Elena | |
well-dressed woman
Recycle this!

Finding a second-hand gem in thrift stores used to be easy. You’d go through endless rails of granny-attire then chance upon that elusive vintage Valentino dress. But the pay-off was huge a designer bargain for next to nothing. For the less fashion-conscious it was a cheap source of good quality clothes, andit fulfilled a duty to recycle. Now the tables have turned, and in wealthy areas 2nd-hand is more expensive than new!

Recent trends (think Kate Moss in a Topshop boob tube) have dragged those looking for cheap clothing as well as the fashionistas to greener (not) pastures. The likes of Primark and Wal-Mart are near-trendy. Low prices, clothes that mimic the most up-to-date fashions and celebrity endorsees to boot, these stores encourage you to buy a lot, and often. Even fashion bible Vogue is not above using Primark for spreads.

And why is that alarming? Well, the obvious problem is waste how many landfills do you need, per trend? Skinny jeans alone could overwhelm an entire dump site. Another obvious question, though you wouldn’t want to ask it, is  why are these clothes so cheap? UK brands such as Topshop, Matalan and Asda have already come under fire for failing to prevent human rights abuses in factories where their clothes are manufactured.

In the US, Wal-Mart and Target have come under similar criticism. Meanwhile, slightly pricier brands like American Apparel are capitalizing on the fashion and moral trends by selling affordable clothing under such slogans as cheap labor is a false crutch. Admirable as it is, this kind of clothing is still relatively cheap and doesn’t necessarily discourage the trend for mass, disposable shopping. It still creates waste products at every stage of production from manufacture to transport  and means clothes often have a shorter life-span, so even thrift stores are unlikely to want to sell them.

Couple this with a rise in prices at some thrift stores located in affluent areas which charge prices that are beginning to represent the actual value of the garment. So, a vintage Valentino dress will fetch a corresponding price a very reasonable one, no doubt, but probably not as cheap as a couple of outfits from Wal-Mart.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

Leave a Reply