Fast fashion is shaking in its boots.
Anna Kayser for Rowdy Magazine. Photography by Carla Nicolella. Styling by Andrea Wilson. Makeup and hair by Enrique Tefel. Garments from Sandy's Savy Chic Resale Boutique. (Rowdy Magazine/2020)
Around early 2013, online searches for the word “thrifting” peaked on Google Trends (and, totally unrelated, Macklemore dropped “Thrift Shop”). However, it would be the later half of the decade that cemented thrifting into today’s pop culture.
In 2016, YouTube saw a spike in “thrift haul” videos. YouTubers like Ashley from BestDressed began to incorporate thrifting into their content and helped cultivate the industry that exists today.
Growing up, many of us learned the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Thrift stores allow vintage clothes to be reworn, but, more importantly, they help clothing avoid a tragic fate: The landfill.
About 80% of textiles either end up in landfills or are burned, directly contributing to carbon emissions ruining our planet. Even with the increasing trend of environmental consciousness, only 1% of all textiles are recycled into new yarns and fibers. An eco-friendly alternative to buying more clothing is investing in used clothing. The switch can reduce emissions that lead to global warming and pollution.
Sandy’s Savvy Chic Resale Boutique down SW 13th Street is a popular thrift and consignment store in Gainesville. The 15,000 square-foot store has everything from bathing suits to designer business attire to a cute throw pillow for your living room.
Shelby Radcliffe, a manager at Sandy’s, said that she was environmentally conscious before she started working in resale, but the experience has greatly increased her awareness of her own environmental consciousness.
Her experience has also shown her just how harmful the fast fashion industry is, she said.
“Even without the insight to the waste of the industry and unethical treatment of the workforce, the quality [of fast fashion] is more often than not just terrible,” Shelby said. “I'll buy a 30-year-old silk shirt before I buy something from ASOS.”
Going to thrift shops discourages shoppers from giving money to fast fashion brands that hide their business practices. This includes not disclosing who their investors are, how much they pay their workers and their factories’ impact on the environment. Even purchasing genuine leather materials from consignment shops is better than purchasing new products made from the same raw materials.
Despite the obvious benefits to the environment, choosing to thrift comes with certain privileges.
Historically, thrift stores began as charity shops, usually to fund Christian ministries and their outreach programs. Many of these charity shops still operate for philanthropy, but they’re also cheaper alternatives to regular stores. Thrifting has made purchasing a business suit or baby clothes more affordable. But at what point does buying from thrift stores as someone who can afford regular clothes take away better-quality items from those who may need it more?
Avid thrift shoppers have been able to create entire businesses out of reselling alone.
Online apps like Mercari and Depop make it easier for “golden finds” to be exchanged and sold.
Even Instagram has a place for sellers, like Gainesville-based Brett Croley from @brettsthrift.
Brett started purchasing items and selling them on his personal Instagram Story to his friends for a little profit. He said this method of business is successful for him –– it’s a rare occasion for an item on his story to go unsold.
Thrift flips, where one purchases an item of clothing and either transforms it into a new piece or repairs it, can double the original price. Some resellers look to make large profits from their finds even without adjustments, listing a piece for $40 when it may be worth only $10.
Fashion enthusiasts are willing to pay a pretty penny for rare finds, but how high is too high? Amy Greene, founder of Future Perfekt Vintage, justifies prices based on her consumers’ tastes.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘What is something worth to a certain person?’” Amy said. “Something that is overpriced to you and I may be nostalgic and well worth it to someone else.”
Thrifting has truly become a celebration of nostalgia. It is an acknowledgement that maybe your mother wasn’t that crazy when she paired a padded electric-blue blazer with a floral ankle-length dress and pearls. It represents another generation’s influence on ours.
But as you connect to the past, just remember to ask yourself: Am I helping the environment with my purchase? Will I wear this for a long time? Am I only buying it because it’s cheap? Will someone else love this more than I will?
Be mindful when you shop. Your part in the environmental movement is greater than you think.
Editors Note: A previous version of this article appeared in Rowdy Magazine Vol. III, "A Sensible Guide To Raising Hell." Published April 2020.