Today, the most sustainable thing you can do is rent your fashion, and buy it secondhand. Less waste goes to the landfill, there will be less production and shipping across the world of toxic fast fashion, and it opens up the ability to shop consciously to those who before couldn’t afford to buy ethical and sustainable fashion new.
No wonder clothing that someone else (besides your best friend or mom) has worn no longer seems musty, thrifty, or unfashionable. It’s gained a more proud, luxurious, and clever aura.
According to a report commissioned by the resale site ThredUP, 72% of consumers are planning on buying more secondhand fashion in 2019, the fashion resale market is growing 21 times faster than the general retail market, and it is also expected to grow 1.5 times faster than fast fashion. The RealReal, a luxury fashion resale site, recently went public, meaning even the suits on Wall Street are into the concept. (Maybe their wives and girlfriends turned them onto it?)
One of the most interesting upsides to this movement is that it encourages brands to make products that will hold up to a lot of use! After all, Rent the Runway will start to drop brands whose clothing falls apart after a couple uses — it’s not financially feasible for them to keep repurchasing new stuff only to throw it out after a couple of go-rounds. Consumers, too, will begin to pick up on the fact that resale sites and stores don’t want your fake designer handbags, your fast-fashion t-shirts, or anything where the seams have pulled apart. Eventually, we might get to the point where some brands are seen like the Toyota, Lexus, or Camry of fashion: reliable, long-lasting, and while not an investment per se (their value drops as soon as you drive it off the lot), a smarter financial choice than, say, a notoriously finicky Jaguar.
So, your consumer education in what brands are best suited for the resale and circular economy starts now! I looked at the top online resale sites: Poshmark, ThredUP, Vestiaire Collective, The RealReal, Tradesy plus Tulerie and villageluxe, two sites that let you rent out fashion from others’ closets, to see which sustainable and ethical designers and brands are popular in the secondhand market. The idea is that if you want some newness and to support a sustainable and ethical brand, you’ll know which ones will allow you to earn back a bit of money on them, especially if you end up not wearing it as much as you thought you would. The more places that accept it, the more you’re able to shop around for the place where you’ll earn the most selling it — or the more likely you’ll find something you like from the brand secondhand and at a steep discount.
Now, I know this favors brands that are larger, based in the West, and have a lot of recognition. (Though there are a few artisan brands on this list, notably Lemlem, Studio One Eighty Nine, and Roopa.) I’m not saying you should exclusively buy from big Western brands — support emerging designers and artisan brands when you can! If you do want to resell a brand you don’t see on this list, I suggest you go to your local brick-and-mortar resale shop, let them see the quality, beauty, and unique nature of the item in person, and explain the story behind what you’re bringing in. That’s what I do (though it’s often depressingly unsuccessful.) But don’t expect to sell it online, because online retail sites depend on brand knowledge to confirm the quality of each item from afar.
This might change, so I’ll come back and update it in a year’s time, but as of July 2019, these are the fashion brands with the highest potential for resale: