On principle, the notion of taking a second-hand item from a charity shop or thrift store, sewing it into something new and selling it on sounds like a great premise for a business.
Upcycling has been a great hobby and money-maker for many over the years, and turning this concept to clothing will hopefully help reduce the carbon footprint attributed to fashion, as well as make young designers on resale sites like Depop a bit of money.
With this in mind, it is hard to argue against emptying the local Oxfam of gems to sell on the side, but unfortunately, the argument against it is on behalf of those who need it the most: The people who shop in thrift stores in order to actually find something to wear, and not to find a profit.
These are the people now missing out on fashionable and affordable styles because they are being bought up by resellers.
Sophie, 26, has shopped second-hand her whole life, and tells us she has seen a definite ‘decline in higher-quality and later season stock found in charity shops in the past few years’.
This may be due not only to thrift flippers stripping the stores of stock, but also a decline in donations directly to charity shops.
‘Resale apps have made it a lot easier for people to sell on their clothes, which gives people more of an incentive to get money back from their old clothes in a clearout, as opposed to donating them to a charity shop,’ Sophie explains. ‘Obviously, this lessens the quantity of higher quality and newer season stock that ends up in charity shops and thrift stores.’
Ellis, 22, lives in the US and has seen the same trend across the pond.
They complain: ‘It’s incredibly frustrating when people with the resources to buy clothes new buy from thrift stores for the sole purpose of flipping them. People are taking away resources from those on a low-income in order to turn a profit. It’s gross.’
As well as resellers making problems for disadvantaged shoppers, the thrift flip trend popularised on social media platforms like TikTok has made it harder to acquire plus-size clothing.
By buying bigger sizes and turning them into cute co-ords in a smaller size, or choosing much larger sizes for a smaller bodies to have an oversized fit, the demand for plus sizes have gone up in thrift shops without the stock to fulfill it.
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Kayleigh, 31, buys her clothes almost exclusively from thrift stores and sells plus-size items online. She says the struggle to find pretty plus-size clothing has been around for years, but the thrift-flipping trend may be making the problem worse.
‘Even if I had a billion dollars to spend, there is already a dearth of plus size cute clothing to choose from because designers assume we want to conceal our bodies with bizarre abstract designs or ruffles,’ she explains. ‘So the likelihood of something cute finding its way to a local thrift store is already slim.
‘Then you have to do that additional labor of digging for it as if you’re looking for a needle in a haystack.
‘If a skinny person is out there looking for cute plus-size clothing to sell and they pick something that I would like to actually wear… That is them materially preventing me from dressing well.’
Djamila, 29, is a charity shopper from North London. She’s fed up of seeing plus-size clothing taken from plus-size potential shoppers and resold as ‘oversized’ online.
‘Thrift flippers are scanning charity shops for anything that could be deemed ‘vintage’ because that sort of thing is easily worn oversized by straight-sized people and still looks fashionable,’ Djamila says. ‘The problem is, that oversized dress or shirt that looks so good with a belt round on a small person is my size and it’s probably not something I would be able to buy new.
Djamila and the other thrift shoppers interviewed for this article have a simple request: that those reselling cheap items online consider the repercussions of their actions.
‘If you’re not buying plus clothing to wear yourself and you’re just flipping it online, maybe try to consider the difficulty that fat people have shopping on the high street in the first place and the reasons we thrift,’ Djamila comments.
Freja, 24, agrees: ‘Flippers need to have a hard think about the people who rely on charity shops and thrift shops to buy clothes than they can afford.’
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