Katangowa market, Africa’s largest marketplace of used clothing, draws thousands of locals and non-residents who come here to shop for used T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. But what’s the biography of the used clothing before it gets offloaded at Lagos wharfs? Who donates it and how safe is it to wear?
JiJi asked a salesman aged 39 who has been working at Katangowa market since 2009 to answer questions behind the scene that many of us are concerned about. So, make yourself comfortable and read what JiJi has found on the topic for you!
Question: – Who donates used clothing to Lagos? Which countries is it arriving from?
Answer: London has long made Lagos its key end market when it comes to second hand clothing and shoes. From my personal experience I can tell you that English school children and university students actively participate in collecting jeans, dresses, T-shirts, and blazers their families no more need. They then pack them neatly into packages provided by special screening facilities. Every month the facilities send their bus to pick up these packages for which school students receive a fee based on the amount of clothes collected.
In the streets of Madrid and Berlin you can find containers where locals leave their clothing which has become either outdated or was initially wrong-sized. In Budapest and Wien, for example, companies which collect, sort out, and sell used clothes set up give-away campaigns in which local citizens receive discount cards and coupons in exchange for their clothes.
In Zurich, used foot wear and clothes that families decide to give away for one reason or another is put into packages and hung on their door handle on a specific day of the month. Social workers visit households on that day to pick up packages and drop them off at companies who then further take care of the used clothing.
Click on Page 2 to find out how safe it is to wear used clothing!
Question: – How safe is it to wear used clothing?
Answer: What I can tell you for sure is that second hand clothing from Germany or Holland is much safer than new T-shirts or jeans delivered directly from China. Europeans strictly observe textile sanitation rules. No exceptions. Once the batch of collected clothes arrives to the factory, it undergoes thorough cleansing including dry cleaning, sterilization by steaming, and gas disinfection using skin-friendly bromide methyl during 20 hours. This is what gives your clothes bought at Katangowa market a special smell.
Following cleansing procedures, all clothes is sorted out into categories based on its purpose: children’s, women’s, men’s, seasonal wear, etc. Next, these items undergo selection according to their condition and dispatching point. For example, worn-out clothes from poor Indian neighborhoods in London would cost much less than brand new items with labels obtained in Soho.
Once disinfected and packed, drivers transporting clothing throughout other parts of Europe and further receive disinfection certificate to be checked at the customs office at the point of exit.
Question: – Who buys used clothing?
Answer: One half of my buyers are individuals under 35 who come here in search of exclusive high-quality clothing. They are normally attracted by items that hang on clothes rails and never by those messy piles we all have here. This category of buyers is ready to pay a bit extra and wait a bit longer if I have to pick up a pair of sneakers they are looking for from the stock located in a few hundred meters.
Others visit Katangowa market for the cheapest deals they can ever get. They usually have a few cents in their pockets and often just steal stuff.
With large-scale swing of used clothing in Lagos, local companies face hardship and try to handle expenses on fabric, rent, and logistics. On the other hand, however, second hand clothes industry has provided jobs to thousands of tailors and sewers in Lagos who would otherwise stay home and watch TV if the electricity bill is paid.