Fashionista Environmentalists Shop ‘Recommerce’ Instead of the Mall

by Rachel Kipp

On the cover of the January 2020 issue of British Vogue, Taylor Swift is wearing a tweedy Chanel jacket that’s about to celebrate its 15th birthday.

You might assume that pop star Swift chose this jacket as an homage to one of her biggest-selling songs (“Cause when you’re 15 and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them.”). But other factors actually influenced her fashion choice. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, picked the jacket from one of the fashion house’s 2005-2006 collections because he wanted to make a statement: Fashion is no longer disposable.

“With the global climate crisis, we all have to do what we can to contribute to the conversation around sustainability,” Enninful told the magazine. “Buying better and buying less is what I believe in…. The best clothes can be worn time and time again….”

While most of us won’t ever get to shop Chanel’s closet, it’s easier than ever to build a wardrobe from items that are “new to you.” Online retailers that focus on used clothing and accessories, including Depop, Poshmark and ThredUp, are redefining a sector that used to be dominated by catchall websites like Ebay, small vintage and consignment shops or Goodwill. And much of these “recommerce” sites’ popularity is being driven by younger consumers who want to make a statement with their fashion while also being sustainable.

“It’s so easy as a shopper to pick and choose what companies you’re going to buy from,” says Rachel Bang, 17, and a senior at Valencia High School in Placentia, California. Bang, a self-proclaimed fashionista who for years spent hours getting lost in her Project Runway Design Sketchbook, has made it a personal mission in high school to mitigate the waste produced by the fashion industry by shopping at thrift stores and at all the online recommerce sites. “If that decision is in my power, I’m going to support the brands I know are selling used clothes, which is more sustainable than new clothes or clothes that are made cheaply by exploiting labor.”

The New Face of Thrifting

Recommerce has been able to grow due to a series of Gen Z-inspired changes in technology, retail and customer mindsets, including a push to be more environmentally friendly.

Ten or 20 years ago, consumers would buy and quickly discard trendy styles from “fast fashion” giants like Forever 21, Zara, or H&M and very little information was easily available on how doing so impacted the environment. ‘Going thrifting’ often meant having to dig through unorganized piles of clothing at a local vintage store or Goodwill.

“Ebay was probably the first major consumer-to-consumer platform for reselling items and vintage items, but it’s fallen out of favor with younger consumers,” says Keith Niedermeier, an adjunct marketing professor at Wharton. “The platform is just not super appealing and it sells everything. These newer platforms are designed in a much slicker, social media-friendly way.”

Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn credits Rent The Runway, with removing some of the stigma around used or borrowed clothing. “Rent The Runway has actually made the process cool,” Kahn says.

The vintage or older items many recommerce sites carry are also very on trend, says Niedermeier, who is dad to a 15-year-old and 18-year-old. “Nirvana T-shirts are all over high schools again,” he points out. “The value of actual old-school Guns N Roses and Nirvana T-shirts is hundreds of dollars.”

And thanks to the internet, these days it’s easy to unearth sobering stats like this one: The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing, linens and other textiles every year, with most of it ending up in landfills, according to USA Today.  And H&M, Madewell and The North Face are just a few of the brands that offer customers rewards for bringing clothes into their stores to be recycled.

“Customers maybe 10 years ago were not aware or concerned [about what happens to textile waste], and now they clearly are,” says Wharton marketing professor Santiago Gallino. “Even if you’re a fast fashion brand that sells primarily new clothes, you need to think about how to communicate what happens to the garments that don’t sell.”

Gallino says consumer interest in slower fashion and the success of recommerce may also lead mainstream retailers to start rethinking their strategies.

“It’s possible some retailers will take a path of moving into a less fashion-oriented, higher-margin and more expensive product,” Gallino says. As an example, he pointed to Patagonia, which expects people who buy its clothes to pay a little more, but wear the items for years. “This is a business model that resonates with customers. The question is whether fast fashion can migrate, not the extreme of Patagonia, but to a cycle of less following the trends week by week and if so, can they do it in a way to still make reasonable profits.”

“Gen Z compared to earlier generations is definitely very price conscious. They’re digital natives and they’ve always been big price checkers…Resale sites are catering to buyers who want to get cool higher-end stuff at a lower price.” — Keith Niedermeier, Wharton Adjunct Marketing Professor

However price consciousness is another factor driving consumers to think about buying used clothing or accessories. It’s easier than ever to compare prices of different items, and unlike older consumers, Gen Z has never had to wonder if they could get a pair of sneakers or a coat cheaper somewhere else – they can find out quickly and easy with their mobile devices.

“Gen Z compared to earlier generations is definitely very price conscious,” says Niedermeier. “They’re digital natives and they’ve always been big price checkers. It’s very easy for them to access price information on anything they buy. Resale sites are catering to buyers who want to get cool higher-end stuff at a lower price, so this aligns with that part of their consumer behavior.”

In addition to wanting to be more sustainable in her choices, Bang’s evolution from avid mall shopper to dedicated thrifter was in part due to a need to find more affordable clothing and in part because she wanted to find items that were more unique.

“When I was around 13 I loved shopping at PacSun and Brandy Melville, but all the clothes I was buying looked the same as every girl around me,” she says. “I didn’t really like that. When I go thrifting, no one else is buying the things that I buy. Everything is one of a kind. That’s what makes it fun and I know it’s like that for me and for my friends.”

Two Customer Bases

Each recommerce site works a little differently. For example, ThredUp sends sellers a cleanout bag in the mail and pays for them to send it back. The RealReal works similarly, but has added a layer for authentication to make sure the designer goods sent by prospective sellers are the real deal. Poshmark and Depop are built more like social platforms, where sellers create their own digital storefronts and build a critical mass of followers. All of the sites keep a cut of the profits from sales.

“These companies have been savvy about trying to integrate everything we’ve learned in the last several years about creating a rewarding customer experience,” says Gallino. “These companies have two customers: The customer who brings the clothes to be sold and the one who shows up to buy them. They need to be conscious about both.”

Shoppers in the United States spend about $3.8 billion at retail stores each year. While recommerce counts for just a tiny piece of that — $24 billion last year – sales are expected to more than double to $51 billion by 2023, according to research done for ThredUp, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Consumers’ interest in recommerce is driving investors to take notice as well. The RealReal, which focuses on luxury goods, debuted as a public company on the stock market earlier this year and has a market value of more than $1.3 billion. Depop raised more than $60 million from investors in 2019 that it plans to use to expand in the U.S., its second biggest market after the site’s base in the U.K., and to ramp up its technology with better recommendations and image-detection algorithms, according to TechCrunch.

In addition to sites dedicated to recommerce, social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are also getting in on the act by making posts more “shoppable” so users can buy something they like without leaving the app.

The integration of social features also points to another big thing that’s driving the recommerce and clothing rental trend: Customers just don’t care as much about owning things, Kahn says. “What matters is the photograph and the posting on social media; you don’t have to own it if you took a picture of it,” she points out.

Bang’s favorite sources for recommerce are Depop, Instagram and Poshmark because the sites are more curated and usually have real people modeling the items for sale. She sells vintage items through an Instagram site and notes that, “if you just put up pictures of the clothes, they won’t sell.”

“… On the flip side of that, I think one reason why Thredup does so well is that it does appeal more toward older generations,” Bang says. “My mom really likes using sites like Thredup or Goodwill’s online site, but she never uses Depop or shopping through Instagram. It’s just a generational thing.”

Related Links

Conversation Starters

Do you shop recommerce? Why? Share your story in the comment section of this article.

Recommerce sales are expected to more than double to $51 billion by 2023. Do you think the mall is going out of style? Why or why not? Debate this issue in a group and with your classmates.

Research suggests that the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing, linens and other textiles every year, with most of it ending up in landfills. Have you thought much about this issue? Do you believe that it’s possible to be both fashion-forward and sustainable at the same time? What needs to happen to change or reform America’s throw-away mentality?

9 comments on “Fashionista Environmentalists Shop ‘Recommerce’ Instead of the Mall

  1. No the mall will never go out in style because the mall will constantly have customers in and out and worst comes to worst they wont even have to buy anything if the shops are repairing. A lot of people like to just go to the mall when their bored and want to go do something with their friends to have fun. And yes i shop recommerce because thats how i like to shop and how I manuever my ways to get things for the better of myself and ways to handle my responsiblities.

  2. It depends on the market, whether the malls are going out of fashion or not. For instance, in US it is predicted that about a ‘1000 malls’ (as mentioned in CNBC) may be shut in coming years. In other markets of the world, the situation is slight different, for instance still many developing countries like India are seeing boom in malls, while some other countries like UK may have altered, repurposed or reduced to something like open-space malls. On the other hand some countries still have less malls. In conclusion US has faced saturation in terms of mall building and slowly other markets are also facing competition from online retailers but still will take time for mall demise.
    Shopping through recommerce is an excellent idea, and it existed before some years when the things were durable and people used to use it for long. But in last 20 years people have moved towards a use-and-throw model, which is creating waste at exponential rate. Thus, moving back to recommerce is not a bad idea. Though it may take time to be in mainstream, but it will be there soon. It should not be just fashion goods, but all other goods which can be a part of recommerce. Thus, it’s ‘quite possible to be both fashion-forward and sustainable at the same time’. To change American mentality, the consumers need to take a step forward to show willingness for recommerce and then suppliers need to move forward to make long-lasting products which are eco-friendly. This idea needs to be promoted on every forum possible, and I believe that since youth has adopted it, it will make a change definitely.

  3. Why do some people pay so much for wines of older vintages? Oftentimes, greater value is assigned to these wines as the age is supposed to make them more special: heightened aromas, smooth flavors and a strong heritage that newer wines cannot match. However, how does this relate to the world of fashion?

    This article delves into an analysis of a few concepts which led to the prevalence of recommerce, ranging from an increasingly price-conscious Gen Z to the impact of social media, though the concept I will mainly focus on is that of the thrifting experience and what makes these vintage/secondhand garments so unique. In my opinion, the thrifting and recommerce experience is so special because it provides a more curated approach to fashion, whilst providing a platform for individuals to find pieces which allow them to develop their own self-expression. Your clothing is a marker of who you are, however, the confines of fast fashion, which has dominated the market for decades, often encourages young consumers to stay within the limits of what is considered at the moment to be ‘trendy’ by catering to specific designs and styles.

    When I was younger, the concept of where my trendy clothing originated from was something that I never even considered – I simply wanted to fit in and wear what everybody around me seemed to be wearing. In order to achieve this conformity, fast fashion stores such as GAP and Brandy Mellvile became like second homes to me. However, this perception began to change when a new term was introduced to me a few years ago: thrifting. Each article of clothing on the rack held its own unique story: a t-shirt commemorating a graduation in 1997, jeans covered in paint splatters, and aisles of dress shirts. While the dress shirts may all seem the same at first glance, a solid white or pale blue, perhaps lined with stripes, you will occasionally find a gem. For me, that piece was a lime green dress shirt lined with small prints of toucans from the late 1980s. I fondly remember jumping for joy when I saw that initial toucan from the corner of my eye. From that first find, I fell in love with thrifting, and how it allowed me to break free from trends and instead explore my own self-expression. I strongly relate to Bang’s experience, as being able to find unique vintage pieces, like my prized toucan shirt, makes recommerce so appealing.

    As the article pointed out, consumers, especially young consumers, are now spending significantly on vintage clothing, such as band T-shirts, as Professor Neidheimer shared. But what is causing this demand, and why are consumers willing to pay so much? In my opinion, this demand is largely sparked by a wave of nostalgia, and the circular nature of fashion. Fashion designers take inspiration from decades prior and repurpose the style to fit the trends of the modern day, and this is a cycle that repeats. This can be seen through the recent revitalization of the fashion of different decades such as fashion trends meant to emulate the disco craze of the 1970s with bell bottom pants and the return of the infamous velour tracksuits of the 2000s.

    However, fast fashion giants have noticed these trends too. Starting around 20 years ago, retailers have attempted to capitalize on people’s desire to wear garments that have history and stories that speak to their own identity by producing mass produced t-shirts containing generic slogans or references to old movies, TV shows and even bands. I believe that thrifting and recommerce is the next perhaps the step, and a much more authentic step, in that direction of bringing history/stories into one’s choice of garments.

    As I’ve delved into this world of recommerce, I’ve also managed to find my own style through the unique pieces that these sources offer. Instead of opting for that mass produced shirt with a generic slogan, I’ve found more comfort in wearing my vintage toucan shirt that I purchased secondhand. As Bang stated, recommerce is amazing in how it allows consumers to get pieces that are undoubtedly unique. While it is stunning that these re-homed clothes are able to get a renewed purpose, I find even more joy in the fact that these pieces also tell the stories of their previous owners, from frayed threads to small holes. To me, being able to give new life to older items of clothing whilst also having a one-of-a-kind piece is what makes the recommerce experience so appealing in a way in which fast fashion retailers simply cannot compete.

    I don’t know where my thrift store clothes originated from, or who owned them prior. However, the charm of these items is derived from the stories that they hold in their fabrics telling the history of these garments, and how every secondhand piece, tears and all, is truly one of a kind.

    • Genessa’s catch on the value and uniqueness of the thrifting experience is something I largely agree with, even as someone who rarely thrifts or shops. Growing up, I too also found myself attracted to the low prices and “in” styles—such as cartoon collaborations—of fast fashion giants. However, one experience changed my habit of shopping as a whole when I noticed that the almost-empty H&M shop at the local mall surprisingly had racks full of seasonal and trendy clothes that seemed virtually untouched. As I considered what would happen to the collections upon collections of unwanted products, I came to realize the wastefulness of the fashion industry as a whole. The issue of fashion waste became even more pressing to me after learning about the “super fast-fashion” brand Shein that took fast fashion measures to a new level of extremeness—even stealing countless designs from individual artists.

      Soon, I started to value clothes that I already had, and I noticed that wearing my school’s complimentary merchandise became a habit of mine too. While organizing my closet of clothes, I also came upon garments that—while way too small for me now—represented a part of my life too, such as a DIY Halloween T-shirt I created back in first grade. After seeing Genessa’s thoughts, I think than storing my old clothes away, I would rather pass them on to someone else who could wear them and give a new purpose to them too. Genessa’s insight on the joy of the journey of thrifting should be something more known and in my opinion, it could be a major appeal and incentive to encourage recommerce and reusing items in general.

      Therefore, while the sustainability aspect of reusing clothes and decreasing wasteful consumption/production is paramount, the experience and thrill of finding pre-owned clothes could also be a major motivator that retailers—such as Depop and ThredUp—or social movements could use to support this cause, especially when appealing towards younger audiences like us who seek both self-expression and fun experiences.

  4. It’s good to hear how recommerce is taking off. Gallino makes a great point about understanding both the seller and the buyer. I think today’s recommerce clothing companies can learn from other industries like used records or video games. Companies can do more to get desired products quicker into the hands of their consumers. They can use today’s technologies to better track inventory and availability. Data mining can tell them which items or brands are trending and they can increase their buyback efforts earlier to boost their inventories ahead of the demand.

    Charging more for better quality products that last longer can meet the goals of both businesses and environmentally conscious consumers. This approach can also fit well with buyers like Bang who want more unique products. Companies can tailor their offerings for a more individualized feel by letting consumers pick and choose or mix and match. They can allow consumers to pick out various retro buttons or zippers on both pants and shirts. This increased freedom may help these new companies justify their higher prices. Recommerce can be both trendy and profitable if we provide consumers with a more individualized buying experience.

  5. The odyssey of finding a personal style is ubiquitous for many adolescents. While finding your personal style may seem insignificant to the world, it offers identity and confidence, two traits that seem to be lacking in teens. I can speak from experience about how hard this trifling saga was for me, especially while instilling personal values like sustainability into shopping.

    After scrolling aimlessly with variations of “where to get cute clothes for teen girls” and “cool teen brands” typed into a search bar, I would come across a list of brands, all of which shared a fatal flaw. None of the brands were sustainable. While sustainability may not be the norm while shopping for most, it has been a huge pillar in my teenage life. Therefore, how could I, a person who offers lectures and preaches shopping sustainably as a mandatory part of all my friendships, not do as I say? Finding cute, affordable, and sustainable clothes is a hassle. However, reading this article was inspiring to me, seeing how much growth was predicted. I have made it my personal mission to identify innovative companies (and the pioneers who lead them) that are making strides in integrating sustainability and drive awareness towards these brands.

    As someone who has the privilege of living in a first-world country, I do not have to face many, if any, effects of unsustainable clothing. This problem may seem trivial to people not directly affected, but in other areas of the globe, enormous amounts of clothing are being dumped by the ocean, polluting the land, and people are overworked and poorly remunerated. An average of 70 pounds of clothing per American ends up in a landfill annually, a very high average indeed. I find it hard to simply ignore the articles, ignore the podcasts, ignore the photos, etc. Furthermore, I refuse to contribute to this problem. These are the reasons I choose to shop recommerce. Nevertheless, it is hard to change the mindset of other shoppers to persuade them to care about sustainability before buying outfits.

    While recommerce companies are currently on the rise, directly stopping clothes from being sent to landfills and stopping more products from being made, I think there needs to be more action taken to promote buying used clothes. While recommerce brands’ sales are expected to be $51 billion in 2023, that is only a small fraction of the $1.53 trillion that claims was made in the apparel market in 2022 alone.

    A contemporary solution for spreading awareness is to use influencers and celebrities. Influencing is a relatively new advertising method, with 92% of marketers having confidence that influencer marketing is efficient and effective and 75% actively using it as a marketing tool. Marketers target specific audiences through influencers. A recommerce brand, Depop, has been in a two-year decline for annual users. Recommerce brands need more engagement to stay relevant, for Depop especially with their younger audience of Gen Z. You could also use celebrities instead of influencers; an example is Shaquille O’Neal’s partnership with Papa John’s. This partnership sold three million units while also raising $3 million for charities— all in only two months. A second example is North West, who used Touchland, a hand sanitizer brand, in three Tik-Tok videos, and then the hand sanitizer became sold out at retailers. Although North West was not paid for or sponsored by Touchland, it shows how an influential person can skyrocket sales of items, items that my mom and sister are now constantly carrying with them. Paraphrasing what Keith Niedermeier, an adjunct marketing professor at Wharton, said, old and vintage pieces are coming into vogue again. Nonetheless, the initial rise in vintage and pre-owned items can be credited to influencers, like Youtubers and Tik-tokers, posting thrifting hauls, which turned it into a trend. If Depop and other resale brands followed suit and used influencer marketing, there could be a much-needed rise in resale websites.
    In conclusion, I would like to highlight the following top 10 list of companies I have identified—some of which are mentioned in this article—that are innovative pioneers in integrating sustainability with fashion. I would love to hear about other companies that you find inspiring and noteworthy!

    Pioneering Companies (that I recommend):
    MUD Jeans
    The Verticale

  6. “Kids don’t need to know about it.” When I was five years old, my cousin, Sean, who owns a clothes factory in Shenzhen, China, said this to me as I asked him, “Where do all these piles of clothes go?”

    His company produced clothes for sale, and I visited his factory frequently since I also lived in China. Every time I visited, I was full of curiosity and wondered about the pile of clothes and fabric that was stacked in the corner. Whenever I dug into the big pile, there were so many clothes that were in excellent condition. When I asked my cousin about them, he casually replied that they were unwanted clothes. I stared at the pile again, lifted a few, and tried to search for small details of mistakes on the clothes. Even after looking through 10 different clothes, turning them back and forth, and zooming into each little stitch, I still couldn’t find the reason why these clothes were not able to be shipped and sold. So, I asked my cousin where the mistakes were on these clothes. Then, he lifted a few and explained that some were produced a few centimeters smaller than the sample, and a few of them had a small dot of stain; therefore, these small mistakes lead to unwanted clothes.

    During my sophomore year in environmental science class, I was creating a research paper on microplastics. While I was watching “Fast Fashion: The Dumping Ground for Unwanted Clothes” on YouTube for resource purposes, I realized that those piles of clothes were becoming textile waste. Even clothes with minor mistakes in stitching or printing become unwanted clothes that need to be thrown away. According to USA Today, which was mentioned in the article, “the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing, linens, and other textiles every year, with most of it ending up in landfills.” In my cousin’s factory, most of the time, 10% of the clothes produced were unwanted and could not be sold; in some cases, 100% resulted in unwanted clothes.

    Unfortunately, these unwanted clothes and fabrics were not only thrown away in landfills but also in the ocean, leading to pollution in the marine environment due to textile dyes and microplastics from synthetic textiles. Also, this pollution causes water contamination in drinking water, which induces serious health issues such as cancer, cholera, and even death.

    After realizing the seriousness of this issue, I decided to create an online shopping mall called “PYW Clothing” that could contribute to resolving this issue by selling unwanted clothes. By utilizing my familiarity with social media, I made online sales on Instagram, selling clothes with minor errors and mistakes. The Instagram page has different posts about the clothes that I am selling, and there is a link, attached to the account that leads to my online mall.

    On this website, I have separated the garments into distinguishable sections: those with minor flaws and those with major flaws. The section for clothes with minor flaws is labeled “Unnoticeable Mistake.” In this section, I sell clothes with a length inaccuracy of less than 1cm. Another part is labeled “Reform Noticeable Mistake,” and it is for items with evident flaws such as stains or stitching errors. On this page, I sell clothes that I have refashioned into vintage and unique styles of clothing. The final section is titled “Donate.” To break the cycle of buying new clothes and discarding old ones, I set up this section on my website to minimize fabric waste by receiving donations from customers. We have added a reward system where whenever customers donate to our store, then they will receive a 10% discount for their next purchase. I have noticed that in the article, Keith Niedermeier mentioned, “Gen Z, compared to earlier generations, is definitely very price conscious. They’re digital natives, and they’ve always been big price checkers.” This has personally connected with my marketing strategy since my target audiences are teenagers. As they are more price-conscious and interested in unique clothing, I aimed to sell clothes at a lower price by utilizing unwanted clothes and reforming old clothes to attract young adults.

    With the development of technology and the increased use of media, marketing strategies have changed dramatically. As mentioned in the article, nowadays there are more resale sites and new ways of thrifting. This overlaps with the growing trend of vintage fashion and purchasing used items. After reading this article, I could understand the quote mentioned by Edward Enninful: “Fashion is no longer disposable.” As of now, it is noticeable that fashion trends are looping, with the trend from the 1990s coming back in 2020. By using this analysis of repeated cycles of fashion trends in current generations, businesses could kill two birds with one stone: minimizing textile waste and ocean pollution and furthermore, creating sustainable values for its stakeholders.

    • I checked out your website and it seems to serve a good purpose towards giving unwanted products a “second chance.” Although, I navigated the website on my phone but I am unable to purchase the items or view more details—the website’s functionality might need some work.

      Similar to what Yeonwoo noticed, I have witnessed quite a lot of shops that sell “problematic” clothes even though they seem fine, but I think the root issue is the strive for perfection in clothes. One comment by Genessa K focuses on the journeying experience that comes with thrifting—which is one possible solution to mitigate the stigma towards imperfect apparel.

      Overall, we need more consumers to be willing to understand the processes and waste that comes as a result of each piece of clothing. Your website is a great way to start, and there should be more awareness about such issues regarding factory waste. I gave a speech at my school about the need for each student to recognize how every small step can influence and perhaps save our environment. I am a firm supporter of reducing carbon footprints and I will continue to do my part and hopefully influence others to do so as well. While our actions may seem small, don’t give up! Good luck with your website!

  7. Opening my closet doors, I was faced with my daily task: choosing what to wear. My head veered to the window of my cluttered room. Seeing the raindrops race to slam against the roof adjacent to the window, I determined today that my outfit would definitely consist of a raincoat. I reached to grab my black and white Nike raincoat that I bought in the eighth grade. While trying to determine the remaining pieces of my outfit, I decided that I was going to wear my most “sustainable” outfit today, considering today was the day I would be announcing my new club at assembly. My club was called Shopping Sustainably (which I would later rename the Sustainable Fashion Club), so it was only fitting that I wore sustainable pieces.

    After staring at my closet for quite some time, I realized that I had no way of determining how sustainable any of my clothes were! Two years ago, I made the radical decision to label myself a shopaholic and decided to abstain from buying any new clothes. I made my decision to abstain from additional purchases of clothing that I absolutely didn’t need so that I would not be a contributor to the problem of unsustainable fashion. I was determined to be part of the solution. Despite my pride in making this challenging decision, this morning I was stuck staring at my previous purchases, unable to identify which ones I could actually be proud of wearing. I had no way to trace back to the factories and check if they were made ethically, and I did not have enough time (considering I had to leave my room in ten minutes for school) to read each label and check the materials they were made of. It was a disaster. The day I was announcing my fashion sustainability club, I had no way to be sure that what I was wearing was, in fact, sustainable, let alone help my peers determine if their outfit was sustainable or not. Sure, I knew most of the brands to avoid, but that was not good enough for me.

    On the long, rainy car ride to school, my eyes were glued to my phone, typing in different Google searches to find an easy way to tell how sustainable a brand was. Then I found Good On You, a website that offered ratings and explanations for a plethora of clothing brands. It was a breakthrough for me that day! I spent the remainder of the car ride typing in the brands I was wearing and other popular brands. Seeing the sustainability scores so easily amazed me! I had to share it with my club members–after I convinced people to join the club.

    I went into the assembly to announce my club, feeling nervous about speaking in front of my entire school. However, I felt compelled to share my message, the facts I had learned about sustainable fashion, and the urgency of the situation. After my announcement at the school meeting, I got a few club members! I was thrilled to see that people were inspired by my message and decided to join my club. On the way home from school, I eagerly planned my first meeting around an experiment. Since I found Good On You so fascinating, surely my classmates would as well. A game would await them at the first club meeting. My unsuspecting club members’ outfits would be rated (using Good On You), and points would be given for the most sustainable outfit, with the prize of a ten-dollar Dunkin Donuts gift card gifted to the winner. I excitedly sent out the Google Classroom announcement.

    Finally, the day arrived for my first club meeting. As members trickled in, I was sitting with a wipe board with categories labeled: tops, bottoms, socks, shoes, accessories, and other. Confusion was somewhat evident on some faces. After I explained the idea that we would evaluate how sustainable our clothing choices were and put the gift card on the table, the spirit of competition arose. Throughout the experiment, we discovered many shocking facts about our outfits. Brandy Melville was given the worst rating of “We Avoid” by Good On You, much to my friend Ava’s disappointment since she was fully fitted in Brandy Melville attire. The most sustainable brand at the table was surprisingly Nike, which had the rating “It’s a Start” yet was in the middle ground for sustainability.

    While playing the game, Sam spoke up and challenged the whole premise of the Good on You scorecard. She shared with everyone that she bought part of her outfit at Depop, a clothing resale site. She felt strongly that she should be rewarded by receiving bonus points for buying second-hand clothing. At first, I was not sure how to address this idea of changing the scorecard and the rules of the game I created. As our new club members and I considered Sam’s point, we realized that she was right. We decided to amend the initial rules that I set and grant Sam bonus points for her wardrobe.

    After Sam won the game wearing Nike and thrifted clothes (which got bonus points), a rematch was demanded. Yet this time, everyone would show up in their most sustainable outfits, and we could then utilize our newly invented point system for thrifted and second-hand clothing.

    My little experiment made me realize that most people do not consider the lens of sustainability while shopping and how helpful it is to have convenient websites to use as a guide. Sustainability in fashion is a multifaceted issue, with many factors contributing to how sustainable a brand is. Not taking into account points for second-hand clothing was an oversight by me in setting up the initial game. In a way, though, I’m glad it worked out the way that it did because it generated an interesting debate and it opened my classmates’ eyes to realizing you can shop the brands you love while saving both the environment and a little cash.

    I was inspired to learn about the different innovations related to recommerce that were highlighted in this article. Especially after our club’s experiment and Sam’s contribution to the discussion, I think everyone at the club started realizing that there are alternative ways to think about shopping. As mentioned by Rachel Bang in this article, giving “new life to older clothes… is what makes the recommerce experience appealing in a way in which fast fashion… cannot compete.”

    Sam left our first club meeting with a huge smile and a Dunkin Donuts gift card thanks to the load of extra points earned in the game from shopping at Depop, a recommerce app. Thinking of my club, I’m excited to share this article (and associated comments) with my club members to kick off the new school year so that we can consider these companies and apps mentioned in this article that are doing innovative work related to recommerce. According to an article by Allision Hagan and Robin Young “The Environmental Cost of Fashion”, each year 1.7 billion tons of CO2 are estimated to have been emitted by the fashion industry, which is more than the amount emitted by international flights and shipping. The U.N. stated that about 20% of the waste in the world is fashion. Shopping recommerce eliminates waste and reduces environmental impact—in landfills, natural resources, and the atmosphere. What better reasons are there to switch shopping habits? The more we learn about different approaches that contribute to sustainable fashion, the more we can be part of the solution.

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