Vanessa Obenewaa Antwi Doe studies the effect of the second-hand clothing market on Ghanaian seamstresses

Prepare for the Expo

Vanessa Obenewaa Antwi Doe lived in Ghana for seven years, enjoying bespoke clothing created by local seamstresses, but she and her friends also wore second-hand, fast-fashion clothes that arrived in ports across the country from afar.

Now a master’s student at Ohio University studying communication and social change, Doe asks questions about the lives and livelihoods of seamstresses, the economics of free-market capitalism, and more. She will speak about her research, “Implications of the second-hand clothing market of fast fashion on seamstresses in the Ghanaian textile industry”, at the student exhibition on April 7.

“I have always wondered how the massive importation of cheap second-hand clothes affects seamstresses. I chose to embark on this project because I am an American-born Ghanaian who has seen the effects of fast fashion during my stay in Ghana from 2013 to 2020,” said Doe, an MA student in Communication and Development Studies at the Center for International Studies.

“I was introduced to both cultures, getting tailored clothes for occasions, special programs, school and work, while experiencing the ‘first pick’ (best of the lot) of clothes second-hand in Accra markets,” said Doe, who is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences.

Doe’s study explores the effect that the mass-produced fast fashion second-hand clothing market has on the businesses and livelihoods of seamstresses in Ghana. And one of his areas of interest is questions of formal and non-formal education within the profession. Drawing on 12 semi-structured interviews in Ghana’s capital, Accra, she says the background, location, skills and training of seamstresses all impact seamstresses’ businesses and livelihoods.

“The results suggest that there are both positive and negative impacts of the fast fashion second-hand market. Moreover, it shows that education is complicated, as formal and non-formal training pathways are accepted in the bespoke industry,” says Doe. “Furthermore, fast fashion is described as one of the many ways neoliberalism affects the economy and the flow of materials between North and South.”

One outcome of his work could be that “policy makers and development planners can use the information presented in this work to support legislation and programming that restricts imports of damaged second-hand clothing into Ghana in order to reduce the influx of textile waste shipped to the country on a daily basis through the ports,” she said.

Doe noted that the best part of her project “was hearing the seamstresses’ stories and listening to their perspective. So often their perceptions are ignored by assumptions. So it was fun to hear from they their thoughts on research.”

She also thanks for the mentorship of her thesis committee, Risa Whitson and Edna Wangui from the Department of Geography at the College of Arts and Sciences and Saumya Pant from the School of Media Arts and Studies at the Scripps College of Communication. “They all played a very important role in my research and they inspired me in various ways,” she said.

“My committee chair is Dr. Whitson, who has been instrumental in guiding me through my research journey, giving me excellent suggestions for my overall project, and ensuring that I produce my best Dr. Wangui was amazing in inspiring me to think about a project that would be important for the overall gender and environment climate in Africa especially in Ghana She was one of the most great inspirations for this project,” Doe said.

“Dr Pant, my program director, always reminds me to think development and think about the main tenant of CommDev, which is the participatory approach in creating a dialogue where people can share their problems and suggest their own solutions to problems.. I learned so much working with these three teachers. They were more than just teachers to me, they were my mentors.


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