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A massive force is reshaping the fashion industry: secondhand clothing. According to a new report, the U.S. secondhand clothing market is projected to more than triple in value in the next 10 years — from $28 billion in 2019 to $80 billion in 2029 — in a U.S. market currently worth $379 billion. In 2019, secondhand clothing expanded 21 times faster than conventional apparel retail did.
Even more transformative is secondhand clothing’s potential to dramatically alter the prominence of fast fashion — a business model characterized by cheap and disposable clothing that emerged in the early 2000s, epitomized by brands such as H&M and Zara. Fast fashion grew exponentially over the next two decades, significantly altering the fashion landscape by producing more clothing, distributing it faster and encouraging consumers to buy in excess with low prices.
While fast fashion is expected to continue to grow 20 percent in the next 10 years, secondhand fashion is poised to grow 185 percent.
As researchers who study clothing consumption and sustainability, we think the secondhand clothing trend has the potential to reshape the fashion industry and mitigate the industry’s detrimental environmental impact on the planet.