Secondhand Clothing: A Sustainable and Socially Responsible Choice for Fashion Lovers

Buying second-hand clothes is one of the most sustainable ways to shop. For Generation Z, secondhand clothing is the trendiest fashion practice as we can see. According to thredUP’s 2021 Resale Report, the second-hand market is expected to double within five years, to $77 billion. Additionally, 76% of the 33 million people who bought used clothes in 2020 plan to increase their spending on used clothes in the next five years. According to a report from GlobalData, the resale market has grown 53.3% over the past five years.

The secondhand clothing market constitutes a slice of a larger pie –called the resale market. While a few years ago, secondhand items used to be traded mainly on flea markets and in thrift shops, today much of the trading has shifted to online platforms. Both fashion industry and non-fashion businesses have been pioneering resale models over recent years.

The trend has even caught up with giants in the game with famous retailer IKEA launching a take-back offering as well as a secondhand pop-up store two years back. It is estimated that by 2025, the resale sector will grow 10 times faster than traditional retail. By 2030, nearly one in five items in people’s wardrobes will be occasion items.

Speaking of fashion, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that the second-hand and luxury market, which includes the resale of clothing, shoes, and accessories, is worth between $100 billion and $120 billion USD worldwide. BCG found that while buyers typically enter the second-hand market through handbags before moving on to clothing and eventually jewelry, demand for second-hand clothing is very evident, with used clothes accounting for 25% of the average consumer’s total second-hand wardrobe.

Motivators Behind the second-hand marketing ( From buyer’s perspective):

Sustainability and circularity:
Although emissions increase due to the logistics of moving used products between new owners, resale models generally outperform “take, make, throw” tradition on most environmental indicators. Resale models encourage companies to design more sustainable products.

Product durability is a necessary prerequisite for model resale, as a longer product life cycle allows new owners to resell more frequently. This sets a new target with implications for designing products that last longer, requiring clothing to be made from sustainable clothing.

The technology involved in this process must follow a modular design that allows resale companies to easily repair and replace parts. The focus on designing for resale has spurred innovation and led to better product quality.

Saving money:
Second-hand shopping can ensure saving an incredible amount of money. Buyers have to never pay anywhere near full price. It’s so helpful when anyone is seeking for a high-quality brand for trust issues.

Unique Clothing style: The majority of second hand clothing found in thrift stores is completely unique and sold at extremely low prices. The chances of there being two of the same item in the same thrift store or in other thrift stores are slim to none. Especially for vintage clothing, it’s sometimes impossible to find the same piece ever again. For those who are demanding one-of-a-kind types of clothes, second-hand shopping can be a greater option.

Defining luxury and slow fashion at the same time: Luxury don’t come with fast fashion, rather it comes from elegancy and vintage styling habit. Today’s Gen Z are mostly aware of crucial impacts of fast fashion. On the other hand, this generation is more likely to style up with aristocracy and elegancy. As the practice of shopping second-hand from thrift stores is increasing day by day, more people are becoming likelier to choose this trend.

Step Away from Overconsumption to Help the Planet: Overconsumption, fueled by fast fashion, has become a real scourge for our planet, fashion enthusiasts keep concern about that. In the past decade, clothing consumption has increased by 60%. New collections every season, or even every month, low prices, and non-durable clothes, Each year, the world consumes about 130 billion items of clothing. Production rates have become insane.

A pair of jeans can travel the equivalent of 1.5 times around the earth from the cotton field to the retail store where they’re sold. This is an enormous over consumption of resources. Pre-owned clothes have already been made and used, which reduces both carbon footprint and waste. Furthermore, most physical and online second-hand stores operate on a circular economy model, supporting a different system.

What High-end brands are doing for this practice?

Renowned brands like Burberry and Gucci are partnering with consignment services like The RealReal to collect and resell their pre-owned products. The consumers can also directly sell used luxury goods to their peers on platforms such as Vestiaire Collective. At the same time, like buyers, private sellers are often driven by financial motives while cleaning out their closets.

Some companies are adopting a special approach to implement their resale business models. Many traditional companies which started engaging in resale business initially launched pilots and spin-off solutions that kept the main business separate but allowed the company to have lighthouse projects where they could learn how to cope with a new but different business.

Both H&M and Zalando introduced independent platforms for selling quality-controlled pre-owned fashion – H&M’s Sellpy and Zalando’s Zirkle. Players like Lulumelon, Cos and Isabel Marant also claim to have seen success selling collections on their websites and in their stores, aided by in-house capabilities or white-label solutions. In fact, Isabel Marant reported that two-third of its second hand buyers became its new direct clients within one year of launching its vintage resale arm.

In retail, responding to shifting demands with more sustainable offerings can attract new customers and also improve customer loyalty. Resale business models can also help in creating a so-called lock-in pattern. For example, in exchange for used products, some companies offer their customers vouchers that can only be used in-store. This helps the customers gain new value from used assets and the sales loop stays closed within the retailer business ecosystem, also generating new revenue streams for the resellers.

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