The Summer of ‘Pre-Love’: Has Fast Fashion been Dumped by the British Public?

20 July 2022. Published by Ela Broderick-Basar, Associate

ITV’s Love Island is back on our screens, officially marking the British summer.

This year the show is dumping fast fashion and ‘coupling up’ with its first-ever second-hand clothing sponsor, eBay, with contestants now donning pre-loved pieces sourced from the resale platform. According to ITV, eBay has seen a 700% increase in searches for ‘pre-loved fashion’ since the sponsorship announcement, while Google reported 750% more searches for ‘eBay pre-loved clothes’.

Recent data published by the data analytics company, GlobalData, has also revealed that some UK consumers are now turning away from well-known online fast fashion brands in favour of second-hand retailers such as eBay, Depop and Vinted. Vinted, which first launched in Lithuania in 2008 before launching in the UK in 2014, now has over 50 million registered members globally and over 3 million in the UK. According to GlobalData’s consumer survey, 25% of UK consumers purchased clothing, footwear and/or accessories via resale channels in 2021.

This growth looks set to continue with brands such as Levi’s, New Look and Allbirds all looking to enter the resale market by selling their own pre-worn products. Even the fast fashion giant, PrettyLittleThing, is set to launch a resale app, PLT Marketplace, in a bid to tap into the growing trend.

The future of resale

US online resale platform Thredup, with analysis by GlobalData, found that the resale market is growing at a rate 11 times faster than traditional retail and is predicted to be worth $84 billion by 2030; this will mean a new-look market for consumers who are on the hunt for deals, with plenty of opportunities for brands. 

For retailers looking to enter the resale market, there is no one resale model that will work for all brands and it will depend on each brand’s price, positioning and audience. 

There will also be challenges, such as scalability and the authentication process, that brands will have to address if resale is to retain the sustainability credentials that made it appealing in the first place. Store reconfigurations, staff training and reverse logistics will also be required. Recently, eBay expanded its authenticity guarantee to include pre-loved luxury handbags worth over 500 pounds in the UK. Working with selected authenticators, the online marketplace now offers a unique authenticity guarantee card with the bag’s brand and model as well as verified returns for all bags under the scheme, providing both customers and sellers with confidence and trust that they are purchasing an authentic designer product. 

Circular fashion

Despite the current trend towards sustainability, we are a long way off achieving a fully circular fashion industry, with less than 1% of clothing being recycled into new clothes. 

Dr Anna Brismar, who coined the term ‘circular fashion’ in 2014, defines it as: “…clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.” 

Given the Competition Market Authority's (CMA) focus on greenwashing claims, retailers and brands which are looking to enter circular fashion space, should be mindful as to how they market themselves. See our previous Retail Therapy blog post for further details regarding the CMA's publication of the Green Claims Code last year.

The UK government has pledged £80 million in funding to support a new 10-year programme that hopes to push the UK industry towards a circular fashion ecosystem in the UK. Led by the UK Fashion & Textile Association, British Fashion Council and Innovate UK, the Fashion Industry Sustainable Change Programme will promote circular business models amongst stakeholders while bolstering infrastructure for sorting and recycling. 

Several steps have been identified as key to achieving this ecosystem:

  1. Reducing the vast volumes of new garments produced every year – which is currently estimated to be 100 billion pieces globally. 
  2. Extending the life of the garments that are in circulation, both in terms of ensuring customers hold onto them for longer, as well as finding a second life for them via the resale platforms. This would involve careful consideration of materials used to create a piece of clothing (from the threads to any dyeing or chemical treatments involved) and brand engagement and support for the resale market. 
  3. Enhanced sorting and recycling facilities are needed to ensure that textiles from the fashion industry can actually be used again, rather than ending up in landfills. 

Everyone has a role to play in the move towards a circular fashion economy. But is pre-loved fashion really going mainstream? With government support as well as backing from one of the most commercialised shows on British television, this is sure to help towards making second-hand clothing more of a mass trend rather than a niche cause, in turn unlocking potential for both consumers and brands alike. 

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