The future of fashion looks a lot like used clothes. Fueling the movement? Gen Z, of course.
The secondhand clothing market is a growing one. It’s currently worth $30 billion, according to a recent Jefferies note, and is estimated to grow annually by 18% through 2024. About a quarter of the secondhand market is resale clothing, which Jefferies estimates to grow by 39% annually in the same time frame to eventually comprise over half of the market.
Based on these estimations, Jefferies forecasts the secondhand clothing market will comprise a mid-teen percentage of the overall apparel market over the next decade, driven by online resale, and when that happens, every other demographic will just be catching up to Gen Z, who’s already there.
“This company is for the next generation,” Rachel Swidenbank, vice president of marketplace at Depop, previously told Insider’s Mary Hanbury. She said that 90% of Depop’s users are under the age of 26.
Recycling and reselling clothes helps the digitally native generation wear new-to-them outfits on a budget they haven’t yet posted to social, avoiding repeating looks. There, too, is the sustainable aspect of secondhand clothing — Gen Z is more willing than any other generation to pay more for sustainable products, according to a consumer spending analysis by First Insight.
For active sellers, it’s also a tool to start a lucrative side hustle. Depop sellers can pull in as much as $300,000 a year and have been able to buy houses and cars before they’ve even reached college age, Swidenbank said. And young sellers on Poshmark told Insider’s Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins they were able to grow their resale hustle into a full-time business earning six figures or more in annual sales.
But even though Gen Z is driving the secondhand frenzy, they’re not the only ones getting swept up in the trend. Emily Farra reported in November for Vogue that secondhand, vintage, and upcycling caught steam in 2020. She cited Lyst’s annual Year in Fashion report, which revealed a 35,000 increase in searches for “vintage fashion” and a 104% increase in entries for secondhand-related keywords in September.
Shoppers are rethinking their carbon footprint and looking for more unique pieces as clothing companies become more ubiquitous, she wrote, and brands are accommodating the rising interest. But there’s also something to be said of the more subtle statement of a vintage piece of clothing over a flashy logo in a pandemic world.
As Farra wrote, “In a difficult year that’s seen staggering unemployment and countless shuttered businesses, the shift toward vintage and secondhand could come down to a desire for less-conspicuous fashion.”