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Charity shopping- on trend or the planet's friend?

Writing: Ellie Cauvain














Growing up, charity shopping carried a stigma. However, in recent years, charity shops have seen a revival of sorts- a rebrand if you will- a comeback akin to Britney Spears. But what has driven this resurgence? Is it a sudden wakeup call that climate change is coming, and we all need to do our bit, or is it because people want to have some bargain-based bragging rights about their latest purchase?


A spotlight has been put onto the damaging impact of fast fashion; any sustainable shopper you know will be able to reel off at least ten reasons why you should buy secondhand clothing; ranging from unsustainable cotton agriculture, to levels of cancer among leather workers. There has never been more evidence telling us to leave fast fashion behind. Yet this ethically based motivation alone cannot account for the influx of people hitting up Barnardo’s on a Saturday afternoon.


One explanation might be that charity shopping has become fashionable, with people simply unaware that they are doing one of the best things they can for the planet. The surrounding stigma has come full-circle—it’s cool, it’s hip—it could even be considered chic. Those who want a style outside the realm of ever-changing trends turn to charity shops in the hope that they too will find a vintage jumper that is truly “them”. Our generation seem to have woken up to the fact that charity shopping can be a bargain fueled treasure hunt of fun. Want a faux fur coat for £6? Charity shop it up baby!


The newly fashionable image of charity shopping could be considered a byproduct of the rise of sustainability as a general trend; even big-name brands are cashing in on it, albeit in a less than sustainable way. For example, the H&M ‘conscious collection’ is anything but conscious, and is a frequently referenced case of greenwashing. There is little to no information about how, where, or who makes these garments—the much-needed transparency is still missing. Alongside larger fashion houses trying to project an ethical image is the rise of sustainable clothing companies. When I first started shopping ethically about four years ago, only Veja trainers and Lucy & Yak dungarees stood above the crowd, both of which have grown massively since. The demand for sustainable fashion has arrived. Nonetheless, these brands come at a price not everyone can afford, and at the end of the day, buying new clothes from fast fashion or sustainable outlets is still consumption, whereas second-hand clothes are not. People are wanting to make better choices, so maybe they are turning to charity shops to fulfil their ethical desires in a cheaper, more exciting way.


Whether or not people are using charity shops because they’re trendy or because they truly care about their ethical and carbon footprint matters very little: this is still progress. With a planet quickly running out of resources and the consumption of fast fashion at an all-time high, it doesn’t matter why people are shopping in charity shops—I’m just glad that they are.


Image: via Geograph