During my grade school years, I used to get a few of my clothing items from Forever 21 for cheap prices – more specifically, socks and tank tops. I was amazed by the other shimmery and shiny clothing items F21 sold, but they never included my sizes and my parents refused to waste money on what they thought were “gaudy” clothes. While I was able to make these clothing items last past a few years, it’s well-known that clothing from F21 isn’t meant to last long, as it’s a fast fashion brand. For many stores like F21 and H&M, these clothing items are produced by underpaid workers in unsafe conditions and with tons of waste leftover.
As an alternative to fast fashion, stores like Reformation and Sotela have ensured that their clothing is ethically made and many preexisting stores have lines that are dedicated to being eco-friendly and safe. These clothes are meant to last longer and you won’t feel guilty about where your clothing comes from. However, these clothes can be very expensive. I don’t know about you, but not everyone has 100 dollars to spend on a single pair of jeans.
Thankfully, in a way to address the issue of high prices from these ethical brand stores and the issue of fast fashion, thrift stores and secondhand stores have gained popularity, along with apps like Depop. People donate their old clothing to these stores to be sold for cheaper prices. While this is a great thing, it has become more popular with those who are more well off financially, causing an increase in price.
Additionally, there is an ongoing issue with gentrification when it comes to thrifting. Many sellers on Depop tend to jack up prices to gain profit instead of selling them to help those in need.
There is a saying: “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism”. In our society, there’s always a cost to anything we consume. By consuming fast fashion, we risk exploiting underpaid and mistreated workers for clothes that are not the best quality, but we get to save money. On the other hand, by purchasing from stores like Reformation, we have better quality clothes, but it costs us our ability to buy other goods we actually need.
Thrift shopping is both affordable and eliminates the concern that you might be enabling the exploitation of underpaid workers but often can siphons resources away from people who need the affordable clothes more than you do. Even though we can monitor our spending habits, there is no way to 100% consume fashion ethically.
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