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26th October 2015

Vintage vs. charity shops

Perisha Kudhail thinks twice about second-hand—is it unethical to buy vintage when charity shops offer the same service?

As with any other debacle in fashion, the ethical reasoning behind vintage shops is being questioned all the time. Surely selling second-hand clothing for profit is the same as buying clothes from a charity shop, without giving to charity? What is the difference between vintage and charity? Aren’t they the same thing with different ethical outcomes?

With charity, there exists a constant suspicion as to how much of the proceedings actually go towards the ’cause’. The rent of the shop has to be paid, alongside the managers who run the store. Realistically, how much does this leave for the charity itself? This ‘could’ be argued to be immoral in its own right. Why buy from a charity shop, when you don’t even know if your contribution makes a difference?

With vintage clothing shops, there is no barricade of morals. You buy the goods, the workers get paid, and they can then go out and acquire more vintage goods. With vintage, you cannot argue that you will be able to find some good buys. They are timeless pieces that you can keep and they will remain vintage.

However, if you look hard enough in a charity shop, you cannot argue that economically and practically, buying from a charity shop can bring the same joy as buying designer gear at full price. At least a charity shop boosts morale and makes you feel like you are making a difference, as well as getting a bargain or two. Should vintage shops convert? Or should we convert from vintage?

A lot of people don’t have an opinion about the fact that vintage and charity shops do equate to each other in terms of what is being sold. The assumption is that clothes used are better than clothes thrown away. And if you’re not giving to a charitable cause, to some extent you could argue that paying someone’s wage is as good a cause as any.

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