I remember back in 2014 I was at a networking event and a lady asking about my business said, “What a lovely jumper, is it designer?” to which I replied, “yes, but I bought it in a charity shop for £8.” I mistook her look of shock for delight so I ploughed on enthusiastically with something like “actually, I’ve started shopping for my clients in charity shops, it’s amazing what you can find and it’s a great way to save money and be more environmentally friendly.” The woman then wrinkled her nose and said, “you wouldn’t catch me in a charity shop, awful smelly places.” And with that she walked away.
Clearly not a client for me, but this type of encounter back then was not infrequent – in fact I remember being interviewed when my book was published about charity shopping back in 2016 and when it was over, the interviewer sniffed dismissively at the idea of preloved purchases claiming it was something she would NEVER do.
Today the culture thankfully is very different. Only this morning there was a feature on a BBC programme about renting clothes from your wardrobe. Celebrities are endorsing preloved fashion and sellers are popping up all over the place. The sponsor for this year’s Love Island was eBay and contestants showcased preloved clothes; it really feels like 2022 was the year that preloved clothing finally secured its place in the mainstream fashion landscape.
So, what’s fuelling the trend, and is it set to stay? In pre-COVID days we were sending some £140 million of used but still wearable clothing to landfill in the UK every year. In addition, we donated and recycled enough clothing annually to fill 459 Olympic sized swimming pools (source: Clothes Aid). That’s a lot of clothing, and the trend was set to overwhelm status: Each week we were discarding 11 million items to landfill but buying 38 million items (source: TRAID). It’s not hard to guess where all these purchases were likely to end up.
However, during lockdown what we wore went way down the list of priorities, and with the closure of many high streets fashion retail took a huge hit; sales of new clothes slumped for all but a few established online retailers. On the flip side, we began to see a growth in online secondhand shopping; eBay report 30% more secondhand sales in June 2020, compared to March, and 1,211% more preloved sales than at the same time in 2018. (Source; FashionUnited.UK)
In this post pandemic era, recent economic downturns and a higher cost of living has meant many families are forced to tighten their belts and look for ways to save money; buying secondhand clothing over new is one such way to save several hundred pounds a year. We’ve also (thanks to the media) become more conscious of the impact of our choices, we’re much more environmentally aware and curious about exploring solutions, and we’ve got some cracking celebrity and design house examples showing how it’s possible to look great in preloved fashion. Designers are making positive statements about reuse, and even big fashion stores such as Selfridges are adding preloved sales alongside their fashion brands.
But the real drive comes from the younger demographic. According to an article in the Guardian (2021) the under 30’s are driving much of this shift through discovering the fashions of the 90’s and using apps like Depop and Vinted to explore this new love of finding preloved treasures. It’s OK and in fact even cool to look individual and to say “Oh I picked this up on Vinted for a fiver.” According to ThreadUp, in 2019 70% of people asked said they would consider buying something preloved compared to only 45% in 2015.
In our business we’ve seen a definite shift. Preloved sales are up overall, with an increase in demand for vintage items. This year we sold a fabulous Vivienne Westwood vintage corset top for over £900 as part of a sale to help raise money for a charity. In fact we’ve had two fantastic charity collaborations this year; we now provide a service to help small charities raise funds without the overheads or hassle of a charity shop. In March we were awarded plastic free champion status, and only this week we’ve been nominated for an award for the best e-commerce store of 2022. People seem interested and engaged in what we’re doing; our free Facebook group hosts regular challenges to encourage others to share their preloved styles and we have a monthly members club where we source preloved clothing for busy professionals and those in the public eye who want to make ethical and sustainable choices without trawling the charity shops. So far no one has sniffed dismissively at me during a networking event. All in all 2022 has been a fabulous year for our business and those in the preloved and resale community.
Our attitudes to preloved fashion are finally shifting, and I will certainly be raising a glass to toast that this Christmas. Cheers!
Have you recently discovered the joys of preloved fashion, or have you been (like me) shopping this way for years? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think of finding preloved bargains.
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- Tags: Awards, Buy Less New, Charity, Charity Shops, Dress Agency, News, Preloved Clothes, Second Hand Clothes, secondhand clothes shopping, Sustainable Fashion