The World of Fashion Resale


Kendra Williams explores the growth of the fashion resale market, and whether it’s an entirely good thing.

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Image by cchana

By Kendra Williams

Editor’s Note: Before I start I have to give a big thanks to my friend Joel, a fashion icon and (self proclaimed) best DJ in the world, who helped me so much with this article.

Since we all have become increasingly aware of the dangers of fast fashion, there has been a huge growth in second-hand shopping. Charity shops are now always on my list if I visit a new city, and you’ll find me frequenting Vinted just as much as any other fashion website. And I am not alone. The resale site Depop made over $300 million in 2021, and the veteran resale site eBay turned over more than $10 billion. Resale is big business.

The number of users on these sites proves there is a real desire for a circular fashion market, especially as it reduces the amount of new clothes that are bought and helps to curb the devastating consequences of fast fashion.

There have been a number of brands starting their own resale marketplaces – dedicated Muse Fashion readers will remember the controversial launch of ‘Pretty Little Thing Marketplace’, which aroused widespread concern about the viability of reselling cheaply made fast fashion pieces. However, there have also been a lot of high fashion brands entering this space. Oscar de la Renta, for example, curates archival garments to resell through its Encore initiative, and Gucci has even created the Gucci Vault, which offers “made to treasure” reconditioned archival items. Although if you were hoping this might be a cheaper alternative to buying off-the-rack Gucci you might be in for a bit of a shock…

However, the reality of the resale market has a darker side than just getting a great deal on some vintage Chanel. When we enter the world of hardcore resale, we face a significant beast: price gouging.

Those among you who might have tried to get concert tickets for a huge artist have probably experienced this phenomenon – people buying up tickets (or clothes, or handbags, or trainers) and then reselling them for a massively inflated price. This often happens on a small scale when a brand becomes rapidly popular. Take, for example, the brand Always Do What You Should Do, which is currently having its moment in the sun. A brown hoodie from their collection will cost you £90 from their website but has listings for up to £190 on Depop. Another good example is the Valentines Air Force (an admittedly beautiful shoe that I would love to get my hands on). Air Force 1s will normally set you back just over £100 depending on the size, but the limited edition Valentines colour-way is currently being listed for over £300 on StockX and over £400 on other resale sites.

There’s a real possibility that my problem with this is just the idea of capitalist ‘profit’ – but something about this makes me feel a little uneasy. Why should people have to shell out hundreds of pounds for jumpers and shoes just because a crafty reseller got to them first? Although I’m sure resellers would tell me that these items, such as my beloved Valentines Air Force, are collectors items which are destined to sell for a higher price and I should just wake up earlier to get them, (though to them I might reply that no amount of skipping my morning bagel will make me faster than AI).

Credit: Garry Knight

Platforms such as StockX have also faced issues related to authentication. A little background on StockX if you have not been acquainted – it is a resale platform, primarily for ‘sneakers’, whose USP is the authentication of items, which they handle on their own premises before sending out to the buyer. However, in a lawsuit from Nike itself, StockX was accused of distributing counterfeit goods. StockX strongly refutes the claims and accuses Nike of distracting from other issues. But the controversy has followed StockX, and 27 percent of their TrustPilot reviews are just one star. So how confident can you feel when buying resale items? Well, my friend Joel (a veteran of the resale world) has some tips to identify fake items when buying second hand:

  • Look out for pictures that are all taken in different places because they are most likely not the seller’s own pictures.
  • Sellers with no reviews and no replies should cause alarm.
  • And always remember: prices that seem ‘too good to be true’ probably are.

For those of you that thought “well, Kendra, that sounds scary, but it looks like there's a tidy profit to be made, maybe I’ll sell instead!” – I have some unfortunate news. There are some risks for individual sellers. Depop, eBay and other notable platforms have an incredibly tight system of regulation which normally privileges the buyer. As a seller, if a buyer reports your items as fake or faulty they will most likely receive a full refund – resulting in you losing both the item and the money. It seems that there are a lot of hidden dangers for people on both sides of the transaction.

Despite all I have said, I don’t want to put people off the resale market, particularly as buyers of second hand clothes. Creating a circular economy is essential to curbing environmental damage, and clothes are as good a place as any to start. Clothes which are well made from durable fabrics most likely have a lot more life left in them and offer you the chance to create a unique wardrobe. But do try and heed my warnings and approach with caution when shopping the resale market online. Remember, there’s little better than a charity shop – the pinnacle of ethical resale.