The jury’s back and the verdict’s in: the sustainability of second-hand clothes has won out. The fashion resale industry is officially an £18.52 billion market and is soon expected to outgrow the fast fashion industry.
People love to buy clothes because outfits can speak volumes, each article of clothing a mirror or projection of one’s personality and style.
However, the only problem is that the clothing industry – primarily made up of labels that fashion cheap, disposable pieces – is bad for the environment, polluting and requiring unrecyclable materials to make the garments which are then only worn a handful of times (or less) before they’re thrown out. And let’s not even get started on the plastic and packaging that comes with online shopping and the purchase of new goods.
This is one of the key reasons why the fashion resale market – comprising high quality pieces that are offered for a fraction of the price on the second-hand market – is seeing a high. According to thredUp, the fashion resale market is worth £18.52 billion, and it’s projected to double within the next five years to £39.35 billion by 2024.
The 2019 thredUp Resale Report, published in conjunction with GlobalData, found that 56 million women bought second-hand items in 2018 – an increase of 12 million new second-hand shoppers from the previous year. Moreover, 51% of second-hand shoppers project to spend even more on the resale market within the next five years.
What’s key is that the report demonstrates that this increased growth is credited to millennials and gen-Zers, who adopt second-hand items 2.5 times faster than the typical consumer. Sustainability is one of the reasons that plays into this, but also style and peer-pressure to look good, particularly on social media: these young consumers want to wear the latest trends, which means last fads get quickly deposited within the second-hand market and thrift shops and auctions.
Pontus Silfverstolpe, co-founder of Barnebys, says, "Interest in the pre-owned has increased dramatically in recent years – not least with the younger audience, which isn't surprising. Re-using and buying second-hand is one of the key ways to motivate consumption today. The traditional auctioning process in a physical room, open to only a few, often older collectors, has been relocated to online and to a younger, more conscious and global audience."
Other findings in the report demonstrate that when consumers partake in the resale market, they now own on average 28 items less than two years ago. The resale market also grew 21 times faster than apparel retail over the past three years.
One key takeaway is that within 10 years, the second-hand clothing industry is expected to grow to be 1.5 times the size of the fast fashion industry.
Silfverstolpe comments, "Today, people want to buy on the secondary market not only to find personal, unique and high-quality items, but also so they don't negatively affect the climate. And all at a significantly lower price."
And so it looks like the Marie Kondo effect is in full effect – fast fashion no longer ‘sparks joy’. Millennials, wanting socially- and environmentally-conscious brands with stylish trends, favour recycled, second-hand items over the need for new pieces.