Boutique Ideas

Where do Mitumba Clothes Come From (Comprehensive Guide)

Mitumba clothes, also known as secondhand or used clothing, are a popular source of affordable fashion in many developing countries. But where do these clothes come from, and are they a good option for consumers? In this article, we will delve into the origins and characteristics of mitumba clothes, the pros and cons of the trade, and some of the myths surrounding these garments.

What are Mitumba Clothes?

According to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) Association, mitumba clothes are defined as “used clothing and other textiles that are collected, sorted, and shipped from industrialized countries to developing countries for reuse.” The term “mitumba” itself comes from the Swahili word for “bale,” referring to the large bundles of clothing that are often imported.

Mitumba clothes can be found in markets, street vendors, and small shops in many developing countries, and they are typically much cheaper than new clothing. These garments are often imported from Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and they can range from high-quality designer brands to lower-end fast fashion brands.

Where Do Mitumba Clothes Come From?

The global clothing industry has a long history of exporting used clothing to developing countries, dating back to the 19th century. In the post-World War II era, the rise of fast fashion and cheap, mass-produced clothing has only increased the volume of used clothing being shipped to developing countries.

The export of used clothing is a byproduct of globalization and colonialism, as Western countries have often imposed their cultural and economic systems on developing countries. As a result, the trade in mitumba clothes has been a controversial issue, with some arguing that it undermines local clothing industries and perpetuates a cycle of dependency on Western imports.

The main countries that export mitumba clothes are the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, while the main importers are countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Kenya, for example, is a major importer of mitumba clothes, with an estimated 80% of clothing in the country being secondhand.

Pros and Cons of Mitumba Clothes

There are both benefits and drawbacks to the trade in mitumba clothes. On the positive side, buying secondhand clothing can be a more environmentally-friendly option, as it reduces the demand for new clothing and the resources required to produce it. It can also provide economic benefits for both sellers and buyers of mitumba clothes in developing countries, as it creates jobs and provides affordable options for consumers.

However, there are also criticisms of the mitumba trade. Some argue that it undermines local clothing industries and keeps developing countries dependent on imports, rather than fostering economic development and self-sufficiency. There are also ethical concerns surrounding the global clothing industry and fast fashion, including labor abuses and environmental degradation.

Myths About Mitumba Clothes

There are several myths surrounding mitumba clothes that it is important to address. One myth is that these clothes are of poor quality. While it is true that some mitumba clothes may be worn or damaged, there are also many high-quality garments available.

Another myth is that mitumba clothes are always donated by wealthy people in Western countries. While it is true that some charitable organizations do donate clothing to developing countries, a significant portion of used clothing is actually sold by individuals or companies to clothing recyclers or brokers.

Finally, it is important to recognize that the mitumba trade is not the main cause of environmental and ethical issues in the clothing industry. These issues are largely the result of the fast fashion model, which relies on cheap, mass-produced clothing and often ignores the environmental and social impacts of production. While the mitumba trade may contribute to these issues, it is only one part of a much larger and complex system.


In conclusion, mitumba clothes are a source of affordable fashion for many people in developing countries, but they also raise complex issues surrounding globalization, colonialism, and the global clothing industry. While there are environmental and economic benefits to the trade in mitumba clothes, there are also valid criticisms and ethical concerns that should not be overlooked. As consumers, we have the power to make choices that can impact the global clothing industry and the way clothing is produced and consumed. By considering the origins and impacts of the clothes we buy, we can work towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *