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Resale platforms like ThredUp are rebelling against fast fashion

It’s the latest example of how the resale world is reacting to the growing anti-fast fashion sentiment. Erin Wallace, vice president of integrated marketing at ThredUp, told Modern Retail that the campaign aims to address tensions seen particularly among Gen Z shoppers, who say they want to be less wasteful, but also large shoppers are from fast fashion.

ThredUp’s own marketplace has at least 10,000 items from Shein, more than 17,000 from Zara, almost 23,000 from H&M and more than 23,000 from Forever21.

“More than one in three consumers wants to quit fast fashion this year,” she said. “But the action had not necessarily been reflected in the data. We wanted to continue pushing that narrative and further raising awareness about ultrafast fashion and just keeping it in mind – especially for Gen Z who are telling us, ‘We want to change.’”

It’s not the first time ThredUp has launched a marketing campaign pointing to the waste of fast fashion. This past June, ThredUp gave out coupons to shoppers in the Bay Area and asked them to boycott a Shein pop-up. Then, in August, the company partnered with Stranger Things star Priah Ferguson to mentor a Stop Fast Fashion hotline with sustainable shopping tips.

Other resale brands are also noticing a shift: Poshmark saw a drop in fast fashion sales on its marketplace. Data provided to Modern Retail shows that October 2022 searches for Pretty Little Thing, Fashion Nova, and Shein decreased 43%, 33%, and 25.8%, respectively, to January 2023 year-on-year . Meanwhile, Vestiaire Collective announced last fall that it would not feature any fast-fashion brands in its marketplace.

Wallace of ThredUp said the push against fast fashion stemmed from a desire to reduce clothing waste. In total, more than 9,070 tons of clothing and shoes were landfilled in 2018, more than double the amount in 2000, according to the EPA.

“Ultimately, until these ultra-fast fashion companies slow down production, we just have this needless problem,” she said. “There needs to be mass behavioral change to send a message back to the ultimate problem, which is corporate production.”

Used for quality

On Instagram and TikTok, fashion influencers are increasingly making their followers aware of the dangers of fast fashion. Others take it a step further by refusing to buy it, even if it’s second-hand.

Phoebe Joseph is a model and sustainability advocate who promotes her second-hand outfits on Instagram. she is noted that finding “gems” has been difficult as fast fashion items flood the thrift market. Many shoppers prefer curated boutiques that specialize in trendy brands, vintage goods, or other high-end apparel.

Still, Joseph sees a place in the market for the quick resale of fashion. It’s being made anyway, she said — and it deserves a place other than landfills.

“Buying fast fashion through the second-hand market is always a better option than buying it new,” she said. “There is a contradictory feeling when you buy this brand when you are very aware of the issues behind the companies. But I think if people could buy these things second hand we would see the demand drop (for new fast fashion).

Chloe Baffert, Poshmark’s head of merchandising, also said that those looking for an affordable outfit should first look for it on a resale platform rather than a new fast fashion website.

But overall, consumers are shifting their resale behavior in favor of higher-value brands: Although no concrete figures were available, sales for brands such as Everlane, Girlfriend Collective, Patagonia and Reformation increased year-on-year from October 2022 to January 2023.

Shoppers are also searching for more vintage items, with Poshmark searches up 11.8% year-over-year from October 2022 to January 2023.

“Shoppers are looking to vintage pieces to mimic trending styles from social media platforms,” ​​Baffert said, “rather than buying replicas from fast fashion retailers.”

ThredUp didn’t share any data on how fast fashion looks in its inventory or if shoppers are turning away from it. But there are hundreds of brands that aren’t eligible for withdrawals — including Shein, H&M, Fashion Nova, and Target brands like Wild Fable.

“I think that’s just going to continue to be communicated more clearly, that there really isn’t any resale value for ultra-fast fashion items,” Wallace said. “And that will hopefully spark a conversation about looking deeper into the resale value of items at the time of purchase.”

what is the value

From a business perspective, it can also be “extremely difficult” for resale marketplaces to capitalize on fast fashion, said Claire Tassin, retail and e-commerce analyst at Morning Consult. Sellers on peer-to-peer networks like Poshmark might see a small return, but it’s probably not worth it for larger consignment deals, Tassin said.

“A person has to unpack these boxes and inspect and photograph these garments. And it’s unlikely to be worth your while if you have to sell that at a discount on a Shein price,” she said.

Wallace of ThredUp said that fast fashion has little resale value — the company doesn’t pay sellers for certain fast fashion items. Those that cannot be sold are sent to a third party for recycling or redistribution.

The excess can clog warehouse processing operations, Wallace said, which can cause delays or disruptions in sellers’ processing of items.

“It doesn’t even recoup our processing and listing costs,” she said. “If consumers want the best result, they really need to think about what they’re putting in and what they’re shipping.”


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