Most if not all businesses have gone through upheaval in the last 18 months. Some industries are facing mayor changes post-Covid and perhaps some businesses will change forever.
Fashion, and the selling of clothing had been facing many changes and disruptions before the pandemic. Closing, in some cases permanently, high street shops for months on ends did every little to help ailing businesses. The increase in buying clothing online and more importantly the huge increase in the re-sale market and an increased interest in mindful shopping, could change fashion retail and our high streets, for once and for all.
Whether the changes are due to shoppers keen to actively cut down on consumption by buying second-hand clothing or consumers just wanting discounted clothing, or a mix of the two we will have to see.
Consumers are prioritizing sustainability and retailers are starting to embrace resale. We are in the early stages of a radical transformation in retail. James Reinhart CEO thredUP
One of the reasons behind retailers moving into the second-hand market is coming from pressure to reduce the environmental footprint of fashion. According to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions. (More than all international flights and maritime shipping combined) And approximately 20% of water pollution across the globe is the result of waste water from the production and the finishing of textiles. The report suggests that the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions could increase by more than 50% by 2030. So, it is vital that the way the fashion industry functions as a whole does change its methods and now.
Some large retailers like Nike are adapting their strategies. It launched its refurbished program where pre-owned shoes will be graded, sanitized, restored and then re-sold at 15 stores at a reduced price based on their condition. Fast-fashion chains are upping their green credentials, too, trying to win back young shoppers H & M has offered a conscious clothing collection for some time. And offers a discount when returning a bag of second-hand clothing.
Asda is testing out second-hand clothing in 50 of its supermarkets, and John Lewis and Ikea are launching schemes to sell used furniture and fashion. Asda’s move into vintage clothing shows that second-hand “has the potential to go mainstream and is definitely becoming a more important part of how consumers purchase- Emily Salter at retail analyst GlobalData.
More brands are expanding their reach to the re-sale market. Renowned luxury global brand, Gucci launched their own second-hand initiative in 2020. In partnership with US resale website, therealreal.com, which houses many other luxury brands, such as Stella McCartney and Burberry.
Levi launched its very own buy back site in October. Levi’s SecondHand allows consumers to turn in a pair of Levi’s in exchange for a gift card towards a future purchase, which the brand will then clean and sort for re-sale online. Levi’s chief marketing officer Jen Sey pointed out how the move is designed to appeal to the shopping habits of Generation Z: They love the hunt, they love finding a really unique item, and it makes it even better that it’s a sustainable choice. Buying a used pair of Levi’s saves approximately 80% of the CO2 emissions, and 1.5 pounds of waste, compared to buying a new pair. As we scale this, that will really start adding up.
The luxury online retailer MyTheresa recently partnered with Vestiaire Collective to launch a re-sale service by inviting its top clients to sell their pre-loved luxury handbags online in exchange for store credit. Increasing the re-use of clothing is a big step toward a new normal in the fashion industry. As currently less than 1% of materials used to make clothing are recycled to make new clothing.
I think the brands that have embraced their archives and encourage mixing new stuff with older pieces have a healthier relationship to their customers and to their business and their legacy overall. Anyone who cynically thinks the future is only in front of us and doesn’t have anything to do with what’s come before is a bit out of date– Sally Singer, the former Vogue creative director
In the UK alone, an astounding 336,000 tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill each year. Love Your Clothes, a campaign launched in 2014 to encourage change in how UK consumers buy, use and dispose of their clothing found that if we can extend the average life of our clothes to approximately three years, we could reduce their carbon, water and waste footprints. By investing time into extending the lifespan of clothes, the outcome will not only benefit the fashion industry but the environment.
The resale sector will eventually make up a huge percentage of the fashion industry, people are showing they are more and more interested in sustainable fashion clothing- Rosie Mckeown, owner of vintage and sustainable fashion, Depop
I am interested to see whether this is a long term move or a fad, industry experts say the former, I am inclined to agree. I try to buy less clothing myself, keep in for longer and look at re-sale options over fast-fashion. It makes sense on several levels. Our throwaway attitudes do need to change, buying cheap has a bigger cost to us all.