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Rags to Runway in Ghana


Piles of clothing and fabric can be found throughout Kantamanto market, many imported from Western countries, in Accra, Ghana. Taken Sept. 22, 2020.

The Vintage Gala, as 23-year old founders Prince Quist and James Edem Doe Dartey dubbed it, brought together a movement of young vintage enthusiasts pushing back against the global fast fashion industry by encouraging their peers to shop secondhand.

"If you wear clothes that were made back in the day...you're helping the environment by not using the raw materials and other things needed to make new ones," Quist said, seated in front of the booth for his and Dartey's online shop, TT Vintage Store.

"The idea is just to inspire everybody to thrift vintage, because secondhand goods aren't second class stuff," Dartey added. "Shopping vintage makes recycling even better."

Ghana receives around 15 million items of used clothing each week from Western countries and China, offloaded in bulk, often at negligible prices and questionable quality. Around 40% of this ultimately ends up in massive urban landfills, according to the U.S. based Or Foundation.

Much of it passes through Accra's Kantamanto, one of the largest garment markets on the continent, where bales of used clothes are sold based on the expected quality of the garments wrapped up inside.

Vintage enthusiasts such as Quist and Dartey

believe buying secondhand not only helps to reduce fashion's environmental impact, but also allows them and their customers to express unique styles apart from current trends.

Their message is simple: buy secondhand, make a difference.

"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 creative Myra Davis outside the Vintage Gala event.

"It's been here for years," she said. "Why go and produce more when there's more than enough available to you?"

The secondhand clothing trade, while rampant in Africa, has caused nations including Rwanda to ban the importation of used clothing in an attempt to enable local clothing manufacturers to have a chance for success against the inexpensive used imports.

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