Sustainable fashion and wearing pre-used clothing is one of the most eco-friendly ways of engaging in fashion and arguably the easiest but easy for whom? I want to delve deeper into my Depop journey, growing my business and how it allowed me to see the limited chances the black community has been given to engage with methods of sustainable fashion.
Despite these set-backs we do want to participate, have the capabilities to and are making great steps in that direction. I remember when I was doing my first Depop pop-up shop in Hackney market I called my Dad to tell him the news. He reflected on how in Ghana, those who sell second clothing are given the term ‘Obrini Wawu’ which translates to ‘dead white man’s clothes’. Which led me to think about when I first started Depop, reselling my old or worn clothes never had any negative connotations to me nor was sustainability at the front of my mind. It was about clearing those items I said I would need for a random occasion which I knew would probably never arise. Fast forward 3 years later, over 23k Depop followers, 2 pop ups and over 1100 sales; sustainability is one of the core aspects of my business. However, I still witnessed a lack of involvement within my community. Anything to do with race is a nuisance subject and is important to stress that we do and we can participate in the green debate but there’s still a long way to go before every person of colour, not just black people are given the opportunity to partake in a prominent way on sustainable fashion. Whether that be on the news, political discussions, think- tanks, social media or academia. The participation should not come from a place of survival or subordination but because the necessary social, cultural and economic changes have changed that side of fashion for the better. My Dad was born in Ghana and lived there until his late 20’s. For him, second-hand clothing wasn’t fashion.
You were given your older brothers or sisters clothes to wear simply because that was the reality. Charity shops have become so popular in the UK and there’s way less of a stigma attached to wearing second-hand clothing now. In Ghana, it signalled to others you were poorer or you couldn’t afford to maintain a certain lifestyle. Comparing that to my experience, charity shopping was exhilarating and is used to find a good quality item for a bargain. ‘Obrini Wawu’ encompasses a much deeper ideology about access, education and societal perceptions which I and most people engaging in sustainable fashion in the western world simply don’t have to think about. Ghana has a long history of colonisation and for the West to now encourage us all to go ‘green’ it rings strongly with irony. Most of the non-western world have been green by force,
while also being locked into a system of supplying the very people who have and still are damaging the planet with consumerism, capitalist means of growth. My father went on to talk about how for many years black people hadn’t had the majority of global political or economic power, naturally limiting their access to discussions and diluting the inclusivity at the table. By all means, we’re qualified but being recognised as a valuable asset to the sustainability debate is yet to become a regular occurrence. This doesn’t help at the grass-root level. If there’s no one to look up to that you can relate with in a noticeable position, discussing something that affects ALL of us, then how are people to know let alone take active steps towards making sustainable choices with their fashion. So... I get it. I understand why sustainability hasn’t and isn’t currently a dominant topic within the black sphere. That doesn’t negate from the fact it isn’t important! The facts are this, the fashion industry accounts for 8.1% of the world’s greenhouse emissions. The UK is the principal driver of fast fashion in Europe with each person buying an estimated 27.6kg worth of clothing each year. Scarily, by 2030 it is expected there to be 148 million tonnes of fashion waste. Yes, tonnes. This is why I do what I do and have been so grateful to have discovered Depop when I did. Maintaining my fashion choices and helping others get the items they love doesn’t have to cost someone’s human rights or the planet’s precious resources. The small part I do to contribute is a great sense of achievement.
I wasn’t necessarily ‘equipped’ to make Depop pretty much my full-time job. However as a young black woman growing up in Britain, my upbringing, exposure, natural creativity and privileged access to education has shown me there’s so much I am capable of doing. It also put me in places to see that many others are doing the same thing. Since joining Depop I have seen the number of black-owned Depop stores are on the rise. ‘Christiniah Jones’, ‘Janettojo’, ‘Sooki Vintage’, ‘Selenas Shop’, ‘Patton Studio’, ‘Dohario’ and ‘Cains Vintage Closet’ are just a few of the many black young people I see bossing it with their Depop stores. I love the platform that Depop has given me to inspire and connect with others. I’m seeing diversity on the rise with more and more young people taking ownership and a vested interest in sustainability. There are still many barriers but the black community and I as a whole are more than capable of breaking them down.
We are rising above, creating spaces and success stories that hopefully one day can enable someone else to do the same. So, what are you waiting for? Get on Depop now because the garment really is greener on the other side.
Written by Adwoa - @minisworld