Second-­Hand Clothing Across Continents

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *