Andrew Brooks, Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-Hand Clothes



What do you do with a jacket or other clothing items that you have not worn for year’s? Well many of us decide to donate them to charity hoping that somebody else can make better use of them.

Most of these donated garments become exports that go all around the world. Once exported, we have to ask what effect are these second-hand garments having in the local market, are they affecting the industralization and economy where they are sold prevalently?

The worlds largest second hand clothing market is Pakistan Landa Baazar. Landa bazaar is a type of a bazaar or a marketplace with lowest prices where only secondhand general goods are exchanged or sold. People go to such a market to buy good quality clothes at an affordable price. The store owners are the traders who cannot afford the fee to be part of the main market, but with their small stalls at the marketplace they make enough money to support their families. Some people who shop at Pakistan Landa bazaar don’t want to be seen as they don’t want to give the impression that they cant afford brand new garments which they believe this impression of them will harm their social status.

Dr Andrew Brooks is a lecturer in development geography at King’s College London, in his book Clothing Poverty he makes the argument that many donors don’t realise that the majority of the garments they donate to charity will be exchanged elsewhere for finacial gain. Brooks see’s these second hand clothing that are being exported and sold to developing places like Africa and Pakistan as a mixed blessing. He feels its a shame that so many people from these places are in a state of dire poverty that they can only afford such low priced goods, he doesn’t think this is something meant to be celebrated. Brooks mentions sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia, Nigeria as countries that use to have vibrant textiles, and that if we went back 30-40 years ago, we could see the people buying clothes locally and wearing locally made clothes, but he believes we are in a situation now where people have worse livelihoods then in that period. Brooks believes the second-hand clothing trade can be thought of as more of a symptom then a cause. Why a symptom, he told BBC that, “There is very poor economic performance in these countries, the boarders have been opened up to trade, making it difficult to establish industries in these countries especially clothing industries. And when we look at the successful nations of the world, like China and South Korea, they started off by building basic industries, developing things like clothing factories.” He goes on to explain that by having these second hand clothes be increasingly available in the market places, it makes it harder for these developing countries to establish factories where they can make their own local clothes to sell this increasing their economy, “If you are having this captive markets like Mozambique or Zambia, where their importing a lot of second hand clothes, that’s one reason why it is difficult to set up an industrial base and help develop the countries”, Brooks said.

One of Brook’s advice to tackle this is for us to be more of a conscious shopper, one that buys fewer clothes – high quality clothes produced with ethical standards rather then buying a lot of things we may not need and having to discard them.

And Brook’s also suggests thinking more carefully about how often we consume, “We have to think about the lust to consume, to buy new things, to look cool and different, that it has a ripple effect somewhere” he said. He hopes for the consumer to think critically about what is happening to their old clothes, and challenge these organizations and try to get some real answers. His core message is that what we are doing is connecting us to impoverishment in other places, “By buying lots of things and getting rid of them may not actually be helping people” he said.




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