The question of sustainable retail has played on my mind throughout the events of 2020. I think particularly the inhumane nature of the pandemic has urged myself and many others to fantasise over a world without suffering including moving towards a sustainable and ethical lifestyle in all aspects. Of course, fast fashion is the second biggest polluter and has become an evident priority to fix.

I’ve noticed an increase in sales on my personal Depop. You could question whether this is because people have had more time to engage in retail therapy, but it also plays into question if second hand garments are progressively getting more popular. Stores such as SHEIN, DHgate and AliExpress are known for their cheap clothing whilst also plagiarising luxury/independent brands. What I’ve noticed however is younger people have shifted their desire to purchase from these online stores. For example, on TikTok what started out as a “life hack” to get more affordable clothing has proceeded into a debate of ethics and creators encouraging to refrain from using these fast fashion stores. Not only is it unethical from how the garment is produced but it also enables small brands who work hard, to get their designs copied. Despite the understanding some people can’t afford branded clothing, with apps such as Depop/eBay/Vestiare Collective/Vinted it enables everyone to buy affordably (including luxury brands) because the garments are second-hand.

Creators such as ‘RUA CARLOTTA’ who upcycles clothes and creates patchwork pieces has had her platform grow significantly through the pandemic, even being featured by the likes of Vogue. It’s becoming evident that used clothes can become popular and desirable so why would we divert back to shopping new? Previously, many would rely on the physicality of going into a store to buy clothes. Evidently, this is a luxury we’ve rarely been able to experience through the pandemic and the core of purchases have been made online. However, the nature of this will never diminish as people want the experience of going into a store, particularly amongst designer brands it almost becomes the primary focus of the experience.

The matter of the fact is there are too many clothes. Those garments that don’t get sold at the charity shops will only go on to be burnt or buried in precious land. It’s estimated in Ghana around 15 million items are sent there each week to their cantonment market. So there are more than enough second-hand clothes to satisfy everyones needs. The progression of online resellers that specialise in certain styles will only help people shop more conveniently, in their style and sustainably from their own homes.

To conclude, with the progression of sustainability it’s evident retail will have to do better if they want to keep their customers. Huge names like Gucci are already engaging in the idea of second-hand areas within their store. Then Stella McCartney is progressively making her line more ethical by the day, educating people with her website, filled with details of how she contributes down to what materials are used and her ‘mission statement’. It reflects a positive motive for her brand, even if the whole line isn’t completely sustainable yet there’s a clear rationale of how she intends to continuously better the brand. It has created a new competition amongst the fashion industry and could easily become an expectation within events such as fashion week, where designers will be more likely be commended for their progression to sustainability.