In the past few years, thrifting has made an enormous comeback. That is partly due to social media, climate change, inflation, and the rising prices in the fashion industry. Thrifting used to be a budget-friendly way to shop and find new articles of used clothing. However, now that thrifting is trendy and with the increased number of online resellers, is thrifting as accessible as it once was to communities who rely on it the most; such as those experiencing homelessness?
Thrifting is a rush! Find an amazingly unique piece with the original tag for a fraction of the price. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. Fast fashion accounts for much of the pollution within the industry.
Fast Fashion Polluters
Nowadays, everyone is drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid when buying fast fashion. They see their favorite influencers vouching for Shein or Zara and buy a ton at a low price that doesn’t show the actual cost on the environment and labor cost. Clothes purchased from fast fashion brands such as; Shein, Zara, Fashion Nova, and H&M are often extremely cheap and not durable.
Now how does this affect thrifting?
When thrifting, the purpose is often to find quality clothes at a fraction of the price. However, with all the cheap and low-grade fast fashion brands flooding the thrift stores, people can no longer find quality items.
Now you may be asking yourself what the problem is. Considering it is still better for the environment than just throwing the clothes out, some fast fashion clothes are cute and trendy. While that is true, the central point of thrifting is finding quality items at affordable prices.
Many low-income households rely on second-hand stores for warm winter clothes and items of quality. When purchasing quality items, you don’t have to constantly replace them compared to low-quality items when they inevitably rip.
Many second-hand stores give free clothes to those without homes. Unfortunately, when these items are so low quality, the receivers are quickly back to square one. Moreover, poorly made fast fashion items often do not protect against the elements. For instance, a thin, trendy sweater does little against the rain and raging winds.
Interestingly, fast fashion items are often resold at a higher price in thrift stores than the original sellers.
First off, let me tell you what resellers are; they are people who hunt thrift stores for vintage and classic pieces, which they then resell at a hiked-up price. Often thrift stores do not know they have extremely rare pieces of clothing in their stores.
These resellers will resell these items on sites like eBay or Depop. Resellers are often just hustlers or entrepreneurs fighting to make a profit. In no way are they the root of the death of thrifting; however, they do add an extra layer of complexity to thrifting.
They are making thrifting a lucrative business. With the increase in reseller prevalence and revenue, they are one of the many reasons thrifting prices are rising.
Inflation Vs. Demand
Let’s get to the source of the death of thrifting. There are two schools of thought, the first being that inflation is why prices in second-hand stores have increased drastically, and the second is that prices have risen in response to the increase in demand.
However, I offer a third school of thought, which is a cop-out; it is both.
We have all felt the effects of inflation, especially today. At the beginning of the summer of 2022, we saw gas prices explode.
How has inflation affected thrift stores? Let’s take a dress that costs $10 in 2020; that same dress would cost $11.50 today. This subtle increase may not seem like a lot; however, when you struggle daily just to find somewhere safe to sleep, these little changes are enormous.
Now let’s talk about demand. Thrifting is super trendy and a cost-effective way of shopping. Considering how culturally relevant thrifting has become, more and more people are inspired to thrift, which leads to higher prices.
While more people are purchasing consciously, it still means that prices will rise. So it is a weird issue to find a solution. But, unfortunately, in a capitalistic world, it is a way of life.
A little nihilistic, yes. However, there is no way around it. Thrift stores like Goodwill are still corporations looking to turn a profit. They have started dabbling in reselling, including an auctioning site that further reduces quality items benefiting those needing them the most.
What Can You Do?
Reduce or completely cut out buying clothes from fast fashion brands. It is a little step in the right direction.
Most importantly, know where you are donating your clothes. In the thrifting world, there are tons of different places to donate.
Churches are great places to donate clothes because most of the clothes you donate will end up on the rack. Unfortunately, large thrift stores like Goodwill often only put out 30% of the donations they receive.
If you live in San Francisco, a great place to donate your clothes is at St. Anthony’s. https://www.stanthonysf.org/services/clothing/ They are a completely free clothing market that runs entirely on people’s donations.