The preloved market is definitely here to stay thanks to conscious behaviour changes influencing the world of fashion.

Conscious behaviour changes are influencing the world of fashion, and here's what you need to know.

If you had been told at the start of 2020 that the preloved fashion market is growing 11 times faster than traditional retail, you probably wouldn’t have believed it (Forbes) but conscious behaviour changes are massively influencing the world of fashion today and benefitting the preloved market.

With 96% of people wanting significant change to make the world more fair and more sustainable, it is no surprise that the world of fashion is changing. Currently, fashion production makes up 10% of carbon emissions around the world, it dries up water sources and pollutes rivers. What’s more is that 85% of all textiles end up in the bin each year and some clothes send copious amounts of microplastics into the ocean when they are washed. All for an item you might wear twice!

But how did we end up here?

Fashion has always been dependent on seasonal trends but over time consumers have grown more impatient and more demanding which led to a change in the business model. Fashion no longer has a certain look for each season, but feeds from existing trends to be forever changing. This all started when brands like Zara shifted their competitive advantage from price to consumer demands. They were quick to realise that fast fashion is a consumer driven response and to stay competitive, they had to refresh their clothes often.

From a behavioural science perspective one driver of this change is social proof – as humans we like to copy what we believe is the normal course of action and as a result of fast fashion (mixed with social media) it has been made to seem more ‘normal’ for individuals to purchase new clothes each week and always have something new to wear.

When this began, it appeared as a rather clever business decision but it has snowballed to where we are today with a largely unsustainable fashion industry.

However, there are some positives…

The preloved clothing market is set to be twice the size of fast fashion by 2030, which means things are slowly and finally changing.

This has all happened quite dramatically over the last 12 months with 118 million customers trying to resell their clothes for the first time in 2021, compared to just 36.2 million first-time sellers in 2020 (ThredUP). With it becoming much easier to shop preloved clothing with apps like Vinted, Depop and eBay it is unsurprising that it has increased in popularity. You no longer have to trawl through the rails of a charity shop, you can simply search your keywords in an app and instantly find what you are looking for. Easy! And of course making something easy is one of the fundamental levers for behaviour change.

What does the future of fashion look like?

The preloved market is definitely here to stay. The data suggests that preloved fashion is growing at a much faster rate than sustainable fashion with consumers turning to resale more and more. It’s more conscious of the environment and human rights, but at the same time, still allows consumers to own unique and attractive apparel to express themselves (Deloitte). People are going to continue to fill their wardrobes in this way, providing them with a sense of fulfilment and supporting a better future for themselves and the people around them.

Are brands starting to get it right?

Brands are starting to make sustainable changes and launch environment-conscious ranges but there is very little work being done to recycle clothing and target those preloved consumers. There is one brand, however, heading in the right direction; ASOS. Instead of seeing leftover fabrics as waste, ASOS rethought them and decided to use them in another way. The result is the new Repurposed Range. They are not creating sustainable products but instead upcycling from fabric that would have otherwise been wasted. It’s not a perfect solution to address the waste created by fashion, but it’s one way to help reuse fabrics so they can go on to be loved, and pre-loved.

The preloved market is definitely here to stay thanks to conscious behaviour changes influencing the world of fashion.

What can you do?

It seems that the motivation for behaviour change is there and with the trend gaining traction the norm is established. So focus your energy on making it easy for your customers to engage with your sustainability policies. Can you build a social community swapping and sharing your pre-loved clothes? Can you start to introduce eco ranges? Can you partner with a charity? Can you build a recycling scheme into your returns policy (all logistics people close your ears). The list is probably endless so over to you.

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By Meg Slip

Senior Account Executive