Products of Change


Wed 01 Feb 2023 | by Rob Hutchins

Wardrobe sufficiency and 'slow fashion' key to cutting individual emissions, says research

The apparel resale market is positioned to grow by 67.5% over the next three years, as young shoppers, retail platforms, and even brands begin to look toward ways to ‘slow fashion down.’ GlobalData research tells us that the UK market for second-hand fashion has grown an impressive 149% between 2016 and 2022 and is forecast to continue rising. Brands have been playing a significant role in encouraging a ‘slow fashion market’ while more public interest in dressing sustainably and the current cost-of-living crisis have fuelled a boom in trade for charities and online sellers like Depop and Vinted. ITV’s Love Island, for instance, embarked on a breakthrough new partnership with eBay UK last year to place resale and second-hand fashion front and centre among younger audiences. The platform went on to appoint its first Pre-Loved ambassador in Love Island contestant Tasha Ghouri before reprising sponsorship of the show for its current 2023 series. And fashion influencer engagement doesn’t end there. With attention turning to fashion as February gives way to Fashion Week 2023, the influencer marketing platform Room Unlocked aims to be at the forefront of sustainability by discussing how brands can carry out more conscious campaigns and work with content creators to do so. Meanwhile, the Financial Times’ fashion editor, Lauren Indvik, this week placed ‘slow fashion’ at the forefront of conversation by committing to limit her fashion purchases to only five new garments and four second-hand pieces this year. The commitments were made in alignment with recent research from the Berlin-based think tank, Hot or Cool Institute that states the crucial need to cut the annual carbon emissions generated by our wardrobes to 128.7kg if we are to get close to the ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC by 2030. The group – responsible currently for studying the intersection of sustainability and society – goes on to suggest that in the UK this means we should be buying no more than nine new garments a year. Given that the average UK shopper is currently on track to buying 27 new items a year by 2030, this is going to require the brakes being put on the global fast fashion scene with some urgency. In other parts of the G20, where the average emissions generated by a single garment is higher, the number garments purchased a year to cut our average 'wardrobe emissions' is limited to five. ‘In the 1960s, an average French wardrobe consisted of around 25 outfits, and 40 pieces in total,’ Hot or Cool’s research titled Unfit, Unfair, Unfashionable – Resizing Fashion for a Fair Consumption Space, tells us. More recent studies suggest that the average wardrobe size has increased substantially since the ‘50s and ‘60s. Wardrobe size in the Netherlands, for example, varies from 70 pieces up to 429 pieces. The reports suggests that a sufficient wardrobe for a two-season country would total 74 garments including shoes, and a total of 84 garments in a four-season country. It breaks this down further presenting an equation for a sufficient wardrobe; 74 garments would give you enough for 20 outfits: 6 for workwear, 3 for home wear, 5 for sports and activewear, 2 outfits for festive occasions, and 4 for the great outdoors. While the research highlights a cultural lean into second-hand shopping, it’s quick to highlight that it won’t play the desired role in bringing fashion industry – or individual carbon footprint – emissions down, unless second-hand garments are being bought instead of new, and not simply alongside. “The rise in online clothes swapping platforms has been meteoric, with names such as Thredup, Poshmark, The Real Real, and Depop joining eBay,” reads the report. “The French designed resale firm Vinted created a market of 22 million people in just one year through an app for peer-to-peer mobile sales of second-hand clothing. The caveat here is that selling old clothes in order to buy new is not a sustainable option; the commitment to second-hand needs to be total, with better regulations to prevent dumping of second-hand clothes either domestically or through exporting. “Maintenance of existing clothes can. However, be fun and offer opportunity for creative work, community activity, and family cohesion – learning to sew, embroider, knit, or crochet can help intergenerational communications while reusing resources and reducing consumption.”