Each year, 80 billion new articles of clothing are produced and enter the retail industry, a 400% increase from just twenty years ago. This exorbitant amount of new clothing consequently leads to an increase of textile waste, with more than 11 million tons per year in the United States alone. Most of us can agree that there needs to be a dramatic decrease in our clothing production, consumption, and disposal - but what does that mean for resale shops and boutiques who rely on excess and discarded clothing?
Shopping resale is one of the easiest ways to shop sustainably, as there is no footprint of consuming a new garment. Furthermore, it’s a broad and thriving industry with diverse options - from inexpensive thrift stores to luxury resale boutiques. Every year, the resale industry brings in about $24 billion worldwide annually, and that number is only rising. The large number of new garments produced every year is a main factor in what has led to the success of the resale industry, so what would happen if there is a large decrease in clothing production? Would moving to a more sustainable model of producing clothing mean the end of resale fashion as we know and love it today?
Have no fear, resale fans, because the secondhand industry isn’t going anywhere soon. If we’re going to see a drop in clothing production, it’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to be a long process. Because unfortunately, the fast fashion industry’s worth is exponential. The brand Zara alone brought in $19.7 billion in 2010, with H & M bringing in $20.2 billion. With numbers like that, it’s not going to be easy to see a huge reduction in fast fashion.
Outside of fast fashion, there is plenty of room for sustainability-minded brands to support the resale industry. Even clothing made by great ethical brands will need a place to go once the garment is done with. Working in a large and bustling resale clothing shop, I see pieces from Everlane, Reformation, Patagonia, and more coming into the shop on a daily basis. And furthermore, those are the pieces that I typically see sell the fastest. With a reduction in fast fashion, there will be even more room for sustainable brands like these to grow and for new similar brands to enter the market. Remember, there are approximately 7.5 billion people on earth who need clothing, so the clothing industry is going to stay very much alive and well, and so will the resale industry. There is plenty of space and opportunity for fast fashion to diminish and for sustainable fashion to grow, all while resale shops are there helping to extend the life cycle of garments and provide increased accessibility to sustainable fashion options.