The gentrification of thrifting - how to help
Gentrification definitions from Oxford Languages
1. the process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses, often displacing current inhabitants in the process
2. the process of making someone or something more refined, polite, or respectable
The eco-conscious movement is growing, and with that people are becoming a lot less willing to contribute to the damage, exploitation and waste of fast fashion. Second hand and vintage clothing are now very much in vogue for this very reason, along with the fact that most people still struggle with the cost of sustainable alternatives, there are a lot of eco and financial benefits for choosing those pre-loved items.
You're waiting for the however ...
However, this trend has led to an increase of people buying clothes to sell them on for a profit (the gentrification of thrifting), and in some cases they're taking away affordable, durable and fashionable clothing from low income communities that already have limited access to quality clothing - leaving them with no option other than fast fashion. Add this to the current trend for 'oversized' fashion and we see a restriction on what is already a small pool of secondhand items for plus sized shoppers. The case is that for some, shopping second-hand isn't a hobby or business, its a necessity.
Additionally, there is also the actual gentrification of cities that is causing an increase in the pricing. This is down to the owners becoming savvy to the popular brands and styles that they can charge more for, and many have to factor in higher rent costs as the popularity of an area grows - with these considerations we are seeing second hand garments becoming more expensive.
While I was doing my research for this blog, and eventually for my online vintage shop, I came across this information and felt that it echoes the exploitation involved in fast fashion that we are trying hard to avoid by buying secondhand in the first place. So I began to think about the ways that this could be remedied and believe that it again comes back to awareness and transparency. What should we do and expect?
Thrifting mindfully - this means not diminishing the supply of quality clothing that low income communities rely on
Shoppers should only buy what they need, and if they have the means, should consider purchasing from sustainable-ethical alternatives and/or the more expensive second-hand retailers to limit the impact on low income shoppers
Independent retailers need to be honest about their supply chain and aim to be transparent about their sources in the same way that we now expect from brands big and small. We need to be looking into private consignment rather than local shops, and rescuing damaged garments - this is a particularly helpful thing to do as most of these end up in the landfill, but with some TLC some high quality pieces can be given a new lease of life
Increased footprint - if a garment is shipped after being thrifted, its overall footprint increases, which wouldn't have happened if the garment had been purchased and kept locally to its source.
-- Sellers should consider offsetting the increase in packaging and travel, as well as making their own packaging as eco-friendly as possible. Another rising trend is sellers looking abroad for their items, which massively increases the footprint of these pieces, as well as taking away from the communities of its origin. Keep your sourcing close to home, and offset it
-- As a buyer, be aware of greenwashing from businesses both big and small - those who market themselves as a sustainable alternative but don't actively implement the practices (eg. they use non-recyclable packing materials, or purchase/ship their products abroad without offsetting). Demand transparency from whoever wants to sell you anything
Giving back - profiting or benefitting from a community - global, national or local - means we should endeavour to contribute back into that community, whether it be through donations or volunteering etc. a sort of "ethical offsetting" so to speak
As this is a relatively new trend with the potential to really change the narrative around secondhand buying, mistakes will be made and more often than not, they will be unintentional. My idea for Bohème Curation and what I wanted it to achieve began to take shape as I was creating my first articles here with the aim to create a small corner for a sustainable, affordable and above all ethical alternative to fast fashion. I have read and researched to figure out the best ways I can go about this, but with that being said, I'm sure there will be more hurdles to negotiate. It is part of the process of making better and more informed decisions, and it involves constantly checking in with our actions, seeing if there is new information that gives us room to improve and, most importantly, being open and honest with those who our actions affect.
Shopping for secondhand clothing remains one of the best options for people who can't afford sustainable brands and are wanting to be more eco-conscious, and while we shouldn't discourage these positive changes, it does mean that we must continue to be conscious of our decisions as consumers on both the world at large and the one closer to home.
If you have any other thoughts or ideas about this I'd love to hear them!