Second-hand september: The startups using technology to take on fast fashion

By Emmaleigh Eaves

Second-hand September is here, and with traditional retail stores already struggling against the upsurge in e-commerce, Covid-19 seems to have only accelerated the digital shift.

Yet increasingly, more people are looking for sustainable ways to enjoy fashion. Despite the obvious economic struggles associated with the pandemic, these two trends of digitisation and sustainability are what fashion investors are looking for. 

According to Oxfam, every week 13 million items of clothing ends up in UK landfill, and it would take 13 years for one person to drink the water needed to make one cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans. 

As well as the environmental implications, disasters like the 2013 Rana Plaza Collapse and the poor treatment of retail workers during the pandemic have brought the exploitation in the industry to the public eye. 

Oxfam has launched this year’s Second-Hand September campaign, which aims to fight fast fashion by asking consumers to only shop second-hand for 30 days. 

The campaign encourages consumers to shop only second hand for thirty days, as shoppers and businesses are gradually waking up to the detrimental effects that fast fashion has on the environment.  

Second-hand September: Sustainable startups

As well as charities like Oxfam, fighting against the tide of constant consumption are technology startups are using their platforms to sell or rent pre-owned clothing. 

Richard Klin, a London real estate entrepreneur, told Business of Fashion: “If someone in fashion with 30 stores came to me, I wouldn’t be interested,” Klin said. “But if a brand has a clear story, solves a problem, and is going digital, I see a market for it.” 

People are realising that mindless consumption is not sustainable or ethical. Yet fast fashion e-commerce giants continue to dominate the market; e-commerce startups are trying to change that. 

Verdict explores the top online platforms that make wearing clothes sustainably simple during second-hand September.  

Second-hand e-commerce 

Affordable

Depop

Depop has an interface that resembles Instagram with features such as an Explore page and followers that make buying and selling stress-free. The 2011 start-up has fifteen million users worldwide, 90% of whom are under 25, making it one of the defining platforms of Generation Z. 

The app continues to grow. Last year it raised $62m (£51m) in a Series C round led by General Atlantic to fund US expansion and improvements in the app’s functionality. Over the past two years, it has worked on delivering relevant content to users. Depop uses a variety of services to target different users such as the Style Wizard.

The Style Wizard, Depop’ first personalisation feature, offers an interactive quiz that requires users to pick pictures, specific styles and brands that they like, and then generates tailored results. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the For You feature is geared towards more long-term, monthly users, and surfaces new content based upon past habits and interactions. The easy interface makes making sustainable choices easy.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Hanging on to summer with pops of pastels from shopcoolcats on #depop

A post shared by Depop (@depop) on

One Scoop Store and Stashrak

One Scoop Store and Stashrak are two e-commerce startups dedicated to pre-owned fashion. Whilst Depop works on a peer-to-peer (P2P) basis, teams at One Scoop Store and Stashrak source all pieces on-sale themselves. 

Teams at the companies have rummaged through piles at car boot sales and scoured the racks at charity shops so customers are spared the effort. 

The websites mirror the models of traditional e-commerce brands. Users can use filters, categories and search functions to find what they are looking for.  

Luxury 

VestiaireCollective

Vestiaire Collective is at the forefront of the second-hand luxury online fashion market, securing investment of €59m from various investors in April this year and with lockdown sales up from the previous year. The website offers all the usual functions of an e-commerce site, with an option for users to sell their luxury items with them through their app. Curated trend edits on the home page make shopping more interactive. 

Rebag

The New York-based bag and accessories platform Rebag raised $15m in Series D Funding in May this year, which it plans to invest in improving its e-commerce tools. Chief Executive Charles Gorra told Business of Fashion “As a digitally native company, we’re focusing primarily on our digital footprint.” 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

All you need is love, but a little Dior couldn’t hurt either 😉💙 📸: @corinchristiann #Rebag #Dior #bagoftheday

A post shared by Rebag (@rebagofficial) on


Other examples of designer retail sites on the market include The RealReal and Designer Exchange. 

Rentals and Swaps 

Rental services have existed for years but have never been consumers’ first choice in comparison to fast fashion. In 2018, however, the online clothing rental market was estimated at $1.12bn with a forecasted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4% in the 2019-2025 period in an accordance with the growing e-commerce market. This projection suggests that clothing rental may be an increasingly popular alternative to fast fashion in the coming years. 

Affordable

By Rotation

By Rotation is the UK’s leading fashion rental app and is free to download and use. Users can list their items for customers to rent on a piece by piece basis at a daily rate. A designated home page on the app offers suggestions, curated edits and brands to make renting an exciting option even in day-to-day life. 

Nuw

Nuw is a community-based swapping app. Members pay a flat monthly fee of £7.99 and then have unlimited access to pieces they can borrow or swap. Whilst traditional rental services are often used for statement pieces, Nuw allows the opportunity to enjoy the social side of fashion in sharing clothes as a new community. 

Nuw also commit to sustainability by offsetting 25% of the resources that would have been used to produce a new piece. 

Luxury

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway was one of the first online clothing rental services on the market and continues to offer alternatives to buying high-ticket items. Users must pick a membership scheme which range from $89/month to $159/month depending on how many items they wish to borrow at a time. At the higher end of the spectrum, the service gives members access to luxury items perfect for occasions, meaning that clothes will survive longer than one Instagram post. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

How to mix up our next Facetime (now that we’re 6 months in) 💁‍♀️ @nikkipaige1396 wearing @jonathansimkhai

A post shared by Rent the Runway (@renttherunway) on

Similar online services include Onloan, Front Row and Cocoon. 


Read more: How PlatformE is fighting fast fashion with big data.