In a recent Business Of Fashion article, Tansy Hoskins describes the untold story of what actually happens when you donate your unwanted clothing to charity. While on the surface, giving the clothes you know longer think are stylish or cool to those less fortunate seems like an all around win, many of these donations are actually being exported around the globe and sold for profit. Particularly, a third of all of the clothes donated in the United States are shipped to sub-Saharan Africa and sold on average for $40,000 per 300 bales (around 30,000 pounds). In turn, this re-selling not only turns one person's generosity into another person's profit, but stands to jeopardize Africa's fledgling textiles industry as more and more Africans look to buy second-hand American clothes rather than ones made on their own continent.
In Hoskin's opinion, this problem lies not with the African importers looking to make a quick buck, but with the Western world's obsession with disposable clothing. See, as things like "fast-fashion" continue to grow (Inditex, the company that owns Zara, is now the second largest fashion company in the world), more and more clothes will make their way to charity bins, reenforcing people's constant desire to shop, while giving them a false sense of generosity and good will. The irony here is that until we learn to buy clothes we will want to wear for longer, we cannot successfully give clothes to those truly in need.
Photo courtesy of Katrina Shakarian