Thursday, November 20, 2008

The vintage/op-shop debate continues

This time it's about the ethics of mining op-shops for clothes and reselling them in vintage shops or on eBay. Miss Patrice wrote an angry post targeting Sarah from Foreva Young Vintage, basically, it seems, for being too entrepreneurial. (Patrice has now edited the post to reflect that Sarah is only one of many resellers who source their stuff from op-shops.) Now the topic has cropped up on I Op, Therefore I Am.

Most of the commenters on the latter blog say they have no problem with resellers and feel they deserve any profit they make from such a labour-intensive enterprise. Defending themselves, the resellers make ethical arguments about saving garments from landfill, or about catering to demand from buyers who don't have easy access to op-shops.

Another comment, which I thought was quite shrewd, was that eBay is now many people's first resort for getting rid of unwanted stuff, so the "good stuff" that all op-shoppers are after sometimes bypasses the op-shop economy altogether these days. (What precisely is "good stuff" depends on the op-shopper's tastes.)

My own feelings on the matter were echoed by an anonymous commenter who wrote:
I don't object to reselling but I don't like the way it's become such a theme on this blog. Somehow a great find doesn't seem so great if you just bought it to sell it.

Another thing that bothers me - and I have posted this as a comment on the blog - is when garments bought in an op-shop are mutilated to make them conform to a more contemporary aesthetic. I write 'mutilated' deliberately, because I see garments being altered in ways that don't respect their original designs. To me this seems to miss the point of vintage: and admiration for the styles of the past.

Of course, I've bought things from op-shops with the intention of cutting them up, re-sewing them or otherwise changing them - but only for me to wear. If you're planning to sell these things to other people, then who are you to decide what's "wearable" and what isn't? Surely that's something a buyer decides for themselves, using their own tastes?

Alternatively, perhaps these people who both resell and mutilate consider themselves creative: what they are selling is a certain look. It's akin to being a fashion designer who works only with second-hand materials. Again, I have no problem with this... unless the clothes are being sold as 'vintage'. You simply can't have your cake (trading on the cachet of vintageness) and eat it too (hacking those vintage garments up so they no longer have their vintage shapes).


Ali said...

I am one of these 'resellers' and I've never felt bad about what I do... partly because I usually only resell clothes for a couple of dollars more than I bought them, so it's not like I'm making a huge profit.
The other thing is that op shops (at least the ones I shop at) are charities. They get thousands and thousands of clothes donated to them. They distribute some of these clothes to the people who really need them, then sell the rest in stores to make money for the charity. Yes, it's a good chance for people who don't have much money to buy clothes, but the money is all going to charity, so they're not fussy about who's buying. The ladies at my local salvos are always happy to see me because they know that I am going to spend a lot of money every time I'm in there, and I'm pretty sure they know what I'm going to do with the clothes!
The other thing is that if something isn't selling, I give it back to the op shop along with my own clothes that I don't want anymore.
So yes, I'm making a tiny bit of a profit, but I'm also being a huge supporter of their charity by spending around $200 a month in their stores and donating bags of clothes every month.

Mel said...

I'm not having a go at you, Ali.

The way you emphasise op-shops being charities is interesting though, I think. Perhaps what bothered the anonymous commenter at I Op, Therefore I Am is that, even though it's not actually wrong, it still feels somehow wrong to some people that a community organisation is used for personal profit.

There's no real arguing with this hazy feeling of wrongness, but it's undeniable that it exists. I tried to address it several posts ago when I brought up ideas of 'localness' and the history of clothes - perhaps really foregrounding where things come from and trying to imagine their histories is a more sensitive way of dealing in op-shop merchandise.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with your comment about the 'mutilation' of the finds, Mel. Nice, vintage and second hand clothes in larger sizes are rare enough as it is, so it's annoying when Sarah and Foreva Young Vintage posts about how she bought an 'oversize mu mu dress' and cut it up to make a size 6 tulip skirt.

Claire (ethel loves fred) said...

I've been following this debate, as an avid op-shopper I think that if you find it, you have the right to do whatever you like with it. Cut it up, sell it, use it, what ever you like. That's my 2 cents on this issue.

Sarah said...

Ahhh, the debate rages on. I'm biased BUT I can see the point of view from those opposed to reselling. In regards to the article written by Miss Patrice, we did swap some heated commenting for a while there but we've come to the conclusion we'd have to agree to disagree, and have ended it on friendly terms.

I find it a bit odd that I've somehow become the pin up for resellers though - eek! too much pressure. To be honest I think it's due to my posting on the Op Therefore I Am blog that's brought so much heat on myself, although I never talk about ebay there and merely show the garments I find. I'm not too crazy about all this extra attention to be honest.

There are tons of reseller blogs out there... perhaps I can direct your attention to Liebemarlene.

audrey said...

I have to agree with Claire. That's the beauty of op-shopping - you find it, you do what you like with it.

What really gets me though is when large department store brands on sell vintage items at outrageous prices. I was in Top Shop the other day and they have an entire floor dedicated to vintage items - selling for about 10 times the price you'd pay in a charity shop. HATE.

Anonymous said...

I have also been following the debate on this issue.
I am a keen re-seller of clothes from op shops aswell, and personally i dont find anything wrong with it. It is like just selling my own used clothes or a friends that have given it to me.
The good thing about vintage shops (second-hand clothing shops) is that it is a particular look that alot of people are looking for and its good to have a place dedicated to that taste without having to rumage through the bad all day. I do all that for them.

"If you're planning to sell these things to other people, then who are you to decide what's "wearable" and what isn't? Surely that's something a buyer decides for themselves, using their own tastes?"

Of course they have a choice in what tastes they like. If they didnt like it they would just not purchase it. That goes for any shop whether second-hand or not.
Every designer out there is choosing its designs and deciding whats 'wearable' and what isnt.

At the end of the day its the buyers choice.