Sustainability: Just a Trend or the New Way to Shop?

It seems like “fast-fashion” has become the new dirty word. Most commonly, you see it used as an insult directed towards specific companies in the name of the new sustainability craze. As sustainable fashion becomes a necessity as well as a trend, shoppers are looking for new ways to fill their wardrobes [4]. Bring on the ever-growing rise of the resale—or second-hand—market.

Nowadays, discussing which website or store you use to re-sell your clothes is like asking, “Who does your hair?” [5]. People are no longer embarrassed to admit they thrift and honestly, it’s because the concept of “thrifting” has changed in recent years. What was once seen as just a savvy way to save money or a hobby of vintage-seeking fashionistas, is now the "it girl" way to buy clothing. The rise of thrifting has even followed online shopping trends, allowing shoppers to price compare and digitally share with friends just as easy as sending a text.

Indisputably, the secondary market, for both buying and selling pre-owned items, has grown substantially since the recession. With consumers becoming increasingly more eco-conscious and digitally savvy, the luxury resale market has been no exception to this trend [3]. This month we dive deeper into how sustainability has reshaped the luxury resale market, and arguably, the reason for its massive growth.

THE NUMBERS

Let’s break it down:

- 53 million tons of fiber are produced by the fashion industry each year [7].

- More than 70% of that ends up in landfills or bonfires [7].

- Recent reports show an expected 15% annual growth every year between 2017 and 2022 for the resale apparel marketplace [1].

- People are ready to invest in used fashion over new fashion. By 2028, researchers expect the resale fashion market to skyrocket in value to $64 billion in the US, while fast-fashion will only reach $44 billion [4]. That’s huge!

- If 1 in every 100 American households shopped resale, they could collectively save over $1.6 billion and 1.1 billion pounds of CO2 emissions annually [2].

- According to the global growth of the resale market, it is expected that second-hand or thrift items will make up one third of our wardrobes by 2027 [5]. This is AMAAZZIINNGGGG news for not only the economy of resale, but more importantly, the environment!

THE CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR

“Secondary Behaviour” is something consumers are moving towards in many forms—from reusing, to repairing, recycling, gifting, and reselling—but in the past, that had been notably absent in the luxury goods space. Now luxury in the secondary market is one of the largest growing consumer segments [3]. Designer resale shoppers seem to find it easy to compile guilt-free wardrobes, while luxury resale companies work hard to encourage consumers to “buy less, but better” [5]. Customers aren’t searching explicitly for “pre-owned” clothes, but more specifically, handbags, jewelry, and shoes – three categories known for their comprehensive manufacturing techniques and their luxury qualities [5]. With no shortage of luxury items on the resale market, it’s never been easier (and better for the environment) to indulge in luxury second-hand finds!

Statistically speaking, the enormous growth of the luxury resale market can be attributed to the consumer segment with the current largest buying power: Millennials.

Millennials are the thriftiest of shoppers and buy resale items more than any other age group, citing sustainability as the main reason for shopping second-hand. But data also shows they are the most impulsive shoppers and discard items after one to five wears [5]. This makes them ideal targets for the resale shopping model. If you’re buying all the second-hand items you want, but reselling or donating them at the same rate, the wear cycle is a continuous circle as opposed to the fashion cycle we’ve always been accustomed to: buy cheap, discard or throw away easily.

THE EFFECTS

So just how much of an impact can the luxury resale market have on the environment? Consider the amount of resources needed for the production of a new item. There’s the manufacturing: textile dyeing, artificial fiber processing, and everything else involved in creating it, which release harmful toxins and waste into our environment and bodies. A lot of these toxins are deposited in third world countries, into their air, water sources, and soil, making it impossible to escape their deadly effects. Not to mention, fast-fashion often involves sketchy at best labour practices, making it a social justice issue as well as an environmental one. While our new shoes, handbags, or jewelry travel thousands of kilometres across the ocean and into our North American shopping malls, the travel resources alone inevitably put a strain on our environment [6].

Apart from being unsustainable, fast fashion is often poorly made. To keep costs low, manufacturers use substandard fabrics and stitching making it all the easier to throw them away once the season is over because you didn’t pay good money for it in the first place. By choosing to shop second-hand luxury, you take away from the power of unfair trade, sweatshops, and unsafe manufacturing conditions for garment workers as well as the troubling effects on our fragile environment [6]. In luxury resale, new products do not have to be made, therefore, reducing all negative measures.

Thankfully, with consumer consciousness materializing in the luxury fashion sector, the resale slow-fashion market is expected to overhaul the fast-fashion industry in the next ten years. 

Buying and selling your unworn or gently-used luxury items not only generates profit and more affordable access to luxury, but it also reduces the environmental impact of our consumer behaviours and manufacturing needs [2]. As a result, all signs point to the luxury resale market continuously growing to the benefit of all parties involved [3].

PARTING THOUGHTS

Many could argue that resale consumers are unintentionally reducing their environmental footprint thanks to the growth of the luxury resale market. On the other hand, people argue that the reason the luxury resale market is growing exponentially is because consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. It seems like a case of “so what came first: the chicken or the egg?”

With all the documentaries, articles, campaigns, and annual events like “Earth Day” and “Fashion Revolution Week”, consumers have no choice but to face the music. Everyone has an individual responsibility in regards to the environmental impacts of our shopping habits. Luxury resale companies like Lux Second Chance just want to make this responsibility easier to uphold. There are so many simple ways to reduce your environmental fashion footprint without sacrificing style or guilt-free shopping to do so.

 

Sources:

1. Claudia De Berardinis, “The Luxury Resale Market is Expected to Soar with the Rise of Mindful Consumerism”, CEO Magazine, September 21, 2018. https://www.theceomagazine.com/business/finance/the-luxury-resale-market-is-expected-to-soar-with-the-rise-of-mindful-consumerism/

2. MeiMei Fox, “Why Secondhand Clothing Is Cool—For Your Wallet and the Planet”, Forbes, April 21, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/meimeifox/2017/04/21/why-secondhand-clothing-is-cool-for-your-wallet-and-the-planet/

3. Charles Gorra, “The New Normal: Luxury in the Secondary Market”, Harvard Business School, May 9, 2019. https://digital.hbs.edu/innovation-disruption/new-normal-luxury-secondary-market/

4. Lucy Handley, “Fast-fashion Retailers like Zara and H&M Have a New Threat: the $24 billion Used Clothes Market”, CNBC, March 19, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/19/fashion-retailers-under-threat-from-24-billion-second-hand-market.html?fbclid=IwAR0DZsfirOeRzZ5xkky-MZhcz09kee7uagLmHcskEJ5RowzSUgVUmsaV6TQ

5. Alice Newbold, “Is The Growth of Resale Really Linked to Sustainability?”, Vogue UK, April 27, 2018. https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/resale-clothing-market-growth-sustainability

6. “6 Reasons Why Second-Hand Clothes are Better”, Contrabond. http://contrabond.com/en/6-reasons-second-hand-clothes-better/?fbclid=IwAR22Qw_nSMhYNaCHkzc6XJ66ihDbUh7pWBIXnc2TvpdwLoBZy0H1gNEowDU

7. Business of Fashion. "Earth Day Photo", Instagram. April 22, 2019. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwjkc6PAetG/

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