Gen Z Ghanaians are expertly thrifting the West’s clothing waste

По | 11.02.2023

Credit: Reuters
Around 15 million pieces of clothing end up at Ghana’s Kantamanto Market every week. Young locals have entered the business of reselling hidden gems to avoid a build-up of local pollution – all while making a pretty penny and encouraging a sustainable way of life.

In recent years, Ghana has become a major dumping ground for the world’s fashion waste.

The West’s obsession with consuming clothing designed to be discarded after one or two wears is polluting the African nation’s seaside, landfills, and rivers. Though many of these cheaply made products are unusable – high-quality items, designer pieces, and rare fabrics can also be found in the mix of bulk clothing arrivals.

Items of this sort will be sent to Kantamanto market, Ghana’s largest second-hand marketplace. The vending area has gained a reputation for selling Obroni Wawu, a local saying which means ‘Dead Man’s Clothes’.

Noticing the frequency of hidden fashion gems, young Ghanaian locals have tapped into a creative business opportunity. It’s one that helps deal with the endless stream of textiles landing on their soil while earning them a new stream of income.

In the hours before sunrise, Gen Z entrepreneurs sift through newly arrived textiles to find the most attractive, trendy pieces available. These are later resold on Instagram pages and inside their own vintage boutiques.

As a result of their work, the streets of Accra are now dotted with young people sporting used utility and varsity jackets, vintage band t-shirts, adidas sneakers, and stylish silk garments.

While the young entrepreneurs say the money made from flipping the Wests’ discarded clothing is certainly a bonus, they aren’t shy about reminding their community that sustainability is at the heart of their mission.

‘Remove the whole notion that you only wear vintage when you are poor, or you only wear thrifted stuff when you don’t have money,’ said shop owner Myra Davis outside a local Vintage Gala event.

‘It’s been here for years. Why go and produce more when there’s more than enough available to you?’ she continued.

It makes sense that the culture of vintage shopping is thriving in the West African nation, as its bustling creative scene – from art and photography to music – has started making major international waves in recent years.

The arrival of discarded textiles in Ghana has also seen young designers utilising the West’s ‘waste’ to build their own brands. Many have started selling reworked and completely unique pieces created from high-quality fabrics found at Kantamanto market.

Despite the amazing work and shifting perspective on second-hand clothing happening in Ghana, the American Or Foundation reports that around 40 percent of the clothing sent to the country will still end up in overflowing urban landfills.

It seems virtually impossible that reselling and reworking clothing will be enough to keep up with the ever-growing piles of fashion waste ending up in Ghana.

Consumers in the West share the responsibility of shopping as sustainably as possible, when possible. Our actions, thanks to globalisation, not only impact the people and environment around us – but create a domino effect across the planet.

Still, the creativity, ambition, and eco-focused mindset of young Ghanians is a major silver lining. Perhaps we could all take a leaf out of their book in 2023!

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