Preloved Fashion - is it Ethical?

This question often invites some debate. There is no doubt that buying Preloved is a more Sustainable way to shop. But is it however, more ethical?

For some time I was unaware there was even question around the ethics of buying Preloved. After all my entire business model is built around Preloved Fashion! So not surprisingly, this different school of thought quickly made me feel uneasy. It was important I do my own research, reflecting and assessment of Preloved Fashion on an ethical scale. I’m pleased to say that I am now at peace with my opinion on this topic, and can confidently inform my tribe of the how and why I reached it.

I think to establish an informed opinion on such a topic, we firstly need to look at what Ethical Fashion actually means. Ethical Fashion is an umbrella term to describe Ethical Fashion design, production, retail and purchasing. Taking into consideration; the working conditions of garment workers, exploitation, the environment and animal welfare.

This is a global issue, one which requires further education to the consumer and further regulation by governments. So, does buying Preloved relieve us from such guilt? Can we be proud that we are shopping in a more Ethical way?

In my personal opinion … the answer is yes. I believe shopping Preloved is a Ethical way to shop. Let’s now look at why I have come to this conclusion and why I am finally at peace with it.

I believe we need to draw a line between the sale of the garment initially, and the sale of the garment as a second hand item. The only exception being if a garment was purchased NEW, with the intention to re-sell, therefore technically rendering it not Preloved anyway. The reason why I think we need to separate the two, is because they are two completely different transactions, with no direct connection with the manufacturing brand or their ethical or non-ethical ways. Regardless, these garments have been made, purchased, and discarded in one way or another. Do we now send them straight to landfill? I think not. Surely saving them from landfill is an ethical act within itself.

As we have already established, by definition Ethical Fashion relates to working conditions, production, retail, the environment and animal welfare. It makes sense that these questions be asked in relation to the way in which we purchase our Preloved clothing.

Let’s take the local Op Shop for example; what is the condition of work for employee’s / volunteers? What about production (or in this case, processing is a more appropriate term, as there is no production) of garments? What about the impact on the environment and animals? And lastly … let’s not forget we are often supporting a charity or community based program.

Taking all of these guidelines into consideration, there is nothing about shopping at my local op shop that renders it unethical, in my opinion.

Now let’s look at a more specific Fashion focused approach to buying preloved clothing, and by that I mean; Ebay, Facebook Buy Swap and Sell groups, Vintage Clothing Stores, Preloved Clothing Boutiques. Okay, so the main difference between shopping at the local op shop and buying from a small business or private seller, is that the money is most likely not supporting a charity. Instead it is supporting a person’s livelihood. Is that unethical?

I certainly take great pride in supporting small business … and we also know that supporting local is a more sustainable way to shop. Why, because it eliminates the environmental impacts of transporting items from one end of the world to the other. So buying Preloved from a local Op Shop, Facebook Page or Vintage / Preloved Clothing Store, gets a few big ticks from me!

I am struggling to see any ethical issues surrounding the act of buying Preloved Fashion, and certainly will continue to advocate shopping Preloved from a Sustainability standpoint but also an ethical one.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic, do you agree or disagree? Perhaps you see buying Preloved through a difference eye? Either way, it is a matter of opinion and I am certainly open to hearing yours.

Thanks for reading,

Bianca xx

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