At its best, fashion is a fun and empowering form of self-expression. At its worst, it is one of capitalism’s most insatiable monsters—overflowing landfills, exploiting laborers and animals, and upholding outdated and unhealthy beauty standards. The fact that many of the fashion industry’s controversial practices continue to survive seems to send a clear message: When profit is the end, it justifies the means.
This is one of the reasons why a college student by the name of Jacklyn Wells became the subject of a heated debate online.
Wells (who goes by @jbwells2 on TikTok) runs her store, Jack’s Vntg, on the secondhand fashion app Depop. Back in January 2023, Wells posted a “thrift store haul” video to her TikTok account, showing off multiple skirts, dresses and vintage coats of various styles.
While the video prompted a ton of compliments at Well’s rare finds, it also received a fair amount of backlash.
As originally reported by Buzzfeed, some people took umbrage with the fact that Wells resold her purchases online at a marked-up price. One TikTok user even noted that one patterned skirt was also available on Amazon for a similar price.
the first jacket is everything
This prompted a flurry of criticism as to the ethical implications created by Wells and others who resell on Depop.
Some people likened it to the way landlords might buy a building at a discounted rate in a low-income neighborhood and then up the rent by exorbitant amounts to turn a profit, pushing out those who can’t afford it.
Similarly, “thrift cycling” is seen by many as a practice that limits access to cheap clothing for those who might need it most.
Though Wells has addressed these comments previously in a video, she used Instagram to respond to the more recent backlash.
First, Wells explained that she herself was low-income and resold clothes as a way to put herself through school.
“At 16, I was abruptly living on my own with my sister for personal reasons…and needed to make more money somehow. I started selling thrifted clothing I already had in my closet wherever I could,” she wrote. “In college…I wasn’t sure how I was going to find time to support myself financially. I started Jack’s Vntg in February of 2022, still in school, with $100 to my name, and a lot of hope. Not to sound dramatic, but it saved my life. I was able to pay my bills, eat, and survive on my own as an 18-year-old.”
She also noted that she saw thrift cycling as a more sustainable alternative to fast fashion, saying “The more educated I became on harmful clothing production, the more I grew to hate fast fashion. I started to embrace the pieces I found in my local thrift stores, which were overflowing with clothing. I began to love sustainable fashion and thrifting.”
Wells continued, “Where I live, there are 20 goodwills. All overflowing, all restocking hourly, and all sending truckloads of excess clothing to the bins. It’s terrifying to see the amount of clothing going to waste, while fast fashion continues to pollute and abuse their workers. Reselling pushes circular fashion, sustainable consumption, and helps low-income individuals earn a living wage off of endless clothing.”
Others came to Wells’ defense, saying that what she did individually is no different than what existing companies, thrift stores and antique shops do on a daily basis, along with the fact that resellers often collect specific styles and sizes, leaving plenty of clothes for others to purchase.
Many even noted that—considering the time and energy that goes into sifting through piles and piles of donated clothes—that the prices are quite reasonable.
Perhaps it is easier to call out the actions of an individual like Wells over entities like fast fashion empires Shein, Nasty Gal, and Amazon…or even the very Goodwills that are being picked from, but really, this is a much larger issue. Blame it on corporate greed, an overpopulated world or the downfall of humanity, but there is a widespread disconnect between what we consume and the actual cost of those items. Regardless, whether you believe individual efforts or more systemic changes create a larger impact on our world, it all begins with conversation. And at the very least, this is a conversation that is growing.