Thrifting: Fast Fashion’s Worst Nightmare


Composite image by the author.

Heaven Golladay, Environmentally Aware

In a world where avid “thrifters” like Emma Chamberlain and Haley Sharpe have been a part of the latest trends, many young people are incorporating second-hand clothing in their daily wear. In the years 2017-2019, there was a 46% increase in Generation Z’s thrift sales (Planet Aid). This has been a huge part of the social change making eco-friendly lifestyles trendy. 

Before understanding why thrifting is a great alternative, you must understand the impact of non-sustainable fashion. According to the World Economic Forum, 85% of textiles go into landfills annually. With that, you have plenty of natural resources wasted, toxic emissions from the unethical production, and micro plastics from the textiles themselves being littered across these landfills. 

I contacted several internet-based secondhand establishments on Instagram  for their perspective on the ever-growing wave of social media encouraging more sustainability in day-to-day life.

Top Depop seller Hannah Valentine (@shopghostsoda) uses her platform to educate consumers and peers alike about the positives of supporting “slow fashion” (items that are not rapidly and/or unethically produced). One click on her account will show you many creative clothing designs and graphics about the subject. 

Valentine said, “Using secondhand pieces instead of new ones allows me to make something unique and desired out of something old and unwanted. Taking clothes that already exist instead of buying new ones helps keep clothing away from landfills and helps local thrifts and businesses.”

Economically, department stores that sell fast fashion are one of the largest threats that small businesses face upon opening, as these larger, unethical corporations use some of the most devastating methods to create products and save billions with it. 

Fast fashion retailers such as Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and Victoria Secret usually base production in economically challenged nations like Pakistan and Cambodia to take advantage of the lack of workers’ rights and many are guilty of exploitation of minors, giving little to no pay, and operate in ways that greatly offend first-world environmental regulations, for the sake of profit.

Georgia resident Maria Hidalgo, the person behind @thriftyysoul, an account with nearly 22k followers discussed how she avoids adding to the amount of carbon emissions that fashion contributes to.

“Another thing that I’m trying my best to be more environmentally friendly is when it comes to packaging. I now ship with reusable packages, and I recently got a thermal printer, which is more [environmentally] friendly than using a regular ink printer.”

If you’re concerned with your impact, there are plenty of sources such as, Fashion Checker, a website that tells you if a brand pays their workers a living wage, and the Fashion Transparency Index, annual reports on how well a brand shares their production process with consumers. 

Secondhand platform @thriftediscoverys operator Kiki T. spoke on the subject stating, “I think people should consider [things] when they are shopping, [from] fast fashion shops especially; is it really worth it, will I wear it after two months, and do I feel good about buying this when I know they use child labor.”

Although thrift shopping and fashion sustainability has been growing in popularity throughout the years, many are not aware, or truly care about the power of their dollar.

Sage Salice, head of @sagespecialties, expressed that, “I think people turn a blind eye to fast fashion because they think it’s unavoidable, but I like to show people it’s possible to save money and still be sustainable through thrifting!”

@attir.e, a thrift account that has amassed over 19 thousand followers, is led by Ella Dovey, who had great words to contribute to the conversation of fashion and sustainability.

“It’s so easy to look past when, you’re getting this tank top from Forever 21 for six dollars and you think it’s such a great price but, the price that it costs for the environment is just so much worse. […] It takes 750 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt, which is enough drinking water for someone to live on for two and a half years.”

Modern thrifting has created a wonderful community of secondhand sellers and consumers that are making the world a better place one shirt at a time.