July 28, 2021 /Consumer

The future of ethical fashion and retail’s second hand stores boom

Historians, writers and culturalists define the Roaring Twenties as a time of dramatic political and social change. 100 years on, we are once again amidst a time of political and social change. Yet this time, the concern for change regards ethical fashion in terms of paying workers fairly and respecting the environment. With increased awareness surrounding climate change, more people are seeking to buy more consciously, fuelling a rise in demand for second hand stores. Thus the Roaring Twenties 2.0 will see the demise of fashion fashion and a wave of re-commerce business models coming to a float. By the end of this decade, the fashion resale market is set to reach a value of $80 billion, doubling the size of fast fashion (Bmilab).

Accelerated growth of customer interest in ethical fashion

The world bank shared that the fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions. Thus, the growing interest for ethical fashion is a means to confront the environmental price tag of the industry. Interest in conscious consumption has been growing over the last few years. The ethical fashion market is gaining traction in both the UK and the US, with a report from ThredUp confirming that the value of the secondhand market in the United States will triple in value by the end of 2030. Such statistics reflect the growing opportunities for the retail sector. The pandemic has laid out the blueprint for creating a turning point for this growth and has accelerated the rate of interest for shopping for preloved pieces. At the same time, the demand for change has been underpinned by millennials and generation Z, who are gaining a monopoly when it comes to spending power. These digital natives grew up in an age of heightened awareness surrounding the environment and how consumption habits impact this. What’s more, Refinery 29 has documented that Gen Z driven platform TikTok has been filled with second hand concepts in the US, with the rise of expert Depop sellers and ‘thrift flippers’, who by social media terms are craters that upcycle their secondhand items into trend-led creations. Buying second-hand not only caters to customer interest in the environment, but also the opportunity to be creative and show self expression.

Retail’s re-commerce future as the demand for second hand stores rises

With heightened awareness for ethical fashion and consumption, re-commerce business models are changing the retail landscape. Re-commerce encompasses circular business models that facilitate reselling or renting products in order to prolong a products life span beyond one use or user. One example includes Selfridges, a department store we frequently design spaces within, who launched Resellfridges last summer. It is a concept where customers can buy second hand ethical fashion pieces and products in store and online. However, re-commerce is also coming to life through business models that enable renting such as By Rotation which is a company that is transforming the way people consume fashion with the belief that they can help people rent what they need and lend what they don’t.

This July, a 10 day long IRL renting pop-up concept was created by ethical fashion brand ‘By Rotation’ in partnership with Westfield London. Dubbed with the tagline ‘what’s mine is yours’, the 3,400 sq ft store offers customers a fashion rental experience where it is possible find wardrobes from the brand’s community, including influencers such as Camille Charrière and Amelia Windsor and brands like Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Mary Benson, Paul Costelloe. In addition to the fashion pieces, the brand has debuted homeware, with items such as up-cycled sofas and a highly-sought after Ultrafragola mirror. All pieces are available to rent via the brand’s app. The aspirational store experience has been designed to reflect ‘the apartment we all desire’ and is a focus point of community creation through a series of workshops, panel talks, events and styling appointments.

Setting the tone for the next decade

Whilst ethical fashion is by means new, the pandemic and fears surrounding climate change is pushing for change surrounding business models and driving the growth for re-commerce. By consequence, tenting, reselling and second hand stores will become the norm as we progress through the next decade. 

It should be noted that the aforementioned examples detail luxury driven ethical fashion concepts for a high spending consumer. However, the key to driving this environmental, social and political movement will be that buying from second hand stores has to become mainstream across all price points and sectors. 

Looking for a retail strategy to launch your second hand or ethical fashion store? Get in touch with our team.