Think Piece: Stop Buying, Start Thrifting?

In Europe, big brands are pledging to become more sustainable. The priority for a lot of stores is taking on the environmental consequences of the fashion industry—or, at least, appearing to do so. For example, H&M has a whole “sustainability” section on their website, dedicated to their Conscious product line and outlining their sustainability strategy. They aim to be climate positive by 2040 (i.e. not contributing negatively to our environment). But sceptics say this is not fast enough to make a difference to our planet, and if we look at their website, they clearly have more unsustainable clothes than sustainable. H&M is just one example of many big brands that have been accused of “greenwashing”: making themselves out to be more eco-conscious than they actually are.

We may have little control over big brands, but is there something we, as individuals can do? There’s a new radical approach being taken by eco-conscious individuals: simply stop buying, stop consuming. This approach was instigated by anger at big brands who pretend to be eco-conscious, while encouraging overconsumption that ultimately results in waste. Many believe that the answer is to simply stop buying new clothing because even if it’s marketed as “eco-friendly”, it’s probably not. Essentially, true sustainability means anti-consumption. But is this a realistic way of living?

It can seem pretty extreme, especially to us fashion-lovers! Besides, clothing is seen by many as a downright necessity. Is there a middle ground? Well, you’ve probably already guessed it—thrifting, of course! If we find that we absolutely have to wear new clothing, the most eco-conscious thing we can do is buy second-hand.

Thrifting in Japan has gained massive popularity in recent years. But one has to wonder: does the rise of thrifting in Japan have anything to do with sustainability?

Thrifting in Japan has gained massive popularity in recent years. But one has to wonder: does the rise of thrifting in Japan have anything to do with sustainability? Or is it just a trend? Thrifted clothing is considered precious in Japan because of a fascination with old pop culture collectables from the West. It’s also seen as “edgy” for your clothes to have a lived-in feel, hence the rise in shops that actually sell new garments made to look old!

So is the sentiment behind thrifting cheapened if the message isn’t about sustainability? Well, right now with all of our climate concerns, perhaps it doesn’t matter. Thrifting is not just big in Japan—it’s a massive trend across the globe, especially amongst young people. So does it really matter if people are thrifting for the wrong reasons? It’s still an alternative to fast fashion, after all.

Another promising movement in the fashion industry is the rise of super eco-conscious graduates. They’ll be entering the industry at this extremely volatile time where change MUST happen. And this means that there’s hope of changing the industry from the inside as well as outside. It should fill us with great optimism. Students may want to become part of this industry—but not at the expense of their morals and allegiance to our planet.

So what do you think? Can the fashion industry’s morals be saved through thrifting and eco-conscious branding? Is the only positive impact through less consumption? Or do we have to wait for the next generation of fashion graduates to make the right changes from the top down?


Written by Kay.
Featured image courtesy of EKUARF61 via Twenty20.

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