Secondhand is the present and future of fashion. Long before COVID, preowned was taking the retail industry by storm because it offered consumers high-quality goods at a savings. In fact, the secondhand market itself had experienced over a 7% growth in the number of new stores the past couple of years and the market is expected to reach upwards of $64 billion in sales by 2024.
So, what’s sparked the uptick in pre-loved shopping and selling? Not only did people just like you want the biggest bang for their buck, but they also wanted to make some cash, create space in their closet AND care for the environment! Meanwhile traditional retail and fast fashion have been shrinking.
And while the secondhand market isn’t exactly a new concept—it’s not your grandmother’s antique shop full of knick-knacks and ceramics—the preowned shops of today feature lots of luxury items like Chanel bags, Hermès scarves, and Gucci belts. These high-quality items can be purchased, worn, repurposed, resold, and even rented over and over again because they can stand the test of time.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The pandemic set the secondary market on fire, as many more people used it as an excuse to take stock of their closets, clean them out, and make tough decisions about the future of their Gucci, Burberry, and Chanel items. Shoppers started searching for quality over quantity, and online resale filled a huge void for those who were stuck at home.
Shoppers who were once enchanted by the leathery scent of new shoes and handbags took a shine to secondhand retail. They were not only interested in the sustainability factor, but also wanted a wardrobe that’s unique, affordable, and made of high-quality materials. And while the move to secondhand shopping was already underway before the crisis hit, the pandemic accelerated the speed.
THE RISE OF CIRCULAR FASHION
The sudden popularity of ethical and environmentally friendly brands gave way to circular fashion, which aims to minimize waste and make the most of a brand’s resources. Circular fashion’s goal is to make sure the life span of a designer’s item is cyclical—and this starts with the timelessness of the design. Do they think it’ll it be trendy for 8-12 weeks or is it a classic piece that’ll never go out of style?
The designer then must focus on the sustainability of the materials. Are the textiles biodegradable? How long does lambskin leather last? And on the lambskin note, are the animals and workers being treated fairly and ethically? And finally, once the piece has been outworn or the wearer just becomes bored, can it be repaired or redesigned? Can it be resold or rented? With cyclical fashion, the hope is fewer items will be bought and that will result in less damage to our planet.
While sustainable fashion made waves in the industry, some think it’s really just another marketing and PR buzz phrase that brands seemingly apply to all their goods, whether they’re environmentally friendly or not. With words like “vegan”, “organic”, “eco” and “conscious” overused, the idea of fashion being sustainable has essentially lost its meaning. Whether fast-fashion brands are touting their organic cotton and recyclable fibers, or Burberry and Gucci are claiming carbon neutrality, the fact is the production of new clothing pollutes the earth and brands will never really be able to reduce their carbon footprint without embracing the secondhand market.
SECONDHAND IS THE ULTIMATE IN CLOTHING RECYCLING AND SAVING OUR WORLD!
According to recent research, every time you buy pre-owned luxury, you decrease your carbon footprint and increase the life of the item. That means as shoppers become better informed about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment—it is the second largest polluter in the world—brands will be forced to think about how their items are made, ensure they’re made well enough to retain resell value, and then embrace end-of-life solutions.
With preowned goods, you’re extending the life of something that’s already been produced, rather than creating an on-trend item that’ll be considered garbage after everyone’s seen it on the ’gram. For example, buying a pre-owned designer bag rather than a new bag saves over 18lbs of carbon dioxide emission and 6 gallons of water. And buying a pair of pre-loved designer shoes instead of a new pair saves 7lbs of carbon dioxide emission and over 2 gallons of water.
But don’t just take our word for it, the facts speak for themselves.
Secondhand already plays a key role in driving collaboration and innovation that’ll make fashion more sustainable. In the future, retail companies will create clothing out of safe and renewable materials, design items in a way that’ll allow them to be resold or renewed, and ensure clothing is so well made it’ll withstand the test of time to join the resale and rental markets.
Saving the world. One pre-loved Gucci belt at a time.
Content and images for this blog post have been referenced from LePrix.