The Evolution of Second-Hand Shopping

The 21st century has seen a massive rise in second-hand shopping. Around a century after second--hand shops were starting to become widely available, vintage fashion has become an ongoing trend that only seems to be getting bigger. This has caused an immeasurable demand for second hand items.


When online second-hand shopping became available at people’s fingertips, it suddenly became convenient. The introduction of resale apps such as Depop, eBay, ThredUp, Poshmark and Mercari saved people hours of hunting through thrift shop's and charity shop’s shelves, opening up a whole new industry of resellers.

The fashion world has evolved from a time when there was a stigma surrounding buying “used” or “pre-worn” clothing - people were frowned upon for thrifting and labelled as “cheapskates”, to now when I believe thrifting is the hottest marketing trend of the season.


Social media’s “Outfit of the Day” culture, particularly on Instagram, reinforced the shame around rewearing outfits, and left influencers and social media users alike with extravagant collections of clothes they no longer needed or wanted.


Fast fashion was fuelling their ability to constantly add new pieces to their wardrobes, but the options for getting rid of the items they no longer wanted weren’t able to keep up.


The societal stigma was preventing people from donating them, so more and more were ending up in landfill. Clothing exchanges were increasing in popularity, but it was impossible to keep up with the demand for highly curated looks in the same way as fast fashion companies were able to.


Some people turned to their own creativity and began reworking items, though they were finding the same downfall in the lack of convenience that they were used to. So, in order to fund their OOTD habit, the online fashion community began to turn to reselling apps.


The apps were providing them with a way to clear space in their wardrobe, earn a little money back to reinvest into their collection and quickly started giving people a way to get their hands on popular pieces that had been an instant sell out.


However, despite the growing praise for the increase in sustainability coming from second-hand shopping, some people are starting to attract criticism.


The criticism is particularly coming from social media, shaming people for buying large quantities of clothes and accessories that had been donated to thrift stores and charity shops and reselling them online for excessive profit. Resellers are being criticized for making second-hand clothing no longer affordable or attainable to the lower-income areas of society who had been relying on second-hand shopping for decades.


Alternatively, some luxury resellers are putting second-hand designer goods in the hands of people who can’t afford them new - making designer and luxury pieces available to a new and much wider demographic. On the contrary, others are making a fortune from auctioning unique vintage designer pieces and creating a hype around the exclusivity of an item that is near impossible for collectors to get hold of elsewhere.


Recent predictions from ThredUp suggest that second-hand sales may outperform fast fashion over the next five to ten years, which would be hugely beneficial for sustainability and turn it into the norm.


The ever-increasing shift towards second-hand is likely a result of the numerous reports and statistics being revealed every day about the impact of fashion on climate change, causing particularly the younger generations to turn towards methods of sustainability that allow them to explore their passion for fashion while protecting their futures.

In the long run, despite the criticism that people’s attitudes towards second-hand shopping and resale is obtaining, it is allowing for an evolution towards a much more sustainable future for the fashion industry. By moving away from the popularity of fast fashion over the last few years and reducing the need for consumption, the world will be benefiting from a reduced carbon footprint, less landfill waste, lower emissions and hopefully more eco-conscious corporations in the coming years.

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