Self-isolation and second-hand clothes shopping

Dawn Taylor, founder of online thrift store Dusk and Rose, talks about what to search for while thrifting. Photo courtesy of Dawn Taylor

The fashion industry began to pick up speed in the 1960s, reaching its peak four decades later in the 2000s. Retailers like Wet Seal, Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe began popping up in malls, launching themselves and their inexpensive clothing into the mainstream. 

According to Elizabeth Cline in her book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,” fast fashion companies have around 52 “microseasons” a year, constantly producing large amounts of inexpensive, trendy clothing as fast as possible.

At the time of the book’s release in 2012, Forever 21 and H&M were getting daily shipments of new clothing, and Topshop was releasing 400 new styles to their website every week. In short, fast fashion works by convincing the consumer that they are not “trendy” enough, so they need to buy more of their products.

Fast fashion companies resort to using cheap, unethical labor to produce such a large amount of clothing in a short amount of time. Approximately 20 to 60% of clothing produced by fast fashion companies is sewed at home by informal workers. If the worker has children, they will often help in sewing smaller embellishments on the clothing such as sequins. 

The materials used to make the clothes themselves have proven to harm the environment. According to an article in The Good Trade, a fashion and lifestyle blog, toxic dyes and synthetic fabrics used to make the clothing “seep into water supplies in foreign countries (where the clothing is made) and at home when the clothing is washed.” 

Lead contamination is also common for clothing from fast fashion companies. Wearing lead-contaminated clothing is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and can have harmful effects on both the mother and the fetus.  

This dramatic increase in the amount of clothing available to consumers also means that more clothing is being thrown away. Just in the U.S., 11 million tons of clothing are thrown away per year. That means that the average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing each year. 

In an article for HuffPost, founder of the online resource for sustainable brands Factory 45 Sarah Whitehead Lohr wrote four tips for consumers to remember to avoid these ethical issues while shopping for clothes: “[B]uy local, buy indie, buy used and buy less.”

The late 2010s showed a rise in awareness of the effects of fast fashion, and slow fashion has become a more popular choice for consumers and influencers alike. As a result, thrifting, especially online, has seen a rise in popularity, allowing shoppers to have a wide variety at a lower price point.

A report from the online thrift retailer thredUP showed that “the secondhand clothing market is expected to double within the next five years — and to become 1.5 times the size of fast fashion within the next 10.” 

Online thrifting platforms, such as Poshmark and Depop, have become easy, popular resources for people to sell and buy second-hand clothing. Many have also taken to buying their own domains and starting successful, second-hand shops independently. 

Dawn Taylor is the founder of Dusk and Rose, an Atlanta-based online thrift store. A former fast fashion shopper, Taylor hopes that Dusk and Rose will encourage others to start thrifting themselves and gives tips on how to get started. 

“I did my research on companies and brands I don’t support first,” Taylor said. “You definitely have to weed through the fast fashion things in the thrift store because most people get rid of it because it wasn’t holding up, isn’t in style, or it didn’t meet an expectation they had.” 

Taylor spoke about her own thrifting journey, which switched from a way of saving money to something with a much larger purpose. 

“What turned from a saving money objective turned into me asking myself more of who I was,” she said. “‘If I don’t buy first hand ,that’s great, but why?’ I started looking into fast fashion and their poor labor [practices], seeing trends fly by like flies, and I started buying with a purpose.”

Taylor also noted how many brands play off of unattainable beauty standards that often become a trigger for herself and many others. 

“I personally have a trigger when it comes to sizes, and I know I’m not the only one,” Taylor said. “In mentioning that, I hope to bring light the inhumane ways brands like to put beauty and size standards on people. The thrift store made me feel good. I could be all sizes really depending on what look I wanted. I could sift through someone’s past for a piece and bring it back to life.”

Opening an online thrift store in the middle of the pandemic has been an interesting experience for Taylor. Since all brick-and-mortar thrift stores are closed, she hopes that online thrifting could brighten up one’s day in the midst of hard times. 

“[Many people’s] priorities may not be to indulge in an item but to survive, and that’s what we support,” Taylor said. “If someone reached out and asked if I could put something on hold for them because money is tight, but they love a piece, I would in a heartbeat. Dusk and Rose isn’t in a mindset of ‘make money now’; it’s really about how can I give back and [what I can] do within the means I am given.” 

When looking for thrift stores, Taylor recommends looking for stores that give back to the community in some way. She highlighted stores such as Lost-N-Found and Out of the Closet, both of which support the LGBTQ+ community.  

Although she admits that it is a strange time to start a business, Taylor is taking the proper precautions to make sure that she and her customers are safe. This includes staying in quarantine and properly sanitizing the pieces in Dusk and Rose’s inventory. 

“Right now, the world looks different, so business is going to look different. I’m honestly just trying to make a little difference in this,” she said. “When orders do come in, I am so grateful. And I put extra love into making that package something worth their while.”


Where to find Taylor:

Instagram: @duskandrosethrift