Selling Fashion Clothing Moving Forward

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,, 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.  

Think Second-Hand First- The Fashion Re-sale Market

The re-sale fashion market will eclipse fast fashion in a decade. While fast fashion is expected to continue to grow 20% in the next 10 years, second-hand fashion is poised to grow by 185%. The growth of the online re-sale clothing market was evident long before Covid-19, fuelled by younger consumers turning their back on fast fashion for a more sustainable, affordable and creative way to shop for clothing.

Fashion re-sale also known as recommence sites is a large consumer market with lower prices allowing for a more diversely budgeted audience. The increase in purchases of second-hand clothing is due to a wide range of factors, one of which is the tighter budgets of many consumers throughout lockdown, with shoppers having little to no disposable income. Store shutdowns, temporarily and permanently, have played a part in the surge in second-hand shopping, to, with people unable shop from high street and charity shops stores now looking for an online alternative. Saving money isn’t the only motivation, with wider concerns about the environment and mass-consumerism urging people to buy and sell pre-owned goods.

“The production of clothing is incredibly resource intensive, re-wearing a garment and extending its lifespan by a mere nine months can help to reduce its environmental impact by up to 30%, so buying second-hand is an incredibly easy way to do this.”  sustainable fashion blogger, Charlotte

Fashion resale apps, stores and websites have seen an unprecedented growth throughout 2020. Lockdown gave consumers time to research into the effects of fast fashion and the need for keeping our garments in a cycle, rather than sending them to landfill. With lockdown giving an unlimited amount of time to deep-clean wardrobes, and the realisation of just how much is bought and not worn. As consumers embrace more affordable clothing instead of buying brand new. As well as reducing spending, online resale apps enable users to make money or earn an additional income. Whether consumer behaviour will change after the pandemic eases and this will only be temporary, we will have to wait and see. (Now people no longer have to stay home, sorting through old clothes may have less appeal) When money gets tight discounted clothing allows fashion to be a more accessible market to all. Many industry experts think this is a permanent move.

 A report published by ThredUp has shown that by 2029 the second-hand fashion market will have grown a worth of over 80 billion dollars. (Almost twice the size of the fast fashion market) The report also found that a record 33 million people bought second-hand clothing for the first time in 2020. Of these first-time buyers, 76% plan on increasing their share of resale purchases in the next five years.

On eBay, sales of pre-loved fashion have shot up in the UK over the past year, with the company selling more than 60 million used items. Murray Lambell, the general manager of eBay’s UK business, said: “There is definitely a change in mindset, driven by younger consumers up to the age of 30.” Trends in fashion come back around year after year, so recycling and archiving them for the next generation coupled with an appreciation of vintage design and a desire to create a more individual look beyond mass-produced fast fashion by Generation Z makes this a successful move.

But even though Generation Z is driving the second-hand revival( no pun intended), they’re not the only ones getting swept up in the trend. Emily Farra reported in Vogue in 2020 that in Lyst’s annual Year Fashion report, it revealed an 35,000 increase in searches for vintage fashion and a 104% increase in entries for second-hand-related keywords.

“It gives an item a second life, which is absolutely fantastic, not to mention how sustainable buying second hand is.” Cieran Harris, Company Director of Timeless Vintage Co

A decade ago, consumer attitudes toward pre-owned clothing was decidedly negative. This year has brought a shift in perspective with shoppers now being more open to purchasing from re-sellers than ever before. Any stigma around second-hand fashion being uncool or unhygienic has dissolved with customers now proud of their thrifted finds. The re-commerce market now has an aura of environmental and social responsibility. More brands are open to the idea that second-hand fashion is the way to revolutionise their sales and reach more consumers. (I will discuss this further in another blog post)

This means the new online marketplaces must work hard to stand out, spending more on marketing and advertising. Vinted (an app that lets users buy and sell pre-owned clothes) now advertise on national TV and was recently valued at 3.5 billion euros. I have successfully bought and sold on vinted for about 8 years. But be warned it can be addictive.

Resale will be an assumed part of the luxury buying experience,” Allison Sommer at Real Real

Although there’s still plenty of luck with buying second-hand, the Internet has become home to many, easily searchable re-sale sites. The second-hand clothing market is composed of two major categories, charity stops and re-sale platforms. But it’s the latter that has largely fuelled the recent boom. A trend of “fashion flipping” which is buying second-hand clothes and reselling them particularly popular among young consumers.

Researchers who study clothing consumption and sustainability, think the second-hand clothing trend has the potential to reshape the fashion industry mitigating the industry’s detrimental environmental impact on the planet. Even more transformative is second-hand clothing’s potential to dramatically alter the prominence of fast fashion (disposable) in the early 2000’s. More clothes were produced and distributed at lower costs, encouraging shoppers to buy more and often wear only once.

It could be that the trend for buying and selling used clothes ends up being a passing trend, once things go back to normal and we return to the high street. Or perhaps it is the way forward for buying fashion clothing?

Style at Any Age

Now this article came up in my feed a new days ago, it was from 2015, yet its as relevant now as it was five years ago. I do follow That’s Not My Age by former fashion editor, Alyson Walsh on social media, and I fully agree with what she is saying. As I’m the same age and grew up in Generation X, I was a Peacock Punk in the early 80’s which was more like early Spandau Ballet and less like the Sex Pistols. (Ask your parents, if you don’t know the difference) It was about dressing up in your own way rather than following fashion trends.

When Alyson talks about the fashion industry not recognizing woman over 50, I can hear myself, in my head of course, going Here, Here! Alyson’s motto is refusing to be invisible; I suddenly became invisible for the first time in my life in my late 40’s, I had always thought this was an urban myth until I found out it was actually fact. People talk about “Women of a certain age” which generally goes hand-in- hand with past it? Well, we all have an age number, don’t we? But does it really matter?

That’s Not My Age began in 2008, when Alyson noticed a space online to celebrate women of all ages. Over a decade later she still provides expert advice, style tips, interviews and podcasts, That’s Not My Age has been at the forefront of a movement empowering women and calling out ageism and sexism. The website was until recently free and there is now a small fee. Alyson has also produced a great book called How to Look Fabulous Every Age and is on Instagram and Facebook.

The most stylish and fashionable women that I know are in their mid -sixties and seventies and there are some wonderful examples of famous older women who look amazing, in fact far better than many famous twenty-year olds. Yet the fashion industry still caters for the young. My seventy-six-year-old mother wears skinny jeans and looks great in them, but the fashion industry thinks she should be wearing polyester trousers with an elasticated waistband. It does not make very good business sense to ignore one of the most cash- rich age groups in society.

Over the years I have worked for many well- known fashion companies. I remember one company that decided to pursue a younger, trendier market and dumped its loyal customers of over twenty years. Now trends come and go, and been totally on-trend is very fickle. So, it found, its new customers ditched them for the new latest company after a short time leaving them in serious trouble!

“Fifty isn’t that old. But the fashion industry sort of ignores you” Alyson Watson

I have worked in fashion since I was a teenager, but oddly enough I have never aspired to be fashionable, on occasion, despite this, I have been on-trend sometimes by accident. But I love clothes, more than fashion and hope I have my own style, which suits me. Because, lets face it not every fashion trend looks good on everyone, and some trends don’t look great on anyone. But it would be lovely to be able to find more clothes I actually liked on the high street. In my teens and early twenties, I bought a lot of second-hand clothes and I have started to do this again. I think pre-loved clothing is important for many reasons, but it also gives you the chance to have your own unique style rather than just wearing the same as everyone else, that season.

If you want to see something a bit wackier, a book called Advanced Style features some unbelievable woman with very distinctive styles like ninety-six-year-old fashion icon, Iris Apfel. Photographer and author, Ari Seth Cohen the creator of Advanced Style has devoted a project “to capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set.” He says, “I feature people who live full creative lives. They live life to the fullest, age gracefully and continue to grow and challenge themselves. I noticed a lack of older people in fashion campaigns and street style sites. I wanted to show that you can be stylish, creative and vital at any age.” His first book published in 2012 has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. In 2015, The New York Times fashion director, Vanessa Friedman, credited Cohen with helping to create the recent movement towards the fashion industry embracing older models.

I think true style is ageless and totally personal. One of the most original style icons is Iris Apfel, she has always espoused the virtues of not just dressing for yourself, but for being true to who you are and doing it unapologetically. Her colourful, bold style is not for everyone but then that’s the point and this makes her wonderfully true to herself. One of my personal style icons is Lauren Hutton, she has understated elegance, is ageless and totally comfortable in her skin and yet is over Fifty years young……

Style Forever: How to Look Fabulous Every Age by Alyson Watson

Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen

Both are available at Waterstones or Amazon

Sustainable and Ethical Fashion- Just Another Trend?

Even before COVID-19, fashion insiders were claiming that the fashion system was broken and had been for some time. The sheer speed of the fashion circle, heavy discounting, ethical problems and environmental issues had bought it to its knees. The fashion industry, causes more pollution than international flights and maritime combined. According to WRAP (waste and resources action programme) every year 350,00 tonnes of used clothing ends up in landfill. High-street fashion, is coming under more and more scrutiny. Shoppers are becoming more considered in their approach, now they know about the far greater costs of cheap labour, poor working conditions and the damage to the environment. More and more consumers want to become sustainable. However, the clothing industry is now the most unsustainable that it has ever been. For the health of the planet does this have to change once and for all?

Sustainable fashion is the movement and process of fostering change to the fashion industry and towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Concerning more than just addressing fashion textiles or garments. It comprises of addressing the whole infrastructure of fashion. While fast fashion describes clothing that is cheaply made and intended for short-term use, sustainable or ethical fashion is the pole opposite and is sometimes referred to as slow fashion. This takes into account the full life-cycle of the product from the design, sourcing and production processes. looking at everyone and everything it affects such as; the environment, the workers, their communities and even the consumer.

The textiles industry is wreaking havoc on the environment between the processes to make clothing and the waste when it gets thrown away. Both brands and consumers have been taking a much-needed interest in improving these issues. And while there’s no such thing as Eco-friendly clothing as all garments have at least some negative impact on the environment, there are brands, some very well- known, working diligently to help make a difference.  It’s a complex issue and there isn’t one brand on the market that’s currently capable of tackling everything on its own. I will write about some of these in my next blog.

There are five main issues being addressed in the fashion industry:

Water usage: The demands for fresh water for drinking and agriculture is far surpassing what’s available. As a result, some brands are now looking at their supply chains to see how they can cut back on how much water they’re using.

Hazardous chemicals: Dyes and finishes from the production processes are dangerous for the workers, and can pollute community water sources. These chemicals may not affect the consumers, but they can be a problem for the workers and the people who live in the same areas as the factories. Fashion brands are now tasked with coming up with new ways to address the damage caused by dyes and finishes.

Short lifecycle: Stores are constantly launching new designs and consumers are regularly updating their wardrobes. The biggest goal in sustainable fashion is to buy less, use things for longer and to make clothes last. Second-hand, used clothing is been promoted. Buying something used is more sustainable than anything new, so it’s automatically going to cost you less. The fashion industry calls it recommence and its totally on-trend.

Waste: On top of having a short lifecycle, there needs to be a way to create less rubbish by re-using and re-making products. One opportunity is using recycled materials in new clothing.

Agriculture: Natural fibres like cotton are often grown using pesticides and treatments that are harmful to the farmers, workers and wildlife in the area. There are now more options available for organic cotton, linen and other fibres which use less water than the conventional growing methods. Brands are looking at being organic throughout the production process not just by using organic fabric.

It requires, both a shift in what you buy and where you buy it from, when you want to be ethical and sustainable. Fast fashion is easy for consumers because it’s inexpensive, lasting for only a season and in some cases clothes that only last a few wears. With ethical fashion, the price tags for quality pieces can be daunting. A survey by the UK magazine Cosmopolitan on Instagram found 70% of their followers asked didn’t buy from sustainable fashion brands because they were too expensive. There is an argument for all or nothing calling for companies to become 100% sustainable. In truth, the only piece of clothing which is a 100% sustainable is the one already in your wardrobe. High street brands that are at least trying to go down a more ethical route have been accused of Green-washing and just trying to be seen as doing the right thing to sell more clothes. Its certainly hard to come up with the best solution and it is too easy to just say companies should do more.

The most sustainable fabric is one that’s been used previously, anything new regardless of the material, has a negative impact on the environment. More companies are looking at fabrics made with recycled material, most commonly you’ll find polyester made from recycled water bottles. The labels should show details like 100% recycled polyester or made with partially recycled materials.

There has been a return to the pre-loved and second-hand market, with many great re-sale apps and websites. Charity shops are a gold-mine for interesting bits and pieces and better still, you may find something that no-one else has and you are helping the charity to raise money.  Well-known celebrities, like Professor Green have been in TV advertisements talking about looking after clothes and having the same jacket for 15 years. Going back to my minimalist blogpost having clothing that you love, look after and wear all the time is a practical, affordable way to follow fashion in your own personal style in 2020.

Is sustainable fashion and ethical clothing the latest fashion trend? Or is the fashion industry talking steps towards doing the right thing or has it been forced into a corner by consumers who are no longer accepting throwaway fashion? When I grew up in the 1970s, I saved up for months, from my weekend job, to buy some jeans, admittedly from a designer brand, then I wore and wore them for ages and I really treasured them. This doesn’t happen much now, perhaps it should!