Nearly everyone knows the present phenomena of thrift culture, which appears to have taken over social media, Instagram in particular. You may have personally participated or not, but this new trend, which has overtaken the fashion industry, seems impossible to ignore.
It’s the year 2021, and you can’t shop without holding yourself and the brands you buy from being responsible. We can no longer excuse the purchases we make on a whim until we comprehend the difference between “need” and “desire.” The more we consume and contribute to the rapid consumption of goods, the faster we fill the landfills, which are quickly turning into toxic mountains in a third-world country.
So, what exactly is thrift culture, and why has thrifting become so popular recently?
Purchasing items (typically clothing, accessories, or fashion items) that have been previously worn or owned, dumped as surplus by fast fashion brands, or even old items that have been upcycled/repurposed and sold by thrift stores is what thrifting entails.
Many people appear to engage in thrift culture just for the sake of getting their favourite branded goods at off-brand costs, but is there more to thrifting than inexpensive purchases. Yes, indeed! Those thrift store jeans, rather than being purchased directly from a fast fashion brand, are not only kind on your wallet but also on the earth.
Yes, thrifting is more fashionable and “trendy” than ever, but being environmentally conscious and aware of what you’re buying has always been cool. Thrifting has become more accessible, which is something to rejoice about!
The second-hand industry is predicted to reach $64 billion in the next five years, according to ThredUp’s 2020 fashion resale forecast. This is huge, and it demonstrates how thrifting has progressed to become a major player in the fashion market. The younger generations show a significant willingness to buy second-hand as a solution to fashion waste, which presents a positive perspective for the future of fashion.
Fast Fashion is raising environmental degradation at an alarming rate
Fast fashion is defined as the mass manufacturing of low-cost, low-quality, disposable apparel. It is a very profitable business model that focuses on speedily producing large quantities of garments at a low cost. Initially, the fashion business produced clothes seasonally; however, brands today generate a new collection virtually every week. It is now a $3 trillion worldwide market led by labels such as H&M, Zara, and Forever 21.
Fast fashion is harmful to the environment and consumes a lot of resources. Fashion production accounts for 10% of total world carbon emissions and is the second most polluting industrial sector, trailing only oil. The fashion industry is also the world’s second largest polluter of freshwater resources. A percent of all chemicals manufactured in the world are used in textile production, and the waste water is discharged into rivers. In fact, companies that create low-cost clothing are destroying some of the world’s most significant waterways.
The garment business depletes non-renewable resources, emits vast amounts of greenhouse gases, and consumes massive amounts of energy, chemicals, and water. Synthetic fibres, which are frequently used by fast fashion firms, can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade. Garment-producing countries, such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, suffer the weight of the pollution and environmental implications of products consumed in the global west.
Furthermore, garment workers toil for over 100 hours or more per week and yet do not earn enough money to sustain themselves, all while battling life-threatening health hazards. The recent #PayUp Campaign highlighted the plight of these workers- insufficient wages, sudden unemployment, missing salaries, etc. In fact, it was estimated that garment workers in Bangladesh were owed $500m for the first three months of the pandemic alone. Moreover, they are often forced to work over 16 hours per day throughout the week in unsafe buildings with no ventilation, leading them to breathe in toxic substances and fibre dust to manufacture the clothes. Most workers face verbal and physical abuse daily and aren’t even allowed to drink water or take bathroom breaks, all while being cheated out of their wages.
Did You know?
• The fashion industry accounts for 10% of our greenhouse gas emissions, which equates to 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases generated each year.
• One pair of jeans can consume up to 10,000 gallons of water.
• Every year, 85 percent of all textiles are wasted and end up in landfills; they are also a major source of microplastic contamination in our water bodies, since simply washing clothes can release 500,000 tonnes of microfibers.
Sustainable fashion, slow fashion, or long-lasting fashion, upcycling, and, of course, recycling close the loop. Patagonia, for example, was one of the first companies in the fashion industry to prioritise slow fashion and repurposing all used clothing. They even resell their used clothing to customers after upcycling it.
Another option for dealing with this issue is to buy pre-owned clothing rather than new clothing, which is known as thrifting!
Thrifting in India
A completely new area and identity in India, Thrifting has taken on a different level from the rest of the world. There are brick and mortar shops in several nations, like the United States, where you need to physically go and buy goods. In India, however, 90% of the thrifting sector flourishes online via Instagram accounts and websites.
Gen Z appears to be the backbone of the thrifty sector and the thrifting culture is steadily spreading in India, since it is the most environmentally concerned and ecologically-awakened generation. Therefore, it’s the Gen Z and millennials who are running majority of these Online Thrift Stores.
In the end…
Like most things in life, thrift culture has drawbacks, the first of which is over-purchasing. With so many cheap options and outlets to pick from, it’s easy to get carried away and wind up buying low-quality products that are worn once and then dumped as garbage.
Second, the demand for branded items encourages the production of first-copy goods. Which are essentially counterfeits that look identical to branded things. Many thrift stores, consciously or unknowingly, sell counterfeit goods in order to meet client demand for low-cost, branded merchandise. That is why it is important to buy from reliable thrifting platforms like Swap Fashions (www.swapfashions.in).
Furthermore, thrifting does not change the reality that the garments in circulation continue to come from fast-fashion labels that employ unsustainable, resource-intensive, and immoral production practises. As a result, while thrifting extends the life of these garments, it does not fully solve the environmental and social challenges associated with their manufacture.
It’s remarkable how many individuals are embracing thrifting and decreasing their environmental effect. While thrifting is ethical and sustainable, it is also crucial to buy only what you need and to be aware of your privilege while shopping second-hand and in which places you thrift.