I and many like me have always considered myself to be 'doing my bit' by shopping at charity shops. This still perhaps remains true but quite how much is up for debate. Botticello started with two factors; a) that over consumption is leading to an over abundance of second hand clothing in domestic markets and b) that surplus second hand clothing that is unable to be sold at home is exported to the developing world. She posed the question: what happens between a and b? What people (like myself) probably didn't realise was that of all the clothing donated to the charity shops, only 20% is sold in the UK and 60% is resold abroad- mostly to Eastern Europe and Central Africa. So while that 20% is going to the charity's chosen cause, who is getting the rest of the profit?
A rag factory- receiving several hundred tonnes of clothing a week- is the middle man between a and b where the garments are sorted into categories such as fabric type or intended market. These are then resold in unopened bales which, importantly, must remain sealed as an opened bale is considered 'contaminated' where someone may have laid eyes on its contents already or swapped items. In this way the factory itself becomes a brand. The clothing also goes through various stages of re-branding- being new, then classed as rubbish, then re-classed in the rag factory and made new again when sold. These shifting biography's perhaps can be paralleled with our own shifting definitions within our current media run culture- being valued, valueless, then valued again.
Sorry I missed......... Sarah Cheang (London College of Fashion) speaking on Fashion and Ethnicity.