How Thrift Shopping Combats Global Issues Caused by the Fast Fashion Industry

The Thrift Society for the University of Manchester invited budding thrifters and students that are keen to shop on a budget, to their clothes swap event that took place on Tuesday 10th March at the Beer studio in Fallowfield.

Appearing from left to right: Melissa Butterfield, Millie Nettleton, Nicola Miles, Hannah Wellcock

Organisers of the event, Millie Nettleton, Melissa Butterfield, Hannah Wellcock and Nicola Miles discussed why thrifting should be implemented into your shopping routine. They delved into what detrimental effects fast fashion, their nemesis within the fashion industry, has on the environment and women in third world countries.

Not only is thrift shopping “an opportunity to get new clothes at a lower price” claims Millie, but buying second hand clothes, instead of reverting back to Pretty Little Thing for example, withstands the immoral practices of fast fashion companies.

“Fast fashion has had a devastating effect on the environment,” said Hannah.

The garments manufactured by these companies are mostly made with polyester, as it’s an inexpensive material to acquire. However, polyester releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton, revealing fast fashion companies’ negligence towards the environment as they prioritise profit over sustainability.

Mass production of clothing at an increasingly fast rate damages the earth, but is also incredibly inhumane as sweatshop workers in Eastern countries are heavily exploited. High demand for products results in female, sweatshop workers overworked and underpaid for their labour, where sometimes, no breaks are allowed.

Millie stated: “We’ve seen events like the factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. It’s a clear sign we are neglecting people of the third world. It’s one thing for physical waste to be a problem, but for that physical waste to then become human waste, that’s different.”

Feminism is continuously used as a marketing strategy to engage their consumers -female, aged 16–25 — by branding their products with slogans like “I’m a feminist” and “girl power.”

Melissa said, “It’s good that feminism is a part of popular culture, but we do need to take steps to evaluate the impact fast fashion has on women across the world.”

Western fashion companies actively enable the oppression of women by taking advantage of the poor working conditions and cheap labour. The maltreatment of the workers involves sexual abuse and mental harm inflicted predominately by male authoritative figures in the factories.

Understanding how these companies produce their clothing, it becomes apparent that these businesses are commodifying feminism and the progressive messages they are trying to convey on their clothing, become hypocritical and meaningless.

“You’re not a feminist just because you wear a t-shirt that says feminism on it” says Millie. `

The UoM thrifting society advocates for the rights of women who are exploited by unscrupulous capitalism. “We like to preach about feminism, but feminism isn’t for us, it’s for the women that can’t speak for themselves” said Melissa.

Thrifting takes a stand against the unethical forms of shopping; recycling clothes helps to reduce waste and defies against companies that repress their workers. The four students stressed that this however, isn’t enough to defeat the oppression of women in countries like India and Bangladesh.

“The fashion industry needs to be changed from the inside to have a better effect on the world and the people in it” says Millie.

The UoM thrifting society hopes to break the stigma around shopping for second hand clothes by bringing awareness to the benefits that come from thrifting. If you’re interested in learning more or wanting to partake in thrift shopping then like their Facebook Page, UoM Thrifting Society where all upcoming events are shared.

Originally published at on May 10, 2020.

Journalist studying at Manchester Metropolitan University. Arts, culture and current affairs.