Do you buy second-hand clothes? You are likely to be more stylish

Not only is second-hand shopping good for the planet and your wallet, our new research finds that the more style-conscious you are, the more likely you are to buy second-hand clothes and accessories.

During the 2020-21 financial year, 72% of Australians bought at least one item of second-hand clothing – but we wanted to know more about people who bought second-hand clothes.

He is often assumed those who buy second-hand clothes do so to save money or reduce their impact on the environment.

In our study, we found that the more style conscious people are, the more likely they are to make second-hand purchases. In fact, style consciousness was a bigger predictor of second-hand shopping than being frugal or environmentally conscious.

Style conscious shoppers are very different from fashion conscious shoppers. Fashion is the “new”: fashion is new and constantly changing.

Style, on the other hand, is about expressing a long-term individual identity.

Read more: Second-hand clothing sales are booming — and can help solve the sustainability crisis in the fashion industry

The fashion problem

Fashion shoppers are used to a continuous supply of new trends and “fast fashion” products. Fast fashion works quickly to replicate an ever-changing stream of fashion trends, generating large volumes of poor quality clothing.

The impact of fast fashion on the environment is significant and well documented. Globally, the fast fashion industry is creating 92 million tons of waste per year and uses 79 trillion liters of water. Less than 15% of clothing is recycled or reused.

Poorly made and poor quality fast fashion items are a significant problem for charity shops, which are obliged to send fast fashion items they can’t sell at the landfill.

But, contrary to this fast fashion trend, growing number people buy second-hand clothes and accessories.

Read more: ‘There’s not much I can do’: We asked fast fashion shoppers how ethical concerns shape their choices

A growing market

It is difficult to determine the size of the second-hand market because many sales take place in informal settings such as second-hand markets and online platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

However, sales data from online platforms show an explosion of growth. James Reinhart, CEO of online second-hand fashion retailer Thredup, predicted the global second-hand market will double over the next five years to US$77 billion (A$102 billion).

He also predicts the second-hand market will double the size of fast fashion by 2030.

Young buyers are driving the growth in popularity of second-hand shopping, especially through online platforms.

Our research suggests that much of this growth is due to shoppers viewing themselves as style-conscious.

What makes a second-hand buyer?

We surveyed 515 Australian female-identifying shoppers looking at their “orientation” (the preference to behave in a certain way) when it comes to shopping. Each participant was measured for their orientation towards frugality, their ecological consciousness, their level of materialism, their propensity for nostalgia, their fashion consciousness and their style consciousness.

While we found that there are frugal and environmentally conscious second-hand shoppers, our research overwhelmingly revealed that style consciousness is the biggest predictor of second-hand fashion purchases.

People who scored high on the style awareness scale were more likely to buy second-hand clothes than all other orientations.

A style-conscious person expresses themselves through their clothes. These shoppers want clothes that complement their personal style and values. They look for authentic and original pieces and avoid mainstream trends and fast fashion.

Style-conscious shoppers buy durable, high-quality clothing and accessories. While fashion-conscious shoppers are constantly shopping for new clothes to keep up with current trends, style-conscious shoppers are buying clothes that are timeless, well-designed and allow them to express their individual identity over the long term.

Traditional thrift stores run by charities respond to consumer demand, reinvent their stores with carefully selected and high-quality clothing, improved merchandising and store design, online sales and improved digital marketing and social media.

The number of highly selected “pre-loved” independent stores and online shopping platforms is also increasing.

Social Media Influencers were responsible for much of this growth. Their stories embrace second-hand fashion, circular economy (which emphasizes reuse, repair, reuse and recycling) and promote the notion of #secondhandfirst.

Helping the planet… in style

We hope that with an increasing number of thrift stores, marketplaces and online platforms selling a range of quality pre-loved clothes at different price points for different budgets – coupled with the growing acceptance second-hand purchases – buyers will more often consider buying second-hand.

For those who already embrace “need no more,” not only are you helping the planet — our research shows you’re likely to do it in style, too.

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