The addictive serendipity of Charity Shopping, & why ethical shopping is more essential than ever…
Until recently, and would always choose to shop at high street stores for EVERYTHING – River Island, New Look, H&M, Zara, Topshop, the usual. It is great getting an amazing new dress or have a bit of a splurge on some expensive new clothes, and it’s super difficult with all the media and marketing around us to resist those in-trend Autumn colours. But a few weeks ago during a lazy Sunday afternoon, I switched on a harrowing documentary on Netflix, called ‘ ‘The True Cost.’ Since then, I have been relying more and more on buying second-hand clothing and furniture.
Until a few weeks ago, the occasional news story of bad working conditions or low wages wouldn’t really make a difference to my spending habits or ‘need’ for fast fashion. I think that’s the same for many people. Take Primark, for example. Growing up, there would quite often be comments about Primark and the wages they pay their workers – yet people, myself included, continued to shop there. I think that was probably due to a certain naivete on my part, too. I had never really paid much attention to where my clothes had come from. I didn’t think ‘sweat shops’ were a very big thing that the industry relied on anymore, and were slowly being shut down. You hear the words ‘Fairtrade’ and ‘Organic’ thrown around all the time now, so that’s a good sign, right?
In 2013, a Bangladesh clothing factory collapsed at Rana Plaza. It killed over 1,000 workers. This was the event that made the Filmmaker of ‘The True Cost’, Andrew Morgan, realise that he didn’t know how his clothes were made, either. I’m so thankful that he set out to find out and to educate people.
I had never considered fast fashion as being particularly harmful to people or even to the planet before this. I do my ‘bit’ for the planet, same as everyone. I recycle, and I try my best to save water and make sure I don’t waste electricity. Common sense things to help ‘save the planet.’ But what really struck me about this documentary is how I, and many others, always assume(d) that just because it is a sector that is so main-steam and such an accepted part of society, I had the naive and assumptive attitude that this ‘must be okay’. It really really isnt. Fast fashion is poisonous to the planet.
What’s gross is that people know that this stuff is happening, but they don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to come across as preachy here – I was one of those people. I think we always think of these things as being in different cultures and therefore a world away from our influence. I still don’t fully understand the extent of it. But I’m making an effort to.
I think a lot of people choose not to acknowledge it because they don’t believe that their habits or beliefs would change anything.
“The film is a searing glimpse at factory workers, particularly in Bangladesh and Cambodia. But more than that, it’s a look at the long-term health effects of pesticide use, the political effects of exploiting workers’ rights, and the economic effects of unchecked consumerism. “Even if you look at fast fashion only in terms of business, the business model is finite,” said Firth. “Fast fashion depletes the Earth’s resources and uses slave labor all over the world. Eventually the resources will deplete, the profit margins will shrink, and there will be revolutions in the streets. If you are a smart businessman, you would address those issues today.” – vogue.com
Here are just some reasons that fast fashion is bad for people, and for our planet:
1. Genetically modified cotton.
I could seriously rant about the injustice that cotton farmers have to face. ‘The True Cost’ documentary touches on the fact that these farmers have to endure hours of exposure to dangerous pesticides – which are banned in Western countries – barefoot and without masks. It effects their soil, animals, and waterways, and leads to sickness and disabilities in their community. The suicide rates for cotton farmers in India is painfully high, with 270,000 Indian cotton farmers having killed themselves since 1995. I wont carry on ranting here, but please take a couple of minutes to have a read of this article by The Guardian, and see for yourselves.
3. Modern-day slavery.
When we think of slavery, we think back to sugar and cotton plantations and the deep south of America. But, nope. Your phone, those shoes, that coffee…
Take a look at this site I’ve just discovered. Eye opening…
4. Poor (and fatal) working conditions.
5. Dumping clothes because of a short lifecycle, which means growing landfills…
This is the part that really suprised me – I had just never considered this. The ‘disposable’ fast fashion clothing we buy is full of chemical dyes and metals, and the average clothing item is sent to a landfill around a year after buying. Often times, because environmental responsibility is an expensive endeavor, textile factories in the developing world will dump dye effluents into local waterways.
I don’t want to harm people or animals in order to achieve the feeling of ‘self-worth’ that you get through wearing ‘fashionable’, i.e. ‘socially desirable’ clothes. In my opinion, I should feel a sense of self-worth whatever I look like or decide to wear. So I guess this is a good thing for well-being too! I want my shopping habits to be helpful to others, not harmful. As the famously amazing quote says, ‘In a society that profits from self-doubt, liking yourself is seen to be a rebellious act.’
So I decided that unless I needed clothing or specific furniture first hand, that I would start relying more on charity / thrift shops for the majority of my shops. I found a great bargain recently – a gorgeous autumnal tweed jacket. It’s actually a lot of fun browsing the Charity Shops, there are some seriously great hidden gems.
Charity Shops are also great if you’re furniture shopping on a budget. My partner and I have recently moved house, and we got all of our furniture second hand and have just upcycled it to make it our own. It’s the best feeling knowing that you are not only getting a bargain, but that you can make your house into a home rather than just another Ikea catalogue picture.
We got the above for £6.00, and I’ll be honest, it looked pretty shabby. But I had some left over paint from the house so I gave it a quick coat and decided to stick some buttons on it to make something a little different. Still deciding on whether or not to put buttons around the edge of the lid…
Lamp shade: £3. I think the original price is around £13…
I love these wardrobes, and they’re HUGE on the inside! The pair were £120.
Lamp shade: Free. And it actually really suits our living room!
These two sofas were second hand – the larger dark leather was £75, and the smaller was £30. Such a bargain!
Love this mirror, Simon brought it for me second-hand. I think it was £30.
I’ve loved the serendipity of charity shopping, and building a home knowing that the money is going to local businesses or charitable causes.
I hope that this has been thought provoking. It’s a small blog post from a girl who’s only just learning herself, but any forms of spending the information and encouraging others to find out more for themselves is good!
I want this to encourage people who haven’t thought much about fast fashion before, like me, to learn more about the people and companies we invest our money in before our next spending splurge – I know I’m going to be making some changes.
Thanks for reading!
Some great articles on Fast Fashion/some inspiration behind this post: