I think it would be rather irresponsible of me to not address the disastrous collapse of the garment manufacturing building in Bangladesh, especially now that the death toll has reached over 1000 people at the time I wrote this article (since the numbers have been steadily increasing). Is getting your cheap pair of pants (or whatever) really worth all these people dying? In 1911, the US had its own disaster known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which 146 women died after a fire broke out in their building and they couldn’t escape after their employer had done many things to secure the building against theft. Our American workers were able to unionize and be vocal against bad conditions since then, why can’t people around the world have the same right? This really isn’t a guilt trip post though – because I have been guilty as everyone else in caving into fast fashion and these dirt cheap prices in the past. But I know I have the power in my hands to change that right now.
My blog is called Thrift Eye for a reason – and by being very thrift focused, I remove myself one step from these unsustainable garment methods and consumption. The way I and many people see thrifting, it is a form of recycling. I can go buy myself a brand new pair of pants from XYZ store at a really good price – but instead, I will probably buy myself a gently used pair at a fraction of a price, and probably of a better brand than what I would have bought new!
There are many benefits to thrifting and buying second hand. The first and obvious one is avoiding the consumerism that pushes these awful working conditions on people making clothes around the world. The second benefit is saving money – buying used typically saves you a fraction of what you would have paid new (although I will admit many thrift stores have gotten very greedy and charge exorbitant prices sometimes higher than new things!) A third benefit is that buying second hand, you are saving countless things from being sent to landfills! Many people have things they need to get rid of and will often throw away things they don’t need anymore – donating and buying from thrift stores stops a large portion of these things from going to the garbage. A fourth benefit is that many (not all) thrift stores act as non-profit charities to some degree. Many have different ways they give back to their community, whether it be through hiring people in the rehabilitation process, donating to larger charities, giving jobs to the developmentally delayed, providing the very poor with clothes, or other charitable circumstances (I like supporting those that impact the community). The great thing about the thrift-life is that it doesn’t just have to apply to clothes, think of all the things you can get at a thrift store!
Here is a roundup of my favorite thrift inspired posts written by my own hands! Like my favorite places to thrift in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Or my other recent post about how to mend things you thrifted that may have had a little damage. This post on how to maximize your thrifting and why I enjoy thrifting. A great photographic roundup of all the amazing things I found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Even a silly little post about the ridiculous kinds of things you find while you’re thrifting (like a really hilarious fake Louis Vuitton bag). Or this post about the bad/obsessive shopping habits the thrifting hunts brings out of you. Very soon, I’ll be working in a ‘my favorite thrift/secondhand fashion blogs’ type of post for your reading pleasure.
But the bigger picture really isn’t only about buying second hand – it also means supporting businesses that make their merchandise sustainably and humanely in the USA or (or in other countries if they can prove it! – remember, even some brands with the “Made in Italy” labels have been caught practicing bad fashion). You can buy new, there is no problem with that – but you have to realize that many brands make a huge effort to manufacture in the United States and pay their garment sewing employees livable wages so that they can work in comfortable conditions. The easiest way is to check your ‘Made In’ label – it will/should tell you where you garment was made obviously :) but I have rounded up some brands that have made an effort to keep their brands and production (for the most part) in the US!
Edit: as of January 2013, I’ve gathered up all the Made in USA brands together at this page.
Sometimes and some of these brands can be expensive – there are people who can afford to buy these things new, some of us can’t. I like to look for things on sale just like the next person, but I often find some of these brands while thrifting too!
Remember you will always have some options like buying and wearing vintage clothing – or probably the best way to ensure your clothes come from a sustainable source, make it yourself! Many swapping outlets are popping up too (or start one yourself)!
This possibly is my goodbye letter to shopping for clothes at Target, H&m, Zara, Forever 21, and the likes (many of which I have not shopped at for years already!) When you shop at these types of places, you are enabling manufacturers and companies to keep wages low and conditions awful for these people working their asses off for your $5 shirt!
My post is an open conversation – PLEASE tell me about any more brands that are Made in the USA or if I got any of my information wrong! Tell me what you will do and change, or if you’re not changing anything at all too! Let’s figure out why it’s taken this tragedy to force companies to revisit their practices. As someone who blogs and enjoys fashion, this will be an ongoing conversation for me and I hope everyone else too. And as soon as my copy comes from the library, I will be reading Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline about this very subject!