The term fast fashion was coined in the 1980s when shopping became less about the necessity and more about following trends. It was first used by the New York Times to describe Zara’s mission to take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold in stores. Through marketing tactics, manufactured aspirations, and now influencer haul reels, what started as an addictive trend, has now reached a crazy level of unbridled consumption where we find ourselves ‘reeling’ towards buying more and more.
Fashion, often bought as ‘impulse buys’, ‘therapy’ shopping, or for the fear of missing out (FOMO) on the latest colours and styles, usually ends up in landfills where they stay intact for more than 200 years. Did you know that the fashion industry produces and sells somewhere between 80 billion and 150 billion garments a year globally (2020), which is roughly up to 21 articles per human being on this planet?
According to UN-Habitat, 99% of the items we purchase are thrown away within six months. As per the Indian Textile Journal, textile waste is also the third-largest source of municipal solid waste in India.
Countering the evil of fast fashion and textile waste is a community of conscious consumers who choose pre-loved or second-hand fashion over fast fashion with pride. This has led to a growing interest in the thrift or second-hand market which has evolved to offer a range of options for everyone, from the value-conscious millennial to the designer-label flaunting divas!
The Rise Of Second-Hand Fashion
Brands with their resale shops increased 275%, from 8 in 2020 to 30 in 2021. According to ThredUp’s 2022 Fashion Resale Report, the global second-hand apparel market will grow 3X faster than the global apparel market overall.
This popularity can also be seen in India, driven by Gen Zs, millennials, and the rise and rise of social media. The life-changing pandemic, that gave the world the chance to pause and reflect on their lifestyle and consumption choices, has led to an increased awareness of sustainability and thrifting. And today, thrift shopping, along with fashion rentals, that was once seen as unhygienic or for those who couldn’t afford new clothes, has become trendy and cool.
In case you missed it earlier, you can read our story on fashion rentals here.
Thrift Shopping And Sustainability
Does shopping for second-hand clothing make a difference? The short answer is, yes, because thrifting is essentially a low-waste practice. Here’s why –
- Keeps Clothes Away from Landfills
Why buy one dress for ₹5000 when you can buy 10 for ₹500 each? That’s the buying habit of most of us. But did you know that the t-shirt you tossed in the garbage will inevitably end up in landfills, and if it’s made of polyester and other synthetic material it won’t degrade?
Why toss an item which is in good condition when someone else can make good use of it? Choosing to thrift reduces waste significantly because less demand for clothing means the production of fewer clothes, and keeping them circulating means fewer textiles and fabrics ending up in enormous piles in a landfill. Thrift shopping allows us to recycle and reuse clothes, instead of turning them into waste.
- Lowers Water Consumption, and Pollution
Did you know that it takes 2,700 litres of water to make the average cotton t-shirt? That’s enough drinking water for one person for 900 days!
As clothing production uses up a lot of resources at every stage of production, discarding clothes after wearing them only a handful of times is an enormous waste of resources. Besides, crops like cotton and the textiles that make up the clothing are treated with pesticides along with harsh chemicals and dyes that are toxic to our environment and health. The pesticides degrade the soil and manufacturing factories dump their toxin-laden waste into waterways, polluting the water used by the local communities and wildlife.
Thrift shopping contributes to the circular economy by keeping clothes, already produced, circulating for longer, and slowing down the turn of the fast fashion cycle.
- Finds New Homes for Gently Used Items
One lesser-known benefit of thrift shopping is that you never know what you’ll find! Whether it’s a vintage Ralph Lauren or Vivienne Westwood dress, Celine jewels, or even some classic furniture, thrifting allows us to find something rare, unexpected, and unique, without blowing a hole through our pockets!
We love splurging on elaborate outfits for special occasions like weddings and festivals. But most occasion wear and accessories, especially those that are a part of the wedding trousseau, aren’t worn often. Instead of cluttering your wardrobe with traditional wear that you might not wear again or spending copiously on something you might wear only once, you can buy them from certified online pre-loved stores like Saritoria, Retag, and Confidential Couture.
But don’t just buy second-hand; sell your clothes as well because even if you don’t see the value in a used item, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t, right? After all, one woman’s trash is another’s treasure!
Thanks to brands like Grandma Would Approve and LataSita you can also restore or reconstruct your existing clothes like vintage saris, jackets that no longer fit, and more, and extend their lifespan, or make sure they find a new home.
Look for e-marketplaces or NGOs like SADS India, Goonj Happiee Souls, and Prayas, that conduct collection drives, and you will not just declutter your wardrobe but help someone else find a new look.
Not all second-hand shopping is the same. An item can be pre-loved or vintage; antique or just plain second-hand; from a thrift store or even a consignment store. Don’t fret if these words leave you confused, because it is not your fault! Unfortunately, many stores often mix up these terms, either intentionally or out of ignorance, and end up misleading the buyers.
Let’s unpack these –
The primary distinction between an antique and a vintage object is its age. Most experts agree that the term antique refers to something that is at least 100 years old; and hence quite expensive. Vintage items are not as old as antiques.
Items manufactured between 20 and 100 years ago are termed “vintage” if they reflect the styles and trends of the period they represent. Think polka dots, bell bottoms, and vinyl records!
Look closely and you’ll find authentic vintage items with stores like Bodements, Folkpants, and Aimée.
- Second-hand/ Pre-loved
An object is deemed second-hand if it has already been owned by at least one other person, regardless of age. All vintage items are second-hand, but not all second-hand items can be defined as vintage. Good Old News, Luxepolis, and Bombay Closet Cleanse sell handpicked pre-loved items.
Marketplaces like Salt Scout and Bombay Closet Cleanse also do celebrity closet sales, giving you the chance to wear outfits preloved by your favourite celebrities, while also being environmentally conscious.
- Thrift Stores
Most thrift shops are donation-based where you can donate something if you no longer want to use it. The Relove Closet, The Vintage, and VRTT Vintage are all thrift stores.
- Consignment Stores
Consignment shops sell the items on behalf of the original owner. This means that the owner receives money from the store for the clothes they accept. Ray’s and Poshmark are some of the well-known Consignment e-shops in India.
Source: Salt Scout
These brands are curating top brands, painstakingly restoring and refurbishing the pre-loved fashion, are transparent about the condition of products (Never Used, Pristine, Gently Used, Fairly Used, and so on), and offer great value.
Even a cursory browse through these online stores will debunk all the myths and misconceptions you may have about secondhand fashion! These brands are curating top brands, painstakingly restoring and refurbishing the pre-loved fashion, are transparent about the condition of products (Never Used, Pristine, Gently Used, Fairly Used, and so on), and offer great value. Some even go the extra mile and certify the authenticity of the items they offer.
Where To Start Thrift Shopping?
So, now that you are convinced, and probably also excited to start exploring thrift shopping, you might wonder where to start.
To be fair, for most of us, thrift shopping is not a new concept. Remember the hand-me-downs from your older siblings and cousins, your mom’s favourite sari that came to you by default, the do-eared books that circulated across many homes, and more? We did this before it was cool, because it was the norm. Thrift shopping simply reclaims that age-old practice!
There are plenty of online thrift shops all over the country like Ray’s thrift store, Carol’s Shop & Tea Room, Viange Vintage, and Folkpants (all on Instagram) that sell everything from luxury designer wear and vintage accessories to casual, streetwear, and jewellery.
You can also explore websites like Kiabza and Amalfi India for a wide range of thrift clothing. While at it, explore the Relove shop. Relove is committed to making thrifting easy for brands and consumers, and its thrift platform features pre-loved clothing by many of our favourite labels. From Suta sarees to Okhai Kurtis, you’ll find a bunch of stylish pieces here.
With new stores cropping up on Instagram every day, there’s a fashion revolution brewing across India. But it is useful to remember that the better way of thrifting is swapping with your friends and family. This saves money and avoids all the unnecessary packaging and shipping miles that come with online stores.
How To Thrift Shop Effectively
Thrift stores and resale shops are treasure troves as they are great places to discover unique finds like corsets, vintage denim, rare pieces of furniture, and more. But this can take a lot of time. Here are a few tips and tricks for thrift shopping:
- Take Your Time
Thrift shopping, whether online or offline, can get overwhelming because of the many choices available. It helps to know what you are looking for. Explore your options before making your choices.
If you have a thrift/ consignment store in your neighbourhood, you can make a day out of thrifting with your friends, or even as a fun date! Swap parties are also getting popular. Get your friends together, raise some noise using social media, and you can add new items to your closet without spending a rupee and while having a lot of fun.
- Know Your Size
Size inclusivity is a major issue within the fashion industry on the whole, and the second-hand market is no different. If you are shopping online, check for clothes in your specific measurements from the seller, which will make it more likely for you to select items knowing how they will fit you, thus increasing their longevity.
- Be Thrifty When Thrifting
Shopping second-hand can become another form of mass consumption if one is not mindful.
In 2019, around 40% of Gen Z-ers were buying second-hand, compared to less than 30% in 2016, according to a report by resale service ThredUp. Thrift shopping is a great idea but with the rise of Instagram thrift shops and other online platforms, the availability and accessibility to thrifting have increased. Subsequently, this has also given rise to buying more clothes at cheaper prices.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap! After all, do you need to clutter your closet with cheap fast fashion, even if it’s second-hand? If you end up overbuying thrift clothes, it sort of defeats the purpose of conscious shopping, doesn’t it?!
There is an unsavoury side to thrifting too. Did you know that in the second-hand market, only a small percentage of donated clothing is of acceptable quality to be re-sold? Usually, a lot of cheap fast fashion gets passed on, especially from Western countries to poor countries which get inundated by unwanted clothes that end up clogging local markets and landfills.
This culture around clothing donations also fuels overconsumption as we end up buying too much with the idea of donating or re-selling our clothes later. Shopping second-hand is better, but if we don’t take care of those items once they’re in our wardrobes and they end up in landfills, then the very idea of extending the lifespan of garments gets nullified. Charitable organisations that collect donated clothes for re-purposing and thrifting often have to sift through donations and reject large quantities of unusable items.
So, while shopping for second-hand fashion is better than buying it new, it is no substitute for being mindful, taking care of items once they’re in our wardrobes, and extending their lifecycles. Ultimately, the answer lies in simply shopping less, whether new or secondhand!
Thrift shopping does not only apply to second-hand clothing but also includes furniture, books, and home essentials. Thrifting essentially keeps items and their components in circulation for a longer time, and the longer we can use what we already have, the less we’ll buy new. If you’d like to explore the ins and outs of thrift furniture, read our detailed story here.
Shopping may seem like an impossible ethical conundrum. But it need not be so! By being mindful consumers, taking care of what we already have, buying only what and when we need, and choosing second-hand, we can help slow down the demand for fast fashion and all the ills that come with it.
So this #SecondHandSeptember, shop less, and when you do, choose second-hand first. The future is circular; hop on! To know more about how you can help build a circular economy with ethical choices, read our story here.