The last time I bought new clothes – I decided that I never wanted to do it again.
Two years ago I was given a Myers voucher to the value of $100 for Xmas. When I entered the women’s department a feeling of returning to a long forgotten land descended upon me. I had been shopping so exclusively at op-shops and recycled clothing stores the past few years (except for underwear!) that to step foot into a regular store to buy brand new clothes felt decidedly weird… and kinda wrong.
Years of rarely spending more than $10 dollars a garment in op-shops left me finding it difficult to compute the $80, $200 and $500 price tags in Myer’s store. I inspected the labels, identifying the item’s country of origin and wondered how much the workers were paid to assemble them. What were their working conditions? And how, in all consciousness, could I purchase and thus support their low wages and someone else’s exorbitant profits? Just who benefits from all of this?
I wandered aimlessly around the store browsing the uninspiring fashion gracing the racks. Eventually I settled on an $80 dollar skirt, discounted from around $120. Taking such a (relatively) expensive item home seemed terribly extravagant, and interestingly, not at all satisfying in comparison to shopping for preloved clothes. I couldn’t help but think about how much $80 could buy on an op-shopping spree. Just imagine!
The exercise of shopping for new clothes seemed to me completely unnecessary when such an abundant, diverse and quality range of preloved clothes were readily available in scores of op-shops and second hand stores dotted around my neighbourhood – actually, not just unnecessary, but unethical.
Is it unethical to buy new clothes? That might be a claim too far, especially when there are labels that choose a more socially responsible means of manufacture, and fashion can be (when at its best) a creative and exciting industry. But for the most part, the ‘new’ clothing industry is not something I can buy into with a clear conscience. Even when putting ethical issues aside, I find mainstream fashion a complete bore, with every outlet stocking minor variations on what can be found in every other shop. Where’s the fun in that?
Buying secondhand is the only way to shop for clothes for me. There are simply too many positives from shopping this way to go back to the sparkly shopping malls. It saves discarded clothes from going into landfill, the dollars I spend go towards charity and their much needed community services, and I get to save a bucket load of money whilst still having a well stocked wardrobe. I benefit, the community benefits, this is a classic win-win situation all round.
When did you last buy new clothes?