Thrifting – Ethical Shopping vs. Cheap Shopping

By Belinda

My thrifted navy pinstripe suit.

I started thrifting at the beginning of the year, and have already written a post titled, “My Journey to Thrifting.” What I’d like to focus on today, is whether thrifting, really is all those good things we think it is… Ethical, sustainable and conscious? I am by no means and eco-warrior, but you have to live under a rock, to not see the environmental impact, the clothing industry is having on our planet – not to mention the ethical issues raised with fair trade and practices within factories, for the workers. Whenever you buy anything new from the rail, think about where it came from. If the price tag seems to good to be true, it is! You might not be paying what the garment is worth, but someone somewhere, is!

Does buying pre-loved mean I pay less? For the most part, yes. But I can also look for high-end or designer pieces, which will most definitely cost me more than what I would be buying on the high street, but I wouldn’t have ever been able to afford buying them new. Have I found really cool pieces? Oh yes! I purchased a Ralph Lauren 100% linen blazer for R25!!! That’s less than US$2! I think that’s a great bargain. So for me, it’s not about buying cheaply, but all about being more mindful and wiser with my money. I’ve said before, I want to travel and that costs money, so whatever I can save by buying pre-loved, I put towards travel. Now how can that be a bad thing?

One of my more recent purchases from a consignment store. (Brand: Witchery).

At the beginning of the year, I started my low-buy, where I would only purchase one item of clothing per month, one pair of shoes, one accessory and one piece of make-up. I failed miserably this past month. I did do the “September No-Buy” initiated by Oxfam and I think that not buying anything at all for the month, created a vacuum within me, that only shopping filled! Am I proud of this epic fail? Absolutely not. But I admit to it, and will learn from it. I don’t often feel guilty after shopping, and this past year, has been especially good for my soul as I’ve meticulously worked from a list, and shopped as far as I can, more ethical brands.

So, when shopping second-hand or pre-loved, am I as strict with myself? No! I don’t place the same restrictions on what I buy pre-loved. When I thrift, my whole attitude toward thrifting, is that I am keeping clothes out of landfill for longer, and also giving them a second chance at being loved. I have a strange relationship with clothes. They are not just bits of material used to cover my body. For me, they are living organisms (yes, I know you won’t agree with me), but I feel as if I have a relationship with my clothing and I hate to keep clothes in my closet that I don’t wear. So as much as I thrift, I also gift clothes to friends and family, but more recently, I’ve started a second-hand store and I sell my less-loved items to someone who might love them more and therefore, use them more. Matilda recently joined me in this venture, and our little business is growing considerably.

My geometric scarf, purchased just before our winter.

So what are my rules then when it comes to thrifting? I don’t have any, except that just as with any piece I bring into my closet, the piece I buy must be able to go with at least three other items I already have. If it can be multi-purposed, like this scarf, which can be used as a belt, or to tie my hair up with, all the better. I’m less strict with thrifted items in terms of sustainability of the piece. It doesn’t have to be only natural fibers. It can even be a fast fashion piece, as long as I don’t wear it as fast fashion. For me, it must fit in with the rest of my closet and style, and must become as loved as the items I keep. Just as with buying new though, I am selecting more classic pieces, items that won’t date, and then regardless of the fabric, as long as I know I love it, and will wear it for a long time, I add it to my wardrobe.

I do have a rule of buying from a list. I have a carefully, thought-out list of items that I want to add to my closet, and if I can purchase them at all pre-loved, then I do that. It’s an absolute thrill to find an item from a thrift store, pay less for it, and understand there’s a story behind it, than to purchase new. I am loving this journey and know that even though I’ve only been doing this for less than a year, this is something I will be doing for the rest of my life. My outlook towards fashion, has forever been changed – and in a good way. This way of shopping is growing in popularity, but even if it wasn’t, I love feeling I am doing my bit for the environment, however small, and that makes me happy.

Belinda xo

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