Now you can save money, and while doing so, also the climate. As inflation mounts and concerns over climate change grow, more and more people have started buying used clothes.
When ordinary people think of our worsening climate, the main culprits that immediately come to mind are gas-guzzling SUVs and single-use plastic. Few would see clothes as a major cause of pollution.
Fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output — more than international flights and shipping combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Why? Because textiles manufacturing relies heavily on petrochemical products which come from the oil and gas industry.
Earlier, most of the clothes were made of cotton but now it has been replaced by polyester, the synthetic fibre that mostly comes from petroleum. Moreover, it takes a lot of energy to produce polyester. It also sheds microplastics into environment which end up in the sea and pose a serious threat to aquatic life.
What makes the fashion problem worse is that production of clothes is rising. The number of garments produced each year has at least doubled since 2000. And 97 per cent of the total fibre input used for clothing is ultimately incinerated or sent to a landfill. The U.S. throws away up to 11.3 million tonnes of textile waste each year — around 2,150 pieces of clothing each second.
That’s where the used clothes business comes into picture. Buying second-hand clothes is a very effective way to reduce wastage and thus pollution caused by the fashion industry.
The good news is an increasing number of people are buying second-hand clothes.
A report by thredUP, an American online second-hand clothes store, says second-hand clothes business saw record growth in 2021 at 32%. Technology and online marketplaces are driving the growth of the U.S. secondhand market. 53% of consumers have purchased second-hand apparel in 2021, up 22 points from 2020.
41% of consumers say when they shop for apparel, second-hand is the first place they look. 62% of Gen Z and millennials say they look for an item second-hand before purchasing it new. 46% of Gen Z and millennials consider the resale value of an apparel item before purchasing.
Consumers are spending less on clothes as they feel the squeeze of inflation. The top five categories where consumers are noticing price increases: Groceries, gasoline, restaurants, household bills and lastly clothes. 44% of consumers say they’re cutting back spend on apparel — more than any other category except restaurants.
Top reasons consumers say second-hand has helped:
1. Second-hand is helping me stretch my apparel budget.
2. Second-hand is more attractive now that traditional retail prices are going up.
3. Second-hand allows me to continue affording brands I love.
4. If I couldn’t shop secondhand, I would be buying less apparel.
threadUP started in 2009 when its Co-founder and CEO James Reinhart had a kind of epiphany: “I started thredUP back in 2009 after staring at a closet full of clothes that I never wore. I knew there was value locked up in those clothes and I knew I wasn’t the only one. Looking back on that moment, I certainly didn’t appreciate how that insight could eventually upend how we look at innovation in retail, the apparel industry, and our environment.”
By making it easy to buy and sell second-hand, thredUP has become one of the world’s largest resale platforms for women’s and kids’ apparel, shoes, and accessories.