Pre-Owned Fashion Is Trending – And Here’s Why

  • Style
Pre-Owned Fashion Is Trending – And Here’s Why

Fashion recycling has been on the rise in recent years – so how are consumers shopping pre-worn today? To celebrate Earth Day, we investigate the popularity of the more environmentally-friendly way to stay stylish.

One of the biggest fashion resale sites Vestiaire Collective launches their ‘Circularity in Fashion’ consumer guide today, looking at how attitudes have evolved by commissioning a survey in 10 of their key markets – with one surprising find. Despite 77% of consumers in Asia, Europe and US feeling sustainability in fashion was important, over 70% of consumers had never heard of the term ‘circular fashion’ – which raises the point that if more businesses offer the consumer a more sustainable, mindful option from the start, they would be inclined to take it. Even without fully understanding quite how beneficial it could be.

Their guide breaks down the circular fashion model, making it easy for consumers to learn how it all works, clearly defining the term coined in 2004 by Anna Brismar: “Circular fashion is defined as “clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use” (Dr. Brismar, circularfashion.com). This learning, coupled with the potential of un-earthing a vintage Prada piece, makes websites such as Vestiaire Collective seem a no-brainer to those looking to create longevity in their wardrobe.


Image credit: Vestiaire Collective 

The sustainable movement is certainly creating “the end of ownership,” which is how authors Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz describe the result of shoppers eschewing personal property in the digital era in their book of the same name. The sharing economy in general has soared of late, with companies such as AirBnB and Uber, with the latter’s CEO valuing the company at $120 billion this week. 

Allied Market Research estimated the global online rental clothing market to reach $1,856 million by 2023 – the consumers seem to keep coming back, and with consumer demand, comes more considered production. Supermodel and sustainability-champion Arizona Muse reveal to Vestiaire’s Collective in their report: “I love the fact that the whole industry of pre-own clothing is thriving because if brands know that their items need to have a resale value, they will be more likely to produce high-quality garments.”


Image credit: William Vintage 

We know that Millennials and Gen-Z shoppers find experiences much more appealing than something hanging in their wardrobe, and as such are becoming a lot more mindful of overspending on product; even the women who created an audience online based on their fashions have rebelled, with fashion influencer Katherine Ormerod starting a hashtag #ThisOldThing to do-away with the idea of constantly updating your wardrobe. Websites such as YCloset, a Beijing based designer rental service, and Armarium are leading the charge in renting the latest pieces to get that runway look.

The UK’s first peer-to-peer wardrobe lending site Hurr uses technology to partner like-styled women together to create such a sharing economy, “allowing them to share their wardrobes and take even better care of the planet we all love.” The ‘Hurr Collective’ uses real-time ID verification, geo-tagging and AI-powered fashion stylists to create a space that encourages people to consider their wardrobes more carefully too; an investment, to lend out.

US-based site Humm allows you to rent out your own wardrobe, and borrow designer pieces too, in a move that sees a full circularity in the way brands produce and we shop. Going one step further, they also introduced the Humm Foundation, giving financial aid to female entrepreneurs.


Image credit: Shutterstock 

And it’s not just online shopping that has seen vintage clothes have a revival. London has admittedly taken some time to catch up to the US, but is certainly seeing shoppers look elsewhere than the usual spots. While William Vintage dresses red-carpet moments – think Meghan Markle in vintage Dior – Laura Von Behr runs a small studio in East London with a curated edit of vintage pieces for consumers who want a one-on-one experience, telling me, “I didn’t think there was a space to buy vintage in a relaxed environment so I started doing studio appointments. It gives the opportunity to try different vintage styles and eras.” She shows me a 60s Pucci dress which is one of her favourite finds. “My current focus is towards embellished 60s minis and floral 70s dresses, perfect for summer parties. If you are into fashion, vintage is a way to find original pieces that are the inspiration for contemporary trends. Girls want to buy what they are seeing in magazines but a sustainable version – and vintage provides the answer.”

Is pre-owned fashion enough? Is it possible to ever create a fully circular fashion economy? There’s hard work to be done if the industry is to revolutionise; while a shift in consumer habits and consumer guides are certainly worth celebrating, there is undeniably a need for fashion brands to remodel their way of working from the outset – and educating the consumer on why they are making these changes, is key. And with the sustainability train well on track and powering full speed ahead, those who don’t, risk being outmoded.

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