Bolivia and used clothing – a video

9 Mar

I found this on YouTube. It’s a short video, made three years ago shortly after Bolivia banned the sale of used clothing, and demonstrates the split between two broad sections of society; those who make new clothing and want used clothing gone because it is so hard to complete with, and those who sell or buy used clothing because it is cheaper and nicer to them than new Bolivian clothing.

A Bolivian shop selling second hand clothes. 2007.

A Bolivian shop selling second hand clothes. 2007.

Over in Europe second hand clothing is a booming market where a pair of cast off jeans or a nasty 80’s blouse is so de rigeur among the youth, it will go for almost what it would have cost new – or maybe lots more. Over there, those items would cost a matter of a couple of pounds, and carefully selected and cared for, brings your look up to date with international fashions, while wearing well for years. But that doesn’t wear well with the new 2009 Bolivian Constitution which highlights self-sufficiency, independence, sovereignty and national pride; all of which, in the eyes of the government, are contravened by Bolivians who wear ‘cast offs’ from rich nations like North America.

To be honest, the Bolivian-made clothing I’ve seen in the markets is drab, dated and poorly made, as well as overpriced. Has the ban on second hand clothing changed things? Probably not.

What’s more, when I was looking into this while in Bolivia in 2007, trade union leaders told me that people wanted to buy Chinese clothing rather than Bolivian, so local manufacturers were sewing in ‘Made In China’ labels to their manufactures in order to get people to buy them. I read a report dated March 2012 which quotes the Bolivian Chambers of Commerce grumbling that this particular issue had grown so large that Bolivian manufacturers needed to find export markets quickly if they are to survive. So that kind of proves that second hand clothing is not the silver bullet those companies thought it was. Perhaps the issue is those companies just aren’t competitive, period.

Have a watch.


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