In the face of such a massive threat of global warming, it is a wonder that corporate giants still manipulate us into spending on things that not only cross a multitude of ethical boundaries but also damage the environment in ways that could soon become irreparable. Despite these large and looming warnings over our heads, these giants prioritize profits over ethics and money over the environment. The fast fashion industry carries one such threat.
All the big brand retail stores in malls, from where most people get their clothes, belong to the fast fashion industry. Not only do we rely on them to complete our wardrobe, but we also trust them to make the latest trends available to us. They cater to us in a way that is both convenient and affordable. As a result, the harm the industry causes to the environment is lesser-known, but that needs to change.
The Toxicity of the Fast Fashion Industry
It is estimated that the fast fashion industry churns out 80 billion garments in a year, none of which is made of recyclable materials. This makes it the second biggest polluter on the planet, after the oil industry. The waste produced every year fills up landfills, which can take more than two centuries to completely decompose. Workers in factories belonging to third-world nations are paid less than minimum wages and made to work under inhumane conditions.
Water wastage, deforestation, air pollution, human rights violation are all reasons enough to boycott fast fashion and switch to a more sustainable option. These facts and figures pushed me to do something, make a change, however small.
The reason people opt for fast fashion, despite knowing its detrimental effects, is because of the power it holds over us. These industries give us cheap clothes, which are always in style and always what our favorite celebrities and influencers seem to be wearing. They make it so appealing with lower prices and good style that it becomes the only viable option. But that’s not true. There are other alternatives, just not enough awareness about them in India. One of them is thrift shopping.
What Is Thrifting?
Thrift shopping refers to reselling used clothes, essentially making sure that old clothes that are fine and look new are not discarded and find a home someplace else. Thrift shopping, also referred to as thrifting, promotes sustainable fashion. It is safe, environmental, and budget-friendly, does not abuse laborers, does not produce waste, and saves water. The idea is that one cloth discarded by someone because they no longer require or need it can be passed on to someone else, for whom it will be a brand-new piece again!
I knew all about the concept of thrifting through thrift hauls on YouTube, in which Americans shop thrifted clothes from stores like Goodwill. They’d find cool vintage and trendy pieces, all of which were donated. India, on the other hand, does not have such thrift shops. Many streets do have weekly markets, but the clothes they sell are, more often than not, new rejects of fast fashion brands.
I didn’t know how I could practice thrifting in India since there seemed to be no way. That is until I found that there is a massive online space for it!
The Scope of Online Thrifting in India
Once you start looking for it, there are thousands of online thrift stores on Instagram. As I began to discover them, I realized that most of them are run by young people, teenagers who use that platform to resell their old clothes and educate people about the need to eliminate fast fashion. It is both startling and inspiring to see that such a big chunk of this generation cares about a cause like this enough to contribute to it.
It didn’t take me long to want to be a part of it, so I opened up my account to sell my old clothes. I had so many pieces that either didn’t fit my style anymore or I had grown out of. Most of these clothes have been worn less than five times!
How I Ran My Thrifting Business
After very little planning, I opened up my small business. Having been completely new to running a business account, I made a ton of mistakes, but I started to understand how to manage it down the way. I used up my savings to buy the basic raw materials, clicked aesthetic pictures of the clothes, fixed the prices, decided the postal service, came up with a personal style of packaging, and started working on building a follower base to draw in customers.
It took a few days for me to get an order, but eventually, I learned how to work around the algorithm to reach people who are interested in thrifting. I found out that not only are there so many people selling, but there are also more who are willing to buy.
As a young adult, this endeavor taught me ways of business that I would never have been able to learn otherwise. Whether it was how to create a personal brand, curate a feed that draws people’s attention, or minimalize the cost of raw materials to earn a bigger profit, I learned concepts that are not mentioned in textbooks.
The best part, and most rewarding, were the feedbacks. The fast-fashion experience takes away the personal connection in the entire process. But clothes can be so much more than that. When your piece of cloth has an interesting story to tell, it becomes dearer to you.
Customers gave me kind reviews, complimented my packaging, and sent photos of how happy they are in their new-old piece of clothing. It warmed my heart to see that most people don’t care about trends, new clothes, or brand names. They were happy wearing a dress that I had worn two years ago on a birthday and discarded because all my family and friends had seen me in it.
What I Learned and Why You Should Start Thrifting Too?
Many of my clothes, which otherwise would have been thrust at the back of my closet, are now distributed among people from different parts of the county who love it more than I did and will show it off in front of people. Maybe, after that, they wouldn’t want to wear it again too. Perhaps they will end up reselling it to someone else, continuing this cycle of gifting preloved clothes to a new home. The bonus, of course, on top of all of this, is the good cause.
Sustainable fashion is not dirty, disgusting, or cheap; it is the best thing we can do for the environment, and it is time that we all invest in it. The real villains are the big corporate brands that sell fast fashion to us in the name of trends and new styles. Thrifting allows us to not depend on them anymore.
My thrift store is the very first project through which I earned money. Only good things came out of this entire experience. If you are someone who loves to shop, look up some thrift stores on Instagram. You will find so many of them which fit your budget and personal style.
If you are someone who owns clothes much more than needed, I’d suggest you do what I did; open up your thrift store and run that small business with love and care, offering to your customers an experience that no fast fashion brand can!