Fashion’s second chance

The pandemic has triggered many aspects of our life. And although we might have not fully realized it, we have changed.

Fashion has been hit hard by these changes, with Retail sales dropping almost 80% in April, at the early stage of the emergency.

Having nowhere to go along with an increasing economic uncertainty have dragged down most retail sales. Except for Athleisure, as yes, the amount of sweatpants one can buy seems infinite.

And it didn’t stop there, as a matter of fact the industry isn’t expected to fully recover for several years. Boston Consulting Group estimates 2020 will end with $640 billion lost in sales.

But the crisis went deeper than that. We were forced to slow down.

To think.

We started questioning the quality of life we were living along with the one of the products we surrounded ourselves with.

For the first time we started seeing the industries we were fueling and at which cost. We had time.

Living in NYC for the past 4 years, I got to understand what rushing means, what living in automatism is like.

And even New York stopped. Everyone did.

We had the time to research, look for alternatives and maybe felt morally obliged to sustain smaller and overall more ethical businesses, too.
But this pandemic was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Can it be this awareness was there before but we were just too busy to realize it?

A social and moral crisis then gave the final touch.

The US, and then the entire world behind it, got split into two, profoundly divided by political (Presidential Elections), social (Black Lives Matter), sanitary (Covid-19) and environmental (Climate Change) challenges like never before.


We have already seen the impacts of the fashion industry on the environment, because of its production methods but also of its consumption.

Well, if we had the suspect this year has changed us as consumers, it is surely true for fast fashion retailers, who have reported a recent decrease in purchases as customers look for brands that take a stand for the environment. A consumer study conducted by McKinsey during the pandemic found 2/3 felt there was a urgency to address fashion’s impact on the environment, while 60% were already planning on cutting their buys.

As a matter of fact, 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmental friendly.

And who are these consumers? Younger generations of course. Gen Z is leading the way towards secondhand fashion as they prioritize sustainability.
40% of Gen Z bought secondhand items vs 30% of Millennials and 20% of Gen X.

Sustainable brands

The number of consumers planning to shift their buying to sustainable brands has nearly tripled vs 2018.

While several sustainable fashion brands are on the rise, many of the existing ones have understood the importance of the subject (if only the commercial opportunity), and are implementing interesting changes (ATTENTION! Greenwashing Alert).

This trend is pushing brands to create items that lasts throughout generations, able to survive multiple owners. And a better production means most likely a fairer one, both socially and environmentally.

Levi’s launched Levi’s Secondhand, a recommerce site for previously worn Levi’s jeans. Vin + Omi (British design team who dressed Michelle Obama) has been harvesting its own crops for clothing, from horseradish plants to chestnuts. Patagonia created a 100% recycled polyester fleece sweater.

But if the basic concept of sustainability is to produce less, what if we buy without producing at all? 🙂


The 2020 ThreadUp report says it all.

If several businesses can’t wait for 2020 to be over, secondhand is surely not among them.
The market is expected to hit $64 Billion by 2024 (it’s at $28B today).
Online second hand alone is set to grow 69% from 2019 to 2021.

All this while the broader retail sector is projected to shrink by 15%.

Players such as The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, Poshmark and Depop have experienced a massive boom in sales.

And if you get overwhelmed with too much choice, try Gem, the Google of online vintage seller. It searches through more than 30 million items across the internet and tells you where to find what you are looking for.

So, if on one side we want to be more environmentally sustainable, this extreme growth has also a more egoistic component (a healthy ego though). Staying more at home we have a new awareness of what’s in our closet and, most importantly, of what we don’t use. On top of that, in a moment of economic uncertainty, the sales of a couple items are easy dollars to do. In fact, resale is projected to growth X 5 over the next five years and become bigger than fast fashion by 2029.

This also goes the other way around: saving some $ by buying a used Gucci bag seems no longer such a bad idea. Especially when 79% of consumers plan to cut their apparel budget in the next 12 months.

And who are we to avoid the unavoidable? Gucci, once again with its far-sighted strategy, broke all barriers launching a partnership with TheRealReal, becoming the first brand to really incentivize shoppers to buy and consign online. As a result, for every Gucci item bought or sold, The RealReal will plant a tree through the nonprofit One Tree Planted.

Similarly, Miu Miu this month is presenting 80 upcycled holiday pieces in their NYC midtown store, each of them made from vintage pieces from the 30’s to the 70’s.

Still, shoppers choose second hand over sustainable brands (52% vs 43%). And that’s good news for the planet, too.

That’s how much we would save if everyone bought one used item instead of a new one:

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ThreadUp 2020 Report

On top of that, it’s also the most environmental-friendly way to get rid of unwanted clothes, reducing it’s CO2 impact of 79%.

And if you want to reduce your fashion footprint even further, here are some ideas:

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ThreadUp 2020 Report

Rent it

But second hand is not the only way to go. EcoAge has recently talked with some of the most prominent rental services on field, which are experiencing a similar growth.

ByRotation, UK’s first social rental fashion app, claims an increase in user by 170% since this summer. HURR Collective, a luxury fashion rental website saw pretty much the same increase in customers, along with a defining switch from more dressy pieces towards more casual ones.

But the concept of the rental service is still a little bit detached from the average customer, as this field is perceived as a niche. That’s why collaborations such as HURR X Selfridges, which saw a corner inside the UK’s Department Store, are more important than ever. These aim to limit distances with the consumer as physical experiences are still a fundamental part in the CRM of a brand. Along with a fair pricing, obviously.

The achievement of a holistic user experience in rental services will be fundamental, as consumer study found 75% of shoppers to expect brick and mortar to transform into a dynamic and immersive experience in the next 7 years.

Long story short, the fashion industry has been turned upside down, shaken up, and reshuffled in every way.

Can this be the beginning of a social, economic and environmental justice?

fashion, rent, secondhand, sustainablefashion

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