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Q & A: Is it ethical to buy fast fashion second-hand?

Here’s another question I received from a reader on Instagram:

Q: Hi! I’ve recently found out a lot about fast fashion and the impact on the environment and I’ve decided I’m going to stop buying new clothes completely. I have a question though: when buying second hand (from eBay, Depop, charity shops or Facebook market place), if I were to buy a T-shirt second hand, but the brand was Primark or H&M, would that be unethical?

A: Hi! First of all, KUDOS to YOU for embarking on your sustainable fashion journey. It’s not always easy but it’s definitely important and worth it if you think of the benefits! (saved time, saved money, peace of mind knowing that you’re not supporting human rights abuses and environmental destruction).

As for your question, I would definitely say that it’s NOT unethical to buy fast fashion if it’s second-hand. The idea behind boycotting fast fashion brands is to signal to those companies that you want real change and don’t approve of their current way of manufacturing. If someone else already bought the piece, wore it (if even that, how many pieces have you bought & never wore!) & then decided to donate or sell it, if you buy it you’re supporting the seller (the person, charity shop, second-hand marketplace, vintage shop, etc.) and not the fast fashion company that originally made the piece.

A lot of resources go into making clothes. The longer we prolong their life, the better it is for the environment. So, I would say that it is absolutely ethical & desirable to buy second-hand clothing regardless of the brand. Indeed, it’s much better to find the clothes a good second (or third, or fourth) home rather than sending them to the landfill or to second-hand markets in Africa where they hurt the local economy.

Hope that helps and best of luck on your sustainable fashion journey!



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