Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has the following article on Businesses that appear to be a Charitable Organizations, but, who end up sending your donated clothing to third world countries, where they are resold. I feel there is a place for businesses such as this – but they should be honest about the fact that they are, in fact, a business! I also think we should think a little more thoughtful about our unwanted garments rather than just taking the easy way out and chucking everything into a drop box or a plastic bag left in your letter box.
The low-cost of clothes means that they are very disposable these days, eg Kmart shirts for $7 – it’s tempting to go nuts and buy – but I am concerned about the sweatshop labour that has made these clothes and the ultimate environmental impact of this. I feel fashion designers at the high-end make investment garments, intended to last for years. These are sometimes on sold to Second Hand Designer Clothes shops – or make it to eBay. This is great and extends the life of garments. These garments are the vintage clothes of the future. But in my less than illustrious career in fashion, one of my position was in the low-end of the fashion industry. Where clothes were made super cheap in Fiji or China, – it’s all about getting the product for the cheapest price for stores like Target, Kmart, Best and Less etc. And yielding the highest profit – there was a little saying taped to the wall went was something like “Making discount clothing in low volume was like eating soup with chopsticks”. Which means, to make money producing cheap clothes, you must produce in large volumes. We as consumers should be more responsible with the earth’s resources. If we refuse to buy, they will stop ordering so much which gets marked down to ridiculous levels at the end of the season. This is a massive issue – one which I think we all need to take responsibility for.
When you take a load to your local Vinnies, Salvos or Lifeline – you are contributing to the poor of your local community, if they feel your donation is below their standard – they will ultimately pass the goods on to one of these company’s that on sell to the third world. But you have given your local charity the chance to get a few dollars, that they can feed the homeless or down on their luck people in your community. Believe me, they are out there, many times I have been shopping in, my local, Chatswood St Vincent de Paul and people have come in to ask for some help with getting clothing or other needs met.
I therefore have a grading system for my unwanted clothes.
CLOTHES SWAPS – I save my best, lightly worn clothes for clothes swaps that my friend Sam runs. You and your friends could get together and do this too. She charges $10 – buys some wine, we all bring 10 pieces and usually go home with a few really fun nearly new pieces and the profits go to a charity of her choice. Its a total hoot – most memorable was one of her friends modelling the 1960’s Speedo bathing suit, that I donated, she has worn it to parties and elicited the same reaction – what fun, maybe one day it will end up in a museum, as it should.
DONATE – For clothes that are a little more dated, that I am sick of, but that are only lightly worn and in good nick, they go in a box – until the next time I visit the op shop.
DROP BOX OR BAG – For clothes that are faded, pilled, stained, have small holes, dirty collars, have buttons missing or maybe the elastic is gone from the waist – they can go and have another life in the third world, where fashion is not a concern. Sometimes I do feel bad about that too big waist but I hope they are creative enough to make it work. I have been to Fiji – they can’t go to Kmart and buy a whole new wardrobe for their kids cheaply.
PRESCHOOL – They need spare clothes for “accidents”, they love Dress Up Costumes, and they love fabric and paper/cartons etc for kids craft activities.
LANDFILL – Really?! I don’t put garments in the bin unless they are my husbands old clothes, covered in glue, which have been worn for best, then work to work, got covered in glue then used as a cleaning rag mopping up oil or something in the garage.
If you want to read more about Sydney’s great op shops I have blogged about it here.
I hope this inspires you to plan and be more thoughtful about your consumption this Christmas and how you might give back more next year.
I have one more sewing project to share with you after it goes up on Sew Weekly.
Then I will be sharing my holiday Instagram photos and will be blogging my phone so it will be very brief!
Blessings to you and yours and may all your dreams come true in the New Year!!
Love and Kisses!