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Thrifting Gone Digital: A New Alternative to Fast Fashion?

Thrifting Gone Digital: A New Alternative to Fast Fashion?

Anna Pasek
Platforms like Poshmark have fast fashion beat on sustainability.

In recent years, there’s been an explosion of resale culture. Young people pushed this renaissance by subscribing to the trend of individuality. Second-hand stores and yard-sales used to carry a stigma, but nowadays everyone is searching for something unique. The fact that a vintage Nike windbreaker could cost less than a sandwich is an added bonus. People have taken the opportunity to decide for themselves what is ‘cool’ and ‘in style,’ excited by the chance of stumbling upon gold. Such is the appeal to thrifting as an alternative to fast fashion, particularly among Generation Z.

Thrifting has fast fashion beat on sustainability too

The treasure hunt market has not only done great things for fashion, but also for sustainability. Thrifting applies the reduce, reuse, recycle principle en force. Dozens of new online resale brands have popped up in response to this new niche, reaching their target market through social media. The RealReal, DePop, Poshmark, and others made the process of perusing second-hand clothing as efficient and simple as scrolling through Instagram.

Kaiyo, a secondhand furniture startup, makes recycling home-goods incredibly easy. All you have to do is submit your item for evaluation, select what percentage of the final sale price you’d like to receive, and Kaiyo takes care of the rest.

Pickup, drop-off, and payment are no longer obstacles to recycling extraneous household items. New online thrift companies exploited the Generation Z eco-friendly, money-saving mindset to their advantage. Why go to a department store when you could order something at half-price or less from your couch, delivered right to your door? 

The New York Times estimates that eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions stem from the fashion industry. New clothing is often incinerated within the year it was bought, per fast fashion culture. The ability to sell, buy, and trade the same garments aids the planet and creates a vibrant new style thread.

Name brands like Forever 21 struggled to catch up, and some, like Forever 21, couldn’t make up the lost ground. The secondhand clothing market is expected to double within the next five years, burgeoning to 51 billion. The same reports expect thrifting to occupy a larger share of the market than fast fashion by 2028. 

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Sustainability caveats to online thrift explosion

While getting the world excited about second-hand shopping is objectively good for the environment, there are a few caveats. Physical second-hand stores eliminate supply chain qualms regarding sustainability, for the most part. Clothes are donated, and while transportation to and from stores along with shop operation has some carbon footprint, it’s nominal compared to online thrifting. 

Depop, Poshmark, Kaiyo, and other online thrifting platforms act mostly as the middleman, saving people the trouble of a trip out. They solve only half the problem with the fast fashion industry. Greenhouse gas emissions generated through shipping and packaging of secondhand goods is significant. Online resale platforms may be trending too far into the realm of fast fashion. A marketing strategy combining eco-friendly and efficiency desires of today is a smart business plan, but it might not be completely sustainable. The explosion of thrift culture detracts from the current environmental crisis. Continuing to cater to the online shopping market could push the green benefits of thrifting into the red. 

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