Thrift fashion is not a new concept; in the past decade, we witnessed how second-hand clothing evolved from being an under-trend to a solution. A couple of years ago, for instance, Lovebirds used to be a vintage shop — until they turned into a brand for minimalist clothing that is at the helm of this fashion subculture today. Amrita Khanna, its co-founder, had launched the store in Delhi in 2010, giving cognisance to a burst of offbeat artists, each one strikingly different in appearance from the other. This was perhaps my first lesson on individuality. As a novice in the magazine business at that time, I was being trained to spot trends, the brands that were designing those trends, and who was influential. I never questioned that line of thought, just followed it. Looking at a reflection of myself in a vintage, white suit with shoulder-pad details (something I could never have discovered in a high street store) was when fashion, for me, became intertwined with the process of self-expression and finding a purpose.
It takes time for audiences to adapt to alternate ideas, and today, we are rethinking our choices and returning to the old ways of making less, buying less, and to the art of curation. Thrift fashion encompasses recycling used clothing, selling unwanted garments and buying pre-owned pieces at a lesser value. This prevents clothing from ending up in landfills, thus reducing its carbon footprint and maintaining circular fashion ecosystems. “Curation” has become a serious business buzzword, and creative thinking is allowing values to align with execution. With repetitive fashion trends becoming too common, owning a garment that nobody else has can be a rare gift.
Championing mindfulness are sisters Tashi and Tara Mitra. They have decided to stop buying fast fashion and have chosen the more sustainable route of shopping for secondhand clothing. Tashi Mitra, 27, graduated in 2016 with a major in philosophy from Pomona College and is currently working at a life-skills education non-profit, Dream A Dream. Tara Mitra, 23, is a student at Wesleyan University, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and philosophy.
In an exclusive feature styled by them, the siblings speak about how a shift in perspective has led them to make more informed choices….
What are your thoughts on environmentally conscious fashion?
Tara: The fashion industry’s impact is vast and varied, from labour exploitation to climate change. Fast fashion has become popular for its affordable prices, but many don’t realise that this affordability comes at a price. Marginalised communities end up feeling the violence of fast fashion through long hours and low wages. They even experience climate change more intensely because of phenomena like gentrification. The market allows for alienation, allowing us to forget about the origins of our clothes, the people who make them and the plants that provide the material.
Tashi: Despite an increasing awareness of injustice and lack of environmental sustainability, the fast fashion industry continues to grow. What we often tend to forget or ignore, is that with every off-the-rack shirt that we wear for two months before it is lost in the depths of our closets, we are complicit in destroying our environment. Today, the fashion industry accounts for around 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions and is responsible for massive water consumption and micro-plastic pollution of the ocean. Until we recognise the role each one of us plays in creating these large-scale realities, we will remain unable to create a healthy and thriving world.
How long has it been since you stopped buying fast fashion?
Tara: I stopped maybe somewhere between 2016-2017…. Tashi: It’s been four or five years, between late 2015 and early 2016.
What led to your decision of not indulging in fast fashion anymore?
Tara: I remember Tashi mentioning that she was only going to buy thrifted clothes because of the violence inherent in fast fashion. That really stayed with me since I had become attuned to labour exploitation in the animal agriculture industry through my work on human and nonhuman relationships. I realised that being vegan was not enough, especially since I had the privilege and ability to do more. Giving up fast fashion wasn’t difficult because the outfits felt too generic; everyone having the same clothes is not exciting.
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