For Young People, Old is the New New
Right now, in the fashion industry, there is no hottest trend than what’s old. With second hand shopping being most popular than ever, we explore what it means for consumers, brands, and reselling platforms.
As the season changes and flowers bloom, spring cleaning is approaching. Many of us will look at our wardrobe and possessions and decide what is aligned with our current aesthetic and lifestyle. There are no doubts sweatpants will take over in a nation of remote work, and maybe we’ll hold on to sparkly dresses with a little more nostalgia, dreaming of white wine dancing nights. But as you curl your nose at a shirt that doesn’t fit you quite as well as it used to, make sure to stop for a second before dumping it in the ‘To Throw Away’ pile. You might be sitting on a gently used goldmine.
The Fashion Resale Market is a Booming Industry
The fashion resale market is one of the few industries that has benefited from the pandemic. It is expected to nearly double within the next four years, going from $28 billion to $64 billion by 2025. The appeal is threefold.
Environmentally conscious consumers can support the circular economy by keeping garments out of the landfill. They can shop consciously by staying on-trend and paying a fraction of what sustainable new garments retail for right now. Money savvy fashionistas are able to snag nearly used items for affordable prices, while also being able to access brands that would usually be way out of their budgets. Fashion aficionados can hunt down unique pieces from trendy eras and make sure no one is going to show up to the next Zoom meeting wearing the same blouse. Gen Z is particularly fond of thrifting, with 39.62% of people aged 18 to 25 claiming they have engaged in second hand shopping.
A New Revenue Stream
Vintage reselling has always been around, even though for the longest time it felt exclusive to red-lipstick-wearing women with beehive hair. The second-hand revolution is different. Clothes can sell for very cheap and don’t necessarily need to belong to a specific decade. On Depop, one of the most successful reselling apps on the market, you can find last season’s Zara jackets that sell out in a matter of minutes. And last season Zara is last month.
Interestingly, Gen Z isn’t only buying second-hand, but also selling, and at an even higher rate. 43.40% of 18 to 25-year-olds claim they have sold at least one item of clothing online, and 33.96% think of the reselling value of an item before purchasing it. The data isn’t surprising: teenagers can make pocket money while selling unworn fast fashion pieces from the comfort of their homes. Professor Esben Pedersen, the coordinator of the Sustainable Business Minor at Copenhagen Business School, explains: “Younger consumers are very conscious. When they buy stuff, they think about how much they can sell it for later.”
Bigger personalities have also decided to jump on the second-hand fashion train, with influencers launching vintage shops left and right. Diane Kari (@dianekari, 84k followers), a Montmartre living brunette with bangs, runs the über French Fripouille (@fripouillevintage). The vintage shop, which is just an Instagram page, features dozens of women pouting in knitted cardigans, that sold out in minutes after they’re posted on stories.
British Chloe Miles (@chloehelenmiles, 257k followers) is also happily embracing the role of a founder in her Instagram bio, linking to The Slow Vintage Shop (@slowvintageshop). The business is DM-based and features seasonal drops of high-waisted wool pants and summer dresses. Even huge fashion influencer Ashley (@bestdressed, 1.6M followers) used to pose in thrifted Lacoste polos on her Squarespace website. They would sell for 50$ in mere seconds.
Brands are not oblivious to the opportunity of the second-hand market and related platforms. Clothing giants like ASOS and Zalando have launched their marketplaces, where consumers can exchange their pre-worn clothes. Sustainable brands like Tala have partnered with Depop to get rid of deadstock and faulty items. Luxury firms à la Gucci are collaborating with high-end reselling platforms such as theRealReal to encourage second-hand exchange.
Second-Hand Shopping Means Opportunities for Everyone
“The whole resale market is interesting for a lot of companies,” shares Professor Pedersen. “The market is growing quite significantly, it is interesting for both fashion and tech companies.”
Apps and platforms keep popping up, but they rely heavily on the network effect. In a nutshell, if the users – and the products – are not great, neither is the app. Depop is one of the most interesting. With branding and a voice deeply aligned with the quirky essence of Gen Z, they push 90’s and Y2K (how Gen Z refers to the year 2000) aesthetics on their social media. Teens are showing their Depop hauls on TikTok, flaunting tiny tank tops 90 kids probably bought at the mall. However, data shows that Facebook Marketplace and eBay remain the most used reselling platforms, scoring respectively 30.19% and 22.64%.
Professor Esben explains why brands should keep a close eye on those marketplaces: “There is money to be made and there is also some feedback, some business intelligence going back to the companies. I mean if you are able to resell a product on eBay or Trendsales with very little reduction in price, then it’s a pretty good indicator that you have a product that it’s valued by the market.”
Is second-hand shopping good for the environment?
For people preoccupied with the state of the climate, the rising numbers of the second-hand market might appear as a beacon of light in a moment in which it looks like sustainability has taken a step back in favor of pure survival. However, is this a positive influence? Some studies argue that consumers might end up buying more because they know reselling is an option, and the guilt-free feeling of shopping second-hand might be more intoxicating than a trip to the mall.
“You need to take responsibility: what is replaced by your behavior? Reselling will only have a positive impact when you have the possibility to create a bigger market where consumers can get value for what they pre-owned,” shares Professor Pedersen. So our thrifting habits are not a free for all for overconsumption and fast-fashion binges. However, research shows that at least 30% of clothing doesn’t get used. A huge percent of items are not in circulation: you’re not wearing them, and neither is anyone else, so why not try and give it a second life?