Donating Your Clothing May Do More Harm Than Good

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oxfamPhoto: REX USA/Per Lindgren.
Secondhand shopping is something we hold near and dear. It's the way many fashionphiles come to love brands like Prada or Versace in more intimate ways, beyond just seeing them in magazines. Those occasional rare finds, in addition to the many, many awesome '90s revival pieces we've found buried in the racks at Salvation Army, are a source of pride (not to mention an adrenaline rush) for many of us. Plus, it's an easy way to turn your shamefully excessive spending habit into something that actually does some good for the world.

But, as Tansy Hoskins points out in this fascinating op-ed for Business of Fashion, it might not be quite as rosy as it sounds especially when it comes to the donated, sold in bulk, and shipped at low cost distribution of Westerners' clothing to markets in areas like sub-Saharan Africa. These goods can actually make a considerable profit, even though many are donated. Then, there's the issue that the massive influx of clothing into these areas suppresses the growth of local textile markets.

It's a further cost of the fast-fashion cycle. Clothes are purchased without a whim, donated practically unworn, and forgotten about with the vague sentiment that you've done a good deed. And, while providing clothing to those in need is not a bad thing in and of itself, the point here is that it's a complex process with more consequences than those donating might realize. It's not unlike the same debate behind whether or not we should be pouring aid money into foreign countries or working to stabilize and promote prosperity in other, more substantial ways. In short, there's a lot to be said for either side of the argument. What do you think? (Business of Fashion)