Thanks to growing awareness on the negative impacts of fast fashion, more and more young Egyptians are starting to forego international clothing brands in lieu of local counterparts and even thrift shops.
New local clothing outlets pop up in Egypt every day, but what are the pros and cons of shopping locally?
Pro: You’ll be helping a small business
In general, ethical shopping is based on giving your money to hardworking individuals rather than the already rich CEOs of massive companies. More often than not, buying from a large chain store won’t benefit the workers who made them, who are usually paid very little and forced to work in terrible conditions.
This concept of shopping from small businesses doesn’t just apply to clothing; consider buying groceries from the neighborhood market instead of large supermarket chains, for example. The local market owner (baqqal) will appreciate a sale because it’ll help him put food on the table and pay for his children’s education. Each small shop in any Egyptian neighborhood exists to help a family survive.
Con: You’ll pay a bit more…
Let’s face it, a small clothing brand can’t possibly compete with the likes of H&M when it comes to pricing, especially if the clothes are of good quality. H&M has large factories and an entire team dedicated to maximizing profitability, while a new boutique cannot afford such luxuries.
A good strategy is to focus on quality rather than quantity; instead of buying several pieces and paying a fortune, opt for statement pieces that you can incorporate into several outfits. It’s even better if the apparel is sold for a good cause, such as the case of Doodle Factory; the merchandise might be on the pricey side but it strives to help children in need.
Pro: …but you’ll be unique
Debuting a new outfit only to run into someone wearing the same outfit takes away its joy in an instant. Even if that doesn’t happen, hearing someone say “I have that same shirt!” makes it seem less special.
This is more likely to happen with chain stores that sell thousands and thousands of the same pieces, but won’t happen with smaller brands because they have a limited stock – and if it does, it just means you have great taste!
Con: You might not find your size
Small clothing brands don’t always have the capacity to offer a broad array of sizes, or even when they do, some sizes might run out quicker than others. In particular, many fail to consider larger sizes, which is a problem in the fashion industry in general.
It can be frustrating, especially if you’ve already planned an outfit for the piece in your head, but it never hurts to contact the owners of the brand and ask them to keep you in mind when they restock.
Pro: You’ll access better quality
Manufacturing clothing on a smaller scale helps ensure better quality control in general, especially for small business owners aspiring to make a name of themselves in such a competitive market. They are more likely to invest in better fabrics and craftsmanship because they cannot afford to get bad reviews.
A lot of chain stores focus more on fast fashion and mass production and end up using the cheapest materials possible, which is why they are sometimes able to offer low prices. If the price seems too good to be true, it might end up getting worn out as soon as the season ends. Regardless of the shopping destination, it’s important to ask about the fabrics beforehand to make sure a purchase is worth completing.
Con: You’ll need to shop online
Since the world in general is shifting towards e-commerce, most local brands in Egypt rely on online presence because they can’t afford to rent a physical space.
The problem is that you don’t have a chance to try on outfits or check their quality before buying them, which is why it’s essential that you check their size charts and make sure they have a flexible return policy. If it’s not a legitimate business, you’ll have no leg to stand on legally if the product is not as advertised.
Pro: You’ll make someone’s day
Small business owners tend to keep track of each and every sale, and it’s important to encourage Egypt’s young entrepreneurs. Take handbag-seller Om Mohsen for example, who would be ecstatic if she made a sale, unlike the Aldo employee who has no personal attachment to the products being sold.
When you shop locally, you’re bound to bring a smile to the shop owner’s face and help their business live to see another day. In fact, this might be the most important reason of all to start shopping locally.
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