During the early stages of COVID-19, brands such as Shein and YesStyle have expanded their customer presence. These brands are well-known fast fashion producers aiming to create inexpensive and trendy replicas of celebrity or luxury brand clothing. Our social media platforms are now filled with online videos of individuals showcasing armfuls of plastic packages, comment sections packed with links to purchase, and commenters claiming how cute the items are and how they will also buy the pieces. It has become a cycle that has left and continues to leave a scalding impact on our environment, including an increased emission of greenhouse gases and extensive use of energy, chemicals, and water that is leading us toward a terrifying future. To combat this, many online users utilized this time to educate and emphasize the dangers of fast fashion while providing solutions such as budgeting, donating, and, most commonly, second-hand shopping.
Second-hand industries, including thrift stores like Goodwill, Savers, and other local consignment stores, reopened their doors to the general public as social isolation restrictions associated with the global pandemic loosened. They quickly started gaining popularity for curating unique pieces belonging to various past and current trends. As such, you’ll find ‘vintage’ colorful pieces from the 70’s or 80’s and the occasional Shein or Forever 21 tags among the racks. Now, alongside the massive, fast fashion unboxing videos we’ve come across online, users can also showcase their purchases from their local thrift stores. Many of those belonging to this culture have even made a living out of selling rare and unique pieces to fashion enthusiasts worldwide, but how beneficial is this shift?
In the past, buying second-hand was often seen as an embarrassment done only by low-income individuals. These stores were a reliable source for those who couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes. Unfortunately, with the increased popularity of second-hand shopping and the surge of technological advancements, many shoppers have made a business out of selling their purchases at outrageous prices. The popular app Depop, for example, has served as the most influential platform for this. Accessories, clothing, and shoes that users would find second-hand would be marked up to double or even triple the original price. Consequently, thrifting has become an entrepreneurial business that many individuals are encouraged to start to make a profit. However, the demand these stores are witnessing results in price increases that are no longer affordable for their original target.
Although thrifting may be an important step towards improving our mass consumption of fast fashion, we need to acknowledge the privilege of being able to take part in this culture and make a profit out of it. Reselling items originally priced for an underprivileged audience at unaffordable prices has become a trend, creating yet another obstacle for low-income individuals. Thrifting is something many of us have learned to love. Still, just as with many other consumer goods, we need to ensure that we can continue to make it affordable and attainable for others and maybe even take second-hand further by supporting small, sustainable businesses.