Global Inequalities Perpetuated Through Fashion


  • Cary Lucchino, Anthropology, University of Delaware

Faculty Mentor(s)

  • Kedron Thomas, Anthropology, University of Delaware


This research examines the negative environmental, economic, and social effects of used clothing waste on marginalized communities. I find that these negative effects stem from fast fashion, the inexpensive, rapid production of textiles and garments by mass-market retailers in the Global North (GN). Consequently, clothes are overproduced and overconsumed, causing a large disparity between supply and demand for textiles. The research was guided by the following questions: How has the culture of fast fashion in the GN negatively impacted communities in the Global South (GS)? More specifically, how is the exportation of second hand clothing (SHC) from the GN to the GS linked to historical colonial relations between these regions? Through an analysis of existing studies of fast fashion, fashion waste, and second-hand clothing markets, this research links historical patterns of colonization and colonial exploitation with contemporary dynamics in the fashion industry. Under the guise of sustainability, the trade of SHC to the GS is a way for the GN to offload their overproduction and overconsumption onto land in the GS. Following the work of Max Liboiron (2021), I define the SHC trade as a form of “waste colonialism”, where the GN benefits financially and environmentally at the expense of the GS. The results from this research emphasize the need for the GN to change their relationship with clothes and to implement structural change as part of a larger project of decolonization.