The Re-Use Revolution

Ever since we began researching clothing re-use for our book ThriftStyle, we have been heartened to see thrifting move from the fringes into a true movement.

This week brings the momentous news that the luxury department store Nordstrom, which has 379 stores in 40 states, will begin selling used clothing online and in its new store on the upper West Side of Manhattan. Its initiative, called See You Tomorrow, gives walk-in customers gift cards for their used jewelry, clothing, handbags and shoes. Once repaired, the items will be resold by Nordstrom. The retailer soon will accept mailed-in items for resale.

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Other mass retailers — J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, Von Mauer and Madewell — also began offering used clothing, accessories and shoes on its shelves and racks in recent years.

Additionally, several other clothing retailers have joined Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, H&M and North Face in buying back clothes (usually for $5) that can be repurposed for use, rather than piling up in landfills.

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The chain stores specializing in worn wear, such as Clothes Mentor, Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, Uptown Cheapskate, Once Upon a Child and Style Encore, are thriving, not to mention stalwarts such as Goodwill, Salvation Army and Value Village.

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There are now live fashion shows devoted solely to thrifted or DIY-created clothing from discards, and this season Project Runway had a challenge using items found at Goodwill. Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week is in its sixth year and includes a 68-Pound Challenge, where designers create a runway collection of used textiles. The title refers to the average amount of fabric Americans throw away each year.

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Online sellers of used clothing, shoes and accessories, such as ThredUp, Postmark, Tradesy and The RealReal, are growing in size and consumer acceptance. ThredUp furnishes the garments on offer in Macy’s stores, which offers a resale section in about 8 percent of its stores.

(Even browsing through a theater magazine shows the reach of this movement. Second Chances: The Thrift Shop Musical is a based on friendships found in a thrift store. And we still love Macklemore’s hit song “Thrift Shop”  from 2013.)

These wide-scale retail developments show that resale is booming. Recently, The Washington Post cited a ThredUp report finding that resale will triple in the next three years, to $7 billion annually. The report found that 56 million women made a resale purchase in 2018, up from 44 million in 2017.

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The re-use philosophy – saving the environment while saving money – is the reason we were motivated to interview hundreds of thrifters, shop owners, stylists, costume designers, estate sellers and clothing repair specialists who value the craftsmanship and creativity in secondhand apparel and accessories.

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ThriftStyle readers are believers in the value of reused fashion. It’s gratifying to see sustainable fashion finding more adherents daily.

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2 thoughts on “The Re-Use Revolution

  1. So happy to have this information. I had no idea how widespread and beyond Goodwill and Salvation Army the resale market has moved.

    I used to buy “gently used” pieces from the Eileen Fisher outlet in Irvington, NY when I was visiting relatives near there.

    Thanks, as always, for an interesting and inspirational post.

    Kathy Phelan

    Like

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