The rapid growth of the Secondhand fashion industry

According to a recent study conducted by Thredup, a second-hand online store, the resale market is growing at a rate of 11 times faster than traditional retail and should be worth 84 billion $ by 2030. As the secondhand market is growing rapidly, does this method of shopping really make a change and why is there a rise in popularity of secondhand fashion in the past few years?

The fashion industry is responsible for more than 10% of global carbon emissions, uses a massive amount of water, chemicals, and unethical labor practices.

Even if the fashion industry is moving towards a more sustainable path with different multinationals creating “recycling” programs or trying to find alternative materials to create their clothing, the textile industry remains one of the most polluting industries.

Secondhand fashion is an alternative trend to shop more “sustainable” and extend the lifespan of clothes.

In fact, the secondhand market is growing at a faster rate than sustainable fashion, which is partly due to the emergence of new online platforms that are easy to use, making it more accessible and more straightforward for customers and for sellers to buy and sell secondhand goods online. The emergence of platforms such as Depop, the Vestiaire Collective, and Vinted have revolutionized the secondhand apparel market, they are C2C models (Consumer to consumer) that are a driving force of this rising trend.

There is in fact a big supply of clothing that could be resold in the world. For example, 36 billion clothes are thrown away in the US each year, and 95% of these clothing items can be recycled. According to Thredup,118 million consumers have tried reselling for the first time in 2021, compared to 36.2 million first-time sellers in 2020.

There is no doubt that the huge popularity of the second market shops is also due to the difference in the environmental impact between buying a new piece of cloth or a used one. It is estimated that 27% of all secondhand consumers are motivated to buy for environmental reasons. Moreover, this is also shaped by a shift in demand and customer motivation. For instance, Gen Z has a new mindset when it comes to clothes because they care more about the environment. For example, Generation Z is 165% more likely than the boomer generation to consider the resale value of clothing before buying it.

The benefits of buying secondhand fashion are overall reducing greenhouse gas emissions, keeping clothing from ending up in landfills, reducing water and energy consumption, and minimizing the use of hazardous substances.

Despite the clear benefits of purchasing secondhand, some studies highlight the limits to this emergent market. In fact, the emergence of consumption of secondhand goods creates an interdependence with the fast fashion industry, meaning that fast fashion brands continue to produce clothing, and rely on the secondhand concept to later recycle and reuse these clothes, and similarly, secondhand fashion also relies on the growth of the fast fashion industry and the creation of new “designs of clothes”. 

To sum up, Second-hand fashion is a market that is growing very rapidly and is clearly a more sustainable option than shopping for brand new clothes or even “sustainable clothes” that big brands are promoting. The limits of such models are not quite explicit yet, the only clear limit that is highlighted in literature is the interdependence of such markets with the fast fashion industry.


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