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The second hand clothing market is thriving

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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StitchFix, ThredUp, Rent-the-Runway, The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective are just some of the leaders defining the new frontier of shopping for clothes, from fashion subscription services to the re-sale revolution, to peer-to-peer marketplaces, that is changing how we consume fashion.

As the global need for sustainability challenges the fashion industry to tackle waste, dwindling natural resources and polluting the planet, novel ways to reuse existing materials, garments and textiles are becoming a priority if not necessity. The most sustainable way to shop, however, is to buy used: defined as pre-owned clothing or collections upcycled entirely from existing garments and textiles, and avoiding anything made new.

Buy used

The second clothing market is thriving. In the U.S., the value of sales of pre-owned goods are expected to more than double to 51 billion by 2023, up from 24 billion last year, according to GlobalData and ThredUP. As circular economy and re-commerce businesses are ticking both the sustainability and profitability boxes, the fashion industry is changing at its most rapid pace to date.

Fifty-six million U.S. women bought secondhand products in 2018, up from 44 million who did so in 2017, according to the report. Shoppers ages 18 to 37 are driving the shift. A third of Generation Z and more than a quarter of millennials will make secondhand purchases this year, the report predicts.

There are plenty of clothes to go around

McKinsey states that the fashion industry nearly doubled its manufacturing between 2000 and 2014. In the age of disposable fashion, consumers keep their clothes for half as long as they did 15 years ago, says Quartzy.

The silver lining? GlobalData predicts that sales of second-hand items will exceed those of fast fashion within a decade. With more secondhand shoppers than ever before, findings from the Green Story Environmental Study in the U.S. notes if every person bought one item of used clothing instead of new this year, 449 million pounds of waste would be saved.

Photo credit: ThredUp; Article sources: McKinsey, Quartzy, The Wall Street Journal

Circular Economy