We live in a world where more is more. But when is it time to say enough is enough?
This is a snapshot of one of the thrift stores in LA. It was the biggest warehouse of secondhand goods I’ve ever seen. At first I was delighted with the thrill of the hunt, but then the sad reality of our throw-away culture became apparent. The rows and rows of endless fast fashion brands shocked me. It stunned me to know that most of these items seem only a few months 'out of fashion'.
When did the price of apparel become less than a cup of coffee? How have we deviated from the post-war mentality of 'make do and mend' to treating clothing as it were disposable?
Don't get me wrong, I love shopping for secondhand clothing. Ever since I was sixteen, I would drag my Dad out to every thrift store in town. We would make it a destination, something to do to make up the 50 hours of driving required to obtain my driver's licence. Every Saturday morning, I would coerce my Dad to accompany me to antique fairs, thrift stores and flea markets to find treasures. I loved finding a bargain, I loved the thrill of the chase, but mostly, I loved having my Dad to myself for a few hours a week. Looking back, I have been thrifting for over sixteen years!
Over the past couple of years, I've noticed significant changes in secondhand shopping as a result of the fast fashion industry. When I first started thrift shopping, clothing was a luxury find, I could rarely find items that didn't have holes, didn't have patches, or that would fit my petite frame. That's because for most people, clothing was worn until it was worn out. How many of us wore hand-me-downs? Had patches in our jumpers and socks? We would wear out the item, repair it and wear it again.
Nowadays, clothing is the easiest thing to find. We went from a culture of having four fashion seasons a year to one in which new fashions arrive every week - that's 52 seasons a year! Our secondhand stores are the recipient of this influx of cheap apparel, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know, only 15% of apparel that is donated gets resold? That means what we see in our thrift stores is only 15% of the problem. Most get sent to landfill as consumers wear an item one or two times and literally throw it away - fashion has now become a disposable item.
Now is the time to say enough is enough.
Before we buy something I suggest you ask yourself - do you really need it? Can you make do with something you already have? Can you borrow something? If you really do need it, can you find it secondhand?
Participating in the circular economy is important, but only if we buy what we need. Looking at the rows and rows of clothing made me realise how insidious fast fashion is and how detrimental it is to the environment. We simply can not continue to consume at the rate we are consuming. This warehouse of secondhand clothing is just a small example of our excess. We have deviated so far from what our mothers and grandmothers have taught us. Seeing secondhand clothing being sold for less than a cup of coffee is a reflection of our consumeristic culture. It was time to say enough. I left this thrift store without buying a thing. We have enough. Let’s make sure our planet has enough too.