On October 4, 2022, the Associated Press broke news that the Goodwill used clothing store group launched GoodwillFinds. Meanwhile, Thredup, via research firm Global Data, estimates that the second-hand clothing industry is expected to grow 16 times more quickly than its peers in the overarching retail clothing sector by 2026.
We might as well start at the latest spot. Goodwill has a potential gold mine on its hands, and shoppers who get in early might be able to mine its valuable precious metals, textiles, and home goods. According to the AP, the store now has about 100,000 donated goods available for online purchase. Until now, shoppers would either have to sift through individual stores or surf to secondhand sites like ShopGoodwill.com, eBay, and Amazon to find stores and people hawking their found treasures.
GoodwillFinds is a separate body from Goodwill Industries International Inc., supporting the overarching company. Its new online CEO, Matthew Kaness, said the used goods store aims to offer one million items on GoodwillFinds as it accumulates products over the next few years. On the site, consumers can utilize search tools to browse by brand, category, or occasion. Eventually, the goal is for GoodwillFinds to be able to personalize the site based on a customer’s past buys, similar to Amazon.
The one downside right now is that, unlike its rivals like Poshmark and Thredup, customers cannot use GoodwillFinds to donate goods. Donations still have to be made at one of Goodwill’s 3,300 U.S. and Canadian drop-off spots at a physical locations. Kaness indicates that Goodwill aims to add a donation service down the road.
Thredup’s 2022 Resale Report asserts that consumers are in the midst of a great shift as traditional brands and retailers drive an immense secondhand wave. Brands with their own resale shops rose from eight in 2020 to 30 in 2021. This embracing of resale goods could result in incredible benefits for the Earth, and there’s one company to thank for leading this shift: Patagonia.
Yvon Chouinard’s outdoor goods store has long been known for its lifetime warranty, supply chain transparency, and environmental activism. In 2017, the company doubled down on those efforts with Patagonia Worn Wear, an online shop selling its worn gear (per Retail Dive). From shorts to thermals, you can browse through hundreds of high-end, well-built outdoor textiles with Worn Wear. This even includes its ReCrafted Collection — clothing stitched from other Patagonia goods that were beyond repair.
One hundred years (or so) before Chouinard began his sustainable clothing journey, it was Levi Strauss that began setting the standard for quality construction and textiles that could live beyond the life of their owners. Today, Levi’s even pays people for breaking in their denims and designer clothes, buying back in-demand goods at participating stores and saving them from condemnation to the landfill. In turn, people can benefit from discounted, already broken-in, quality-constructed clothing at Levi’s SecondHand.
In order to bring awareness to this effort, Levi’s brought back the “Buy Better, Wear Longer” for a second iteration in 2022. This marketing effort encourages a shared responsibility between buyers and sellers to mitigate the environmental impacts of apparel production and consumption. The campaign is popular with consumers as well as with industry peers in encouraging considerate consumption over fast fashion outlets like Shein.
“It’s a plea for consumers to be more intentional about their purchasing decisions and to look for ways to rewear, repurpose, and hold on to their clothes as long as possible, before passing them down to future generations. And it’s a commitment from the brand to continue its work on numerous fronts to be responsible stewards of… natural resources,” the company said in a statement.
Found objects, upcycled wear, and reused stuff has been a part of the Urban Outfitters outlook since the brand’s 1970 debut. Its first store, Free People, which was across the street from Penn University in Philadelphia, was on a mission to provide “second-hand clothing, furniture, jewelry, and home décor for college-aged customers in a casual, fun environment” (per Urban’s website). In 2021, the company officially opened Urban Renewal, an offshoot offering vintage, recycled, and reworked clothing, furniture, and home goods.
Recognizing where its industry is heading, Urban Outfitters launched Urban Renewal to refresh its reusable heritage. As part of this sustainable effort, the textile giant partnered with Brooklyn nonprofit FabScrap to recycle fabric waste from knitting, sample making, and pattern making (per WWD). And like Patagonia, Urban Renewal also internationally sources deadstock fabrics and unusable merchandise to create upcycled items for Urban Outfitters.
The RealReal claims to be “the world’s largest online marketplace for authenticated, resale luxury goods.” As a membership-based service with more than 27 million members, that appears to be a legitimate claim. Featuring “a rigorous authentication process overseen by experts,” The RealReal’s platform allows for wearable luxury goods to be reliably bought and sold. This process helps revive thousands of items across the consumer landscape — men’s and women’s fashion, fine jewelry, watches, art, and home décor.
The RealReal uses a consignment model to stock these goods. Individual sellers hand over items to The RealReal in order to be appraised and, if accepted, sold on its site and/or in one its 19 physical locations. Encouraging reuse in the wearable category, in fact, was one of the reasons for the store’s founding.
“Sustainability is one of our founding core values. The precipitous rise of fast fashion is a major contributor to the acceleration of the climate crisis,” Allison Sommer, The RealReal’s vice president of public affairs and business development, said in a presentation to Congress. “We need to be doing more to hold these brands accountable for wasteful overproduction of poorly made, often critiqued as ‘disposable’ items, and instead encourage circular models.”
Like its peer The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective leans towards high-end and luxury design. Vestiaire also connects individual sellers and shoppers. Vestiaire, however, is energized by labels that have signed on as part of Reflaunt’s global network and partnership with premium brands like Balenciaga, Saks Off 5th, Net-a-Porter, and Harvey Nichols.
The Vestiaire platforms includes authentication to affirm item progenies to make sure that people aren’t buying fake or fraudulent stuff — and there’s a lot of it. A quick glance at Vestiaire’s menswear page reveals goods by Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Canada Goose. Like its competitors, Vestiaire is on a mission to establish a sustainable fashion future by championing a circular market. Vestiaire is just one of Reflaunt’s 28 resale sites, according to Forbes.
MAW Supply, aka “Man and Woman,” indicates in its name that this Black-owned, Houston-based thrift store offers clothes for any gender. Founded in 2012 by husband and wife pair Norman and Rachelle Clark, MAW Supply specializes in vintage casual daily wear posted to Etsy. The couple’s enthusiasm for “simplicity, style, comfort, and individuality for the wardrobe of today” (per MAW’s ‘About’ page) translates to sustainable goods like classic-print button-ups and stylish jeans and slacks that pop in the Texas sun. It’s no surprise that MAW has been covered by outlets like Harper’s Bazaar.
The brand also encourages socially conscious spending by leveling outfits up with sustainable accessories via other Black-owned Etsy art and jewelry shops.
As MAW and Rogue Retro show, Etsy is a crucial platform for enabling secondhand shops to thrive as national businesses. In this case, it’s Rogue Retro with “over 3500 items” updated daily from its north Seattle perch. What you’re going to find among thousands of tees, vests, sweaters, sarapes, rugby jerseys, and more are some of the best examples of style from multiple eras. The entire effect is of a quirky new-school cool in a vintage capsule. If you’re looking to stretch your wardrobe to embrace some celebrated creative design, Rogue Retro is the place to go.
Thrift shops infuse crucial sustainability into the clothing market. They also provide an endless selection of clothing, accessories, and home goods from multiple style eras. There’s really no reason to not buy into the online thrift store market, and now you’ve got a great place to begin your digital dig. Happy thrifting!
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