Participating in the program is straightforward, people can request a prepaid shipping label from the website and send their clothes to ThredUp for sorting. It’s estimated that 50% of clothing from each kit received will qualify for resale, the rest can be returned to the sender or continue to be responsibly recycled.
Sellers who qualify to have their preloved clothing sold on the website will receive between three and 80 percent of the sale price. This depends on the brand and condition of the item, for example a seller may receive 21 percent of the sell price for a J Crew sweater compared to a Celine handbag which might receive up to 80 percent of its sell price. Although Tommy Hilfiger is strict when it comes to value brands such as Zara, Asos, GAP and Levi’s as they are typically low price items and will cost more to process than its resale value.
In the US, it’s estimated that 36 billion clothing items are thrown away each year. A staggering number when 95 percent could be reused or recycled. Through this program, Tommy Hilfiger aims to extend the life of clothing by shopping for second hand clothing which will have a flow on effect. Reducing the need to buy new, slowing down clothing production and diverting clothes from going to landfill.
ThredUp’s 2022 Resale report shows that the second hand market in the US is expected to more than double by 2026. Taking its value to an estimated $82 billion in just four short years. With technology and marketplaces driving growth, making it easier and more convenient for shoppers to browse and purchase preloved clothing online.
However, there are a couple of conflicting issues at the intersection of resale and circular fashion and Tommy Hilfiger’s collaboration with ThredUp mentions it on their website. Clothing sent to ThredUp for resale needs to have sizing information intact and the item must not be altered.
Alterations and custom fit
This leads to an important conversation around made to measure, personalised or custom fit, and general alterations. It is becoming commonplace for premium and challenger brands to offer a specialised service to make clothes specifically to a customer’s measurements.
Some brands are incorporating fit technology into the process, making it easy for customers to take their measurements at home. Data captured enables brands to design and manufacture custom fit clothing for their customers to own and wear longer as it becomes an investment piece. But, after 10 or 15 years, we can be inspired by Marie Kondo to reorganise our lives and that custom made item gets sent to the thrift store. Because in our minds it’s too good to throw away.
However, for the next owner, it’s not a perfect fit and the sizing information may not have captured the item’s specifications accurately. At this point, we’ll be at another impasse in fashion’s circular journey with millions of custom fit clothes stuck in limbo. Unless we start thinking about this now and coming up with solutions in preparation. Otherwise very little will change in the scheme of things and these clothes end up in landfill.
It’s likely the technology to support this impending challenge will advance just as quickly as the resale market. Brands will need to integrate physical and digital methods to capture the size and shape of a custom fit item, securely attach it to the item and ensure it stays with the item through its life, from first owner and beyond. Then as marketplaces evolve, ideally their digital capabilities will group and filter clothing by shape, fit and size down to the cm.
This dilemma raises a second question, with the resale market booming is hyper-consumerism around fast fashion shifting to preloved fashion?
Fast (preloved) fashion
In ThredUp’s Resale report, it states that most shoppers aspire to buy more secondhand and want to quit fast fashion. However, 59 percent of fast fashion shoppers felt that shopping for fast fashion was a difficult habit to stop. And 72 percent of consumers said they buy fast fashion because it’s cheap and convenient.
On the flip side, thrift shoppers who buy second hand clothes believe they save money, gain access to higher-end brands and sometimes find those one-of-a-kind pieces. As resale increases, so does consumerism and buying based on trends for a quick fix. This isn’t too different from buying behaviours and sentiment related to shopping for fast fashion.
Data from the Resale report suggests that purchasing behaviour is at odds with values. However, shopping for clothes is far more complex than many people realise. There are multiple personal factors about an individual that drive purchase decisions. Their preferences, socioeconomic status, goals, their identity, social life, religion and beliefs. It could also be based on an upcoming event, mood or to be part of a TikTok trend.
About five years ago, I said on a podcast “fast fashion has a place, but it doesn’t have a home.” Meaning the disruptive force of fast fashion has shown a traditional industry a very new and quick way to design, manufacture and distribute faster than anything else in the world. The feeling of fast fashion also holds little weight in hearts and wardrobes.
These are growing pains in a global fashion system that is accelerating, while finding faults along the way. And as the resale market continues to make its way into retail strategies, brands such as Tommy Hilfiger will integrate aspects of new retail in an effort to do better.
Like a custom fit garment, brands are tailoring business components to their taste and objectives. We just need to be able to sustain it with little impact on the planet and put avenues in place to ensure we are consuming, reusing and recycling responsibly.