Conscious Clothing Purchases

Conscious Clothing Purchases

If you know me then you’ll know I love a good charity shop find. I walked past one on my road and obviously had my head turned by the tassels attached to the sleeves of this jumper. I went in to try it on and realised the tag was still on the jumper, Zara £10.99 to £2 in the shop, I was very easily persuaded by another 3 items totaling my spend to £7.

I’ve been buying clothes from charity shops for years and have always been pretty aware of fast fashion, even before it was highlighted as an ethical and environmental issue. The idea of trends and fads coming and going never really applied to how I would purchase my clothing. Except I do remember when me and my friends first watched The Matrix, I couldn’t have been older than ten and all I wanted was a floor-length leather jacket. I never got one to my dismay as an angsty child.

I wouldn’t say that I am a trendy person, I have always worn clothing that I’m comfortable in and that is usually slightly too big for me. So finding jumpers in charity shops is one of those little things in life that cheers me up, especially during this grey and gloomy time of the year.

The other items I got myself include a roll neck, a mustard top and a blue and white knit jumper from Nomads Clothing which from some research is a sustainable clothing brand that was set up 30 years ago! On their website, they list all the ways they work on being as eco and environmentally friendly as possible.

“We think about the bigger picture – The majority of our products are produced by our fair trade partners in India – and we then transport them to the UK for distribution. Unfortunately this transportation will inevitably have an impact on the environment, but we choose to transport our goods via sea freight rather than by air to minimalise our carbon footprint.”

They use sustainable resources and biodegradable packaging when shipping orders to customers and they use environmentally approved dyes that don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Did you know that textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture?

Now that I have assembled my jumper collection for this Winter season I need to rid my wardrobe of clothes I already have. I’ve been using Vinted to try and resell preloved clothing before dumping them in a charity shop, knowing that more than likely those items will end up being shipped abroad. Once items have been quality checked they are either put out for sale or bundled up and shipped across to Eastern Europe and Africa, where the garments are highly valued.

Andrew Brooks, a Senior Lecturer in Development & Environment at King's College London argues that the flow of unwanted clothing from the Western world has had a negative effect on the local textile industries in many countries. This is particularly so in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a third of all globally donated clothes are sold, he says.

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“Clothing Poverty takes us on a fascinating global journey that provides powerful new insights into how fast fashion and charitable donations of second-hand clothes are connected with persistent poverty in Africa and elsewhere. By bringing global systems of clothing provision into clearer view, the book offers valuable resources for vigorous debate over what an alternative world might look like.” — Gillian Hart, author of Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony.

Since the 1980s and 90s, used clothing has gained a significant market share across Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Uganda, second-hand garments now account for over 80% of all clothing purchases, his research found.

Brooks points to Ghana as an example of a country where local industries have been negatively affected, employment through textiles and clothing fell by 80% between 1975 and 2000. Nigeria's 200,000 person textile workforce has also all but disappeared, he says. But for the charity sector, selling on the clothing that can't be sold in shops remains a key source of income.

For more information on Brooks’ research head to his website, or add his books to your reading list.

This all took a bit of a serious turn, all I wanted to do was share my new items and encourage you all to check out your local charity shops for some inexpensive finds this winter.

Funny how some new jumpers can spark such serious thoughts.

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