Celebrate and Advocate by Eleni Georgiadis, Thrift 2 Fight Blog

With the start of the year, mainstream culture dedicates itself to the review of the past year and the contemplation of new endeavors. As I wrote in my last post, this can take the form of taking on a new hobby or interest.  However, many also undertake lifestyle changes at this time. While I personally do not choose to make resolutions at the start of the calendar year, I would like to offer this suggestion to those seeking to add a new goal. 

Over the past year, I spent some significant time reading blogs and other opinion pieces, gathering information and inspiration for my own writing. Slowly, I began to identify this trend. Some influencers in the fashion and sustainability space occasionally fall into the trap of shaming efforts which they deem to be insufficient. Rather than celebrate marginal change and incremental progress made by individuals, some lay down criticism of those who fall short of an unrealistic and widely unachievable standard of excellence.  They seem to direct their ire to individuals rather than the governmental and industrial failures which perpetuate the human rights and environmental abuses of the fast fashion industry.

So, if you are seeking a new goal, please celebrate incremental progress and advocate for large-scale change this year, without judging others and ignoring your own privilege. 

In nearly every corner of the internet, you will find gatekeeping and what might be called snobbery. It is only natural to seek knowledge about things which interest us and to wish to share that with others. However, the method in which this information is shared and the value judgments placed upon the people who have not yet acquired this knowledge can be problematic manifestations of a culture of gatekeeping.

I have found content creators online who are rather merciless in their condemnation of those who buy new clothing. These creators act as if the world is a true dichotomy in which conscious consumption of secondhand goods and irresponsible consumption of new products sit in unconnected opposition. Such a viewpoint ignores the spectrum of accessibility and fails to acknowledge the reality. Geographic distance to a secondhand store, transportation issues, specific clothing needs, price, time constraints, or a general lack of bandwidth may be some of the many reasons why people purchase new fast fashion clothing on occasion. Critique of these people fails to acknowledge the privilege of having time, energy, and resources to devote to the cultivation of a sustainably sourced wardrobe.

Some creators take issue with the types of secondhand stores which people frequent. While it is true that some stores which offer used clothing are more socially conscious than others (I think all know who we’re talking about…), all fill a vital need in providing affordable and environmentally friendly clothing options. In an ideal world, we would all have access to a store whose mission aligned with our personal values. In reality, transportation, access, convenience, and a host of other issues play a role in making shopping at certain establishments more feasible for some people. 

Even if people are living up to a largely unreachable standard of only buying secondhand clothes from socially conscious thrift stores, they may find criticism of the fibers they choose to buy. Some insist that natural is the only way to go, ignoring allergies, skin sensitivities, access, and of course the fact that synthetic clothing which is already in existence may as well be worn and used, rather than discarded. Purchasing with the intent of upcycling may too be met with criticism, though it can be an exciting way to claim ownership of clothing and to create pieces which fit the body and style of the person creating them. I’ve seen the argument that customizing clothing removes it from the secondhand stream. I would argue that I would much rather see a piece given new life than thrown away and that since clothing sizes are so random, customization does not actually make it any more difficult to find a new recipient of the garment.

I hope that the discussion can focus on the macro level issues,  placing blame on the lack of governmental regulation and large fast fashion corporations which continue to profit from unethical, inhumane, and environmentally destructive practices. Such a change would remove attacks on the choices of individual people who are making choices based on their access, options, buying power, etc..

I will be holding myself to this standard and I ask that you all consider this plea. Please don’t be a snob this year. It may seem reductive to call this behavior “snobby,” but I can’t find a better way to describe it. I use this word “snobby” to describe both the lack of acknowledgement of privilege and failure to see the large scale issues at play in the fast fashion industry. This practice shames others who fail to live up to a standard which we individually set for ourselves. Instead, let us celebrate the changes we are able to implement in our own lives. Let us enjoy finding and sharing new information and resources. Let us support creators who inspire and advocate for change.  

It is exciting to learn new information about sustainability and fashion. It’s only natural to want to share this with the world. I ask that rather than shame those who have not yet gathered this knowledge, share it gently, kindly, and compassionately. Do not denounce the individuals who are doing the best they can within a flawed system which makes buying new so much easier than buying secondhand, which makes synthetics so much cheaper than natural fibers, and which does not fit all bodies and identities. Exert this energy toward demanding change at a higher level, calling for reform  in the  broken, exploitative, and profit-driven systems which have complicated every type of consumption. Channel this intention into activism for environmental and social causes. Write to lawmakers and demand regulation. Explore the changes which are feasible for you in your daily life. 

Here’s to brighter days in this coming year!

Eleni Georgiadis

Eleni Georgiadis is a classically trained horn player currently residing in Kentucky. Outside of music, she enjoys knitting, sewing, composting, kombucha brewing, and spending time outdoors. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to share her thoughts about sustainability and inclusivity in fashion, weaving together her technical knowledge, passion, and research.

Image of Eleni Georgiadis, writer