As consumers deal with lockdown restrictions and retailers close their bricks and mortar doors, what does the future of shopping look like? Guest contributor Evelina Kaganovitch delves into the world of online Resell platforms, how the pandemic is shaping consumer engagement with these digital shopfronts, how brands can get on board and why, when it comes to reducing fashion’s textile waste footprint, this is good news…
Words | Evelina Kaganovitch
Fashion's often unethical and unsustainable production is something we are all familiar with, and in a time when nothing is certain comes an opportunity to do something different. That includes reimagining the future of fashion and more specifically, what shopping of the future will look like. This new shopfront is the resell market, a digital space where consumers are buying from each other rather than from big brands.
The resell market has momentum right now and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon. According to data from Thredup the secondhand market will reach $51 billion (USD) by the year 2025, compared to about $28 billion (USD) in 2020, and this is before the pandemic hit. Closer to home platforms such as THE CLOSET are also making it easy to resell pre-loved goods in the Australian Market.
Sustainable Development Goal 12; Responsible Consumption and Production is of particular relevance here, with resell models providing an avenue toward target 12.5, to “substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse”.
Let’s look at what is causing this shift in consumer thinking and why, from an environmental perspective, this is good news when it comes to reducing the amount of textile waste that goes into landfills.
With the pandemic roaming the streets of countless cities around the world, it has driven many retail stores to close their brick-and-mortar business and move to operate only online. With the world living in a state of uncertainty, many people are being more conscious about how they spend their money. On one side, spending more time at home has been a push for people to adopt a Marie Kondo style approach and clear out their closets. Not being able to drop off the unwanted wanted items to a second-hand store means people are thinking differently about the future of these clothes. On the other side, it appears that the younger generation is searching for unique and one-off clothing on resell platforms. With op-shops being closed it has created a new-corona-thrift-shopper-generation. This is people who are buying and selling second-hand clothing and pre-loved goods online.
“We have found that converting the die-hard fast fashion addicts is best done by proving to them that they do not have to compromise style, looking good or their budget if they choose to buy second hand.” - Louisa Forrester, The Closet Founder and Managing Director
People are looking for investment pieces, to form an emotional connection with and therefore wear the garment for longer and care for it better than if it was purchased from a fast-fashion retailer. Social isolation is opening our eyes to what is important; connection and community. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed pause on the world and is forcing everyone to slow down and spend more time at home. These rare moments when life stops is when ‘aha’ moments happen, and in this case, it is the realisation that the value is not in purchasing new things but in loving what you already have and giving new life to items that no longer serve a purpose.
But how can brands also be part of this picture?
Nathaniel Branden, a Canadian–American psychotherapist, and writer who is known for his work in the psychology of self-esteem said, “the first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” This rings true to the current affairs we are seeing in the world and how people are waking up to the harsh realities of the ‘unsustainable’ nature of the fashion industry. Consumers are becoming more aware of the effects their buying habits are having on the global economy and with this comes the realisation that change is as needed as it is inevitable. Louisa Forrester from The Closet believes that a lot of “this change may be attributed to [the] younger generation who is making its voice heard and is feeling more empowered to demand change”.
Individuals are questioning the current system and how it arrived at a pandemic. Can fast-fashion be party to blame? In many ways, it’s refreshing to see people thinking about the implications their clothes have after they are thrown out and for this reason more and more consumers are choosing to prolong product life-cycles and buy second-hand. As consumers are feeling joy and liberation from owning less things, businesses can use this to their advantage by integrating resell platforms into their own business models.
Social marketplaces are making it easier for consumers to find second-hand clothes in place of sorting through racks at thrift stores and local op-shops. They are speaking directly to a younger consumer by merging a purchase platform with social media. Take Poshmark for example, which is enabling fashion to become a social experience for users. Or London based company, Depop, which has become a popular resell platform, reporting a 150% increase in US sales compared to April 2019. The numbers clearly speak for themselves and the app's 15 million-plus users are empowering the next generation to breathe new light into how fashion is being consumed.
Since everything from workplaces to family calls and social gatherings have moved online, it makes sense that shoppers are also shifting to virtual platforms more than ever before. These apps are fostering online communities, allowing buyers and sellers to chat with each other, leave likes, comments, and engage in the same way as any other social media channel. Thanks to Generation Z, op-shopping has now turned into the latest social media phenomenon, and for many brands this is increasing the value of their ‘old’ products by turning them into collectors items.
As iconic fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood says, “Buy less, choose well” will become the mantra of more people. And this applies to buying second-hand clothes. Designerex has dubbed itself to be ‘the World's Largest Peer-to-Peer Designer Dress Sharing Platform’ and lets users rent out their clothing to others.
Kore has expressed gratefulness that COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to ‘accelerate key [technological] advancements’ and make sure that the company is always ready to support the post-COVID-19 fashion consumer.
With consumers gaining consciousness and brands having to step up to these new demands, business as we know it is being flipped on its head. More and more consumers are learning about the detrimental environmental effects of the fashion industry and are changing their buying habits to be more sustainable. Resell and rental platforms are providing a great solution. They have the potential to effectively extend the product life-cycle, reduce the amount of clothing going into landfills, provide alternate revenue streams and foster engaged digital communities in the process. These platforms give buyers and sellers the space to connect on a more personal level and brands that recognise this and share the values of the ‘woke’ consumer are the future of fashion.
Hi, I’m Evelina Kaganovitch, an Australian Fashion Designer, Journalist and content creator. I like to use my voice to spread awareness and shine light on conscious innovation, ethical best practices and sustainable industry trends in the fashion sector.
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Image of Kirsten Kore and Designerex platform, courtesy of Designerex.
SDG 12 image sourced via the UN Sustainable Development Goals, retrieved from; www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/
All other images sourced through Unsplash.