something that looks so worn out.
Beyond thrift stores, there are a number of consignment stores in Nanaimo where you can buy second-hand clothes and get money back or store credit for your donated items if the they fit the store’s style. There is also Facebook Marketplace where people are always posting clothes for sale.
If you’re not keen on pre-worn clothing, there are ethical companies that produce top quality products and are transparent about their practices. The Fashion Revolution made a Fashion Transparency Index for 2019. It includes stats on the 200 biggest brands from this year. It’s important to know where our clothes come from and who is involved in the process. Oxfam also made a pass/fail list of 27 fashion companies.
This piece is a brief glance and by no means an extensive look into the world of fast fashion. They have a lot to answer for regarding more than just sustainability, living wages, labour rights, outsourcing, equal pay, waste, recycling, and water treatment.
Just because September is coming to a close, doesn’t mean you can’t start more conscious and second-hand shopping now. Look into where your clothes came from, and don’t forget that doing something is better than doing nothing. Just because you can’t do it perfectly, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try.
A list of 35 ethical brands from The Good Trade.
Thrift List (curated by yours truly, in order of clothing favourites)
- Good Neighbour (Departure Bay Rd.)
- Salvation Army (Bowen Rd.)
- Vancouver Island Thrift (Bowen Rd.)
- 49th Bargain Bin (Cedar Rd. connected to 49th Parallel Grocery)
- Hospice Shoppe (Bowen Rd.)
- Salvation Army (Island Hwy. North Nanaimo)
- Value Village (University Village)
- Charlie’s Closet (consignment)
- Funk Your Fashion (consignment)
- Yours & Mine (consignment)