As the resale shopping industry continues to boom, I looked into why it’s so popular amongst Gen Z and have formulated my ultimate guide to buying pre-owned fashion online.
Thrifting, repurposing, the trading of deadstock – you name it. They all come under the umbrella of resale fashion. Long before it became chic, rummaging through vintage markets was the best way to find original, often designer clothing without the hefty price tags. It was where you could stumble upon a mispriced Versace jacket that cost less than the takeaway you were planning on ordering that evening. It was a treasure hunt for the most intrepid of shoppers that eventually migrated online to eBay and one that is now a booming business of its own.
The negative connotations once linked to pre-owned fashion are no more. During a time in which the threat of climate change or an ecological disaster is more prevalent than ever, resale shopping is all the rage. In case you’ve forgotten, fashion is officially the largest global consumer of water according to the UN Environment and generates ‘more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.’ It’s also relatively notorious for how much waste it produces – one garbage truck every minute to be exact.
With concerns over the industry’s tremendous environmental impact growing ever-louder and more persistent, resale – and the elimination of over-consumption that comes with it – has become something of a savior for sustainability in fashion. Finding extra use for non-renewable clothing that’s already in circulation is a brilliant way to prevent items from ending up on landfill sites. It also discourages customers from buying new and this reduction in purchasing greatly assists in slowing down environmental degradation.
As consumers become increasingly more open-minded towards hand-me-downs and vintage clothing, fast fashion retail is failing and resale is so popular that the market is growing at a rate twenty-one times faster than the overall fashion industry (according to a report by Global Data). The line between shopping in a glamorous brand flagship and buying second-hand has been significantly blurred, and it’s all thanks to the decision of digital-native consumers to be more responsible with their shopping behavior.
Additionally, in the wake of the Fashion Pact signed at last year’s G7 summit and Forever 21’s official bankruptcy – which kickstarted fast fashion’s long overdue demise – the new, more mainstream era of online sustainable fashion has begun.
A large majority of fashion brands (such as Patagonia which closely monitors its supply chain to ensure it isn’t causing unnecessary harm to the environment) have completely changed their methods of production in an effort to reduce the industry’s impact on our planet.
This is as major companies come to terms with the fact that they’re better off investing in timeless pieces that’ll hold up for years, rather than catering to the notion that people want access to the latest trends as quickly as possible. By way of illustration, Levi’s (we’re all well aware of how bad denim is) transformed its entire design and manufacturing process, switching to using 100% sustainably sourced cotton. It even recycles old jeans into home insulation (how cool is that).
Now, more than ever, it’s either adapt or go under, and everyone seems to be catching on.
In fact, wearing other people’s clothes has become so fashionable that buying second-hand items has increased by 46% worldwide in the last two years. And, as uncovered by ThredUp in their most recent survey, one in three Gen Zers much prefer reusing and recycling to ‘mall culture’ and disposable fashion nowadays. The massive surge in resale’s popularity is simply not to be ignored, particularly considering that its set to be bigger than fast fashion within the next decade and worth $51 billion by 2023 (ThredUp).
Wardrobes are no longer about what’s ‘hot,’ it’s the excitement of finding a gem from past collections – one unavailable in-store – that Zers find appealing. Resale also offers a more unique means of portraying individual aesthetic, an essential part of what Gen Z is searching for when curating looks that express their personalities. Young people are even taking to TikTok and similar social media platforms to share these one-of-a-kind discoveries, and its rapidly becoming ‘cool’ to dress vintage.
Trust me, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve come across an account teeming with repurposed, thrifted items I wish I could get my hands on. The resale market has, without a doubt, changed the face of fashion forever – and with Gen Z at the helm.
Consequently, due to resale’s vast economic potential, ecommerce players have jumped to get involved, each striving to obtain a superior market position by ‘presenting shoppers with a unique angle, speedy delivery or a seamless buying experience,’ as Highsnobiety reports here. These players are changing the game with their range of designers, aesthetics, and ease of use; factors which qualify them to be included in my ultimate guide. So, without further ado, see below the top six (in my opinion) platforms for buying pre-owned fashion online. Enjoy!
Depop is at the top of my list for a reason. An avid user of the platform myself, I’m a huge fan of its strong community, plethora of incredible items you genuinely won’t find anywhere else, and the fact that it truly enables creative self-expression.
Describing itself as an eBay/Instagram hybrid, Depop allows users to set up profiles where they can then buy and sell items peer-to-peer and since launching almost a decade ago, it’s grown to having a whopping 13 million registered users in 147 countries.
Scrolling through, you’ll notice a similar range of designers that you might find on the rails of your average vintage stores, but most items are offered at highly accessible price-points. There are obviously some top-end products on the app, ones that I believe to draw in a slightly older group of consumers, but as always, it’s the low-end steals that make it great.
Depop has successfully capitalised on Gen Z’s online habits, acknowledging that the tech-savvy generation is undoubtedly more likely to covet something they see passively on their screens. For this reason, it generally runs as your every-day, traditional social app with a messaging feature that gives it a more communal feel, that of a real marketplace where you can barter or negotiate through bulk buying – just as you would in-store. Genius.
In early 2019, ‘grammers’ began to test out a new feature enabling them to click on items within posts, see the piece, and fill out an order form (if they so desired). Like Depop, the platform was attempting to integrate checkout processes with user experience and as a result, it launched its instant shopping feature.
When you take into account that almost 1 in 4 Gen Zers learn about new products via influencers, Instagram is a sure way to get your hands on those second-hand pieces you’ve had in your saved folder for months. Who knew that sliding into someone’s DMs would be the new way to shop vintage? Personally, I wouldn’t consider Instagram a resale platform in itself, but it does present an interesting opportunity for influencers, or even up-and-coming fashion designers to both promote their own work, and eventually garner revenue from it.
For example, Charlotte, who runs an account called happy.thrifts, has channeled her awareness that Instagram is extremely popular amongst girls her age into a full-blown business. ‘Being a teen girl, most people in my school have it,’ she says. Posting pictures of items she’s thrifted herself with a starting price and a 48-hour bidding period, she’s one of the many using Instagram to encourage resale shopping and it’s definitely something that’s gaining traction.
‘We’ve seen a thriving community of vintage sellers and thrift-loving influencers on Instagram, which is a natural digital evolution of this,’ says Georgia Kelly of Instagram Partnerships. With hundreds of thousands following #vintage in the UK and North America alone, it’s a community that’s constantly expanding so, whether you’re a buyer or a seller, it definitely makes the cut.
With a sole focus on sneakers (pun intended), GOAT is your go-to resale platform if you’re looking for a second-hand pair of Air Maxes. Branding itself the ‘global hub for sneaker style,’ it was founded in 2015 to sell shoes from the world’s leading contemporary, avant-garde, and designer brands. Through its unique positioning in the resale market, the company is highly authentic, resurfacing trends from the past and offering users the best in streetwear specifics.
The app itself is highly efficient, with Augmented Reality design features that place it above everything else on this list in terms of technological advancement. Perhaps my favourite thing about GOAT is its simplicity, which provides a welcome break from the online world of sneaker hype. You can browse according to theme, all items come with detailed descriptions, and it even has editorial suggestions to help guide your decision. Oh, and best not forget the fact you can literally try on pairs using AR before purchase. GOAT is certainly ahead of the times when it comes to resale, although I won’t be surprised if other platforms start following suit.