Owino Market in Kampala, Uganda
“Tianguis” in Durango, Mexico
Fast fashion is clothing that is sold for very low prices in many countries like the United States and has been made possible due to globalization. These affordable apparels are what is “trending” at the moment, which changes so quickly each season. Due to their low prices, the items become disposable. Consumers either throw away, give away or donate the clothing. The items donated to charities that are not sold at second-hand stores are sent to other countries. The clothing is then transported to warehouses and sorting plants where the clothing is sorted by garment type, fabric, and quality. The second- hand clothing is sold in bulks that contain hundreds of the same type of clothes such as men’s t-shirts, children’s shoes or ladies’ skirts. Second-hand clothes are a huge business in countries like Uganda and Mexico. The used-clothing’s are popular among the locals of Uganda and Mexico because of the prices the items are sold. Many of the people purchasing the clothing do not realize the negative effect that second-hand clothing has on local textile and garment industries or even if they do many of them do not have the luxury to choose and continue to buy western second-hand clothing for cheaper prices. In Africa, the local clothing industry started declining around the early 1980s and second-hand clothing imported to Africa increased. The increase seen in the used-clothing had to do with the economic liberalization that allowed second- hand clothing imports to enter markets across the continent. Previously, second-hand clothing was given to the poor for free, but now it has become a multimillion dollar business. The second-hand clothing has led to the closure of many African clothing factories. Kenya reported that 500,000 people were employed in the textile industry in the 1980s and the number has fallen by more than 96% to around 20,00 in 2015 . This trend is seen across other countries in Africa. In Uganda, second-hand clothing is known as “mivumba”. The second- hand clothing imported from other countries is sold at outside markets as seen in the photograph of the Owino Market in Kampala, Uganda that have a variety of items hanging on clotheslines or blankets on the ground. Talking to a local from Uganda, she mentioned that people prefer to buy second-hand clothing because they can choose from fashionable designer labels that no one else will have at discounted prices. Like many other people, this local will not consider buying clothing that is not as cheap and fashionable as the second-hand clothing available at the markets.
Similar to Uganda, Mexico sells second-hand clothing that is sold in “tianguis,” or open-air markets, as seen in the picture. The second-hand clothing is frequently either smuggled or legally transported across the USA and Mexico border. These second-hand clothing markets are moveable, so the location of them varies depending on the day. For instance, on Tuesday and Thursday the location could be on a certain street for just the morning. Like Uganda, most of the sellers are women that buy items in “pacas” or large quantities and then are separated depending on quality and fashion. The clothing is placed underneath moveable tents, foldable tables, or on the floor on top of a blanket. Many people in Mexico like in Uganda do not see a problem with the markets that sell used-clothing because it provides income for the people selling the clothing. For many of the owners, selling second-hand clothing is the only source of income they rely on. In addition, they also employ other workers that are also living off the income made from the second-hand clothing industry. Initially, the second-hand clothing industry would seem like an ideal situation for everyone. Charities in the Unites States are receiving revenue from the merchants buying the bulks of clothing. The merchants are selling well-made clothing for low prices to customers. The problem faced is that people in Uganda and Mexico are not buying locally manufactured clothing, which means the money is not staying within the economy and more jobs are not being generated. In addition, more of the beautiful traditional clothing from these countries are being lost by western clothing. This is more of a problem in Uganda because Oxfam, declared that more than 70% of the clothes donated globally end up in Africa. The ban of second-hand clothing has been brought up frequently especially in Uganda. The local I talked to from Uganda mentioned that even if a ban of second-hand clothing was enforced there were other threats to the local textile industries. Many of the Chinese clothing’s are cheaper than second-hand items and local textile industries. This makes it very easy for someone else to come in and take over if second-hand clothing’s are banned. Even though buying second-hand clothing affects the textile and garment industries in Uganda and Mexico the merchants buying the bulks will continue to sell as long as consumers exist. The people purchasing the second-hand clothing will keep coming back to the markets because the price for clothing’s are extremely cheap making it difficult to not take advantage of the bargain. Many of the people buying the fashionable and affordable second-hand clothing would not be able to purchase the attire if it was a local textile item because of the cost implicated. As long as local textile industries do not grow and are not able to produce fashionable clothing at a low price the second-hand clothing with continue to exist. Even if second-hand clothing was banned other threats exist.