The benefits of strangers wearing my clothes

99 percent of my wardrobe is bought second-hand. Maybe I have some stuff that’s pretty old that I bought new before, but the only things I have that are new are my undergarments and a pair of vegan Doc Marten boots, which I’ll explain later.

It’s because there’s this thing called “Fast Fashion.” Ever heard of it?

Fast Fashion is trendy clothing that is so in demand, it’s produced extremely fast and in huge bulk so that consumers can always get their hands on it. This sounds great though, right? You and I can get what we want no matter what and we’ll always look good!

Goodwill Store by JeepersMedia, on Flickr

“Goodwill Store” (CC BY 2.0) by JeepersMedia

There are so many reasons that this is so bad. There are so many reasons that so many people have no idea about. I didn’t until recently.

I’ve been going thrift shopping since I was probably born, to be honest. It’s something that my mom has always done. Before the age of about 15, though, I had zero interest in buying anything that wasn’t brand new, super cool and in trend.

Then the Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013, killing 1,134 people. This plaza housed several different factories where clothing was made for different brands across Europe and America. Just months before, a fire caused by poor safety precautions started in the same facility.

April 25, 2013. Two victims amid the rub by Asitimes, on Flickr

“April 25, 2013. Two victims amid the rub” (CC BY 2.0) by Asitimes

When I found this out, my heart broke. I had never made the connection from the racks of clothes in stores to the poor foreigners, mostly women and even children, who were breaking their backs and being treated so cruelly just to make hardly any money.

The cost of making these clothes that are so expensive to me is hardly anything, workers making only cents, the wage of a slave.

I did more research and found out how horrible the industry is, how many “accidents” happen daily, how poorly workers are treated, how detrimental fast fashion is to the environment and so many more things.

A lot of the clothes contributing to fast fashion are made from polyester, because it’s a cheap textile. The problem with polyester is that it’s derived from fossil fuels, which contributes immensely to global warming. Polyester also sheds in the washer and causes plastic levels to rise in the ocean.

Polyester, acrylic and nylon are some of the most common textiles used and when trashed, can take up to thousands of years to biodegrade.

Cotton Harvest by kimberlykv, on Flickr

“Cotton Harvest” (CC BY 2.0) by kimberlykv

Textiles like cotton require insane quantities of water; creating a single cotton t-shirt can use up to 2,700 liters of water. Cotton also requires pesticides which are toxic to the environment and the populations of the developing countries nearby that are lacking environmental safety precautions for protection.

Fast fashion includes a lot of colors, which are created with toxic chemicals that are also polluting the earth.

We keep making more and more clothing, most of which we’re not even using. The world is consuming more than 80 billion articles of clothing every year, while America alone is producing 11 million tons of textile waste every year.

All of this is only a fraction of the impact that the industry has on the planet. This is the worst of it.

Learning a lot of this stuff when I was younger and learning new information today still has had such an impact on me.

From then on and to this day I have only bought second-hand because I refuse to contribute to the fast fashion industry. There’s just no need for new clothes, most of which fellow peers will be matching with because most people shop at the same stores, or if not, all the stores have similar looks anyway. I like finding cool, older and interesting things that no one else has.

There is “slow fashion,” or more commonly, sustainable fashion, which is clothing made sustainably and ethically. This is the industry that I contribute to when buying things like undergarments.

As for my Doc Martens, I simply bought them because:

  • Finding non-leather boots in your size is extremely hard, no matter how many thrift stores you go to.
  • Doc Marten is hardly the worst of the fast fashion industry, with much, much better scores on sustainability and ethics.
  • I wanted to support the vegan leather industry, because using and wearing animals is gross, weird, inhumane and unnecessary.

I’m lucky enough to have found this information so early in my life. I know that I will never succumb to the cruelty that this industry inflicts on our planet and the people of it. I wish that more people knew what I knew and would act on it.