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Secondhand Clothing Is Becoming the Fashion Industry's Hottest Trend

The secondhand market is growing. From eliminating production pollution to creating a circular economy, here's why it's fashion's hottest trend.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

Shopping secondhand is one of the most sustainable ways to shop. From eliminating production pollution to creating a circular economy, secondhand clothes are fashion's hottest trend—especially among Gen Z. And lucky for us (and the planet), we'll be seeing an increase in the secondhand merchandise market.

According to thredUP's 2021 Resale Report, the secondhand market is expected to double within five years—reaching $77 billion. Additionally, 76% of 2020's 33 million first-time buyers of secondhand apparel plan to increase spending on secondhand in the next five years.

And thredUP isn't the only one predicting secondhand fashion's explosion. According to a report from GlobalData, the resale market has increased by 53.3% in the last five years. By 2030, American consumers are predicted to spend about $353.9 billion on secondhand merchandise.

From thrift stores in every city to online secondhand retailers, it's easier than ever to get your hands on preowned apparel. And Liz Power, the owner of Awoke Vintage in Brooklyn, New York, says the secondhand fashion industry has changed mainstream fashion for the better. Even the most popular brands are also taking part in the trend.

"The more players we can get to support and throw light into the industry, hopefully, that means a decrease in demand for newer unnecessary items in the world," Power says. "In recent years we've seen big players like ASOS, Urban Outfitters, and Nordstrom enter the secondhand space. And even a flow-on effect into non-fashion industries, Ikea, Ford, and Disney have all launched lines to promote the circular economy."

Power also says she's noticed a change in the way people talk about secondhand fashion. When Awoke Vintage first opened in 2012, customers would leave when they found out the merchandise was preowned. Fortunately, today's conversation is more positive, and secondhand fashion is no longer taboo—especially among younger generations.

"Thankfully a lot has changed since then," Power says. "I'm so grateful for the next generation as they embrace secondhand and thoughtful consumption much more than their generational counterparts."

And as secondhand fashion continues to go mainstream, it's also going digital. Power says Awoke Vintage utilizes Instagram to make most of its sales—especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We used to be mainly in-person buys only," she says. "But the pandemic changed that. We really ramped up our 'Instagram Story Sales.' We post 50-70 items a day to our Instagram Stories and customers DM us if they want to purchase them. Some days this makes up the majority of our sales!"

Needless to say, the secondhand fashion industry is still growing—so much so that it may have the power to knock fast fashion out of the game. According to thredUP's report, the resale market is predicted to grow 11 times faster than retail clothing within the next five years.

This means we're not only seeing a change in fashion, but we're also seeing major environmental benefits. Secondhand fashion promotes a circular economy. This closes the loop and eliminates the need for unsustainable materials like synthetic fibers and toxic chemicals that lead to air and water pollution.

Could secondhand fashion be the future of fashion everywhere? Vote with your dollars to find out.