Gen Z’s shopping for habits — which run the gamut from eco-friendly resale web sites like Depop to wasteful fast-fashion retailers like Shein and Vogue Nova — might sound incongruous at finest, or hypocritical at worst.
That is as a result of, regardless of being heralded as the most eco-conscious generation, Gen Z’s infatuation with inexpensive garments within the face of the rising consciousness of their environmental ramifications raises questions on what the attract of resale and sustainable style truly is. Are younger adults actually buying their clothes with the planet in thoughts? Or does resale merely supply one other inexpensive consumption possibility that enables them to maintain up with ever-changing developments within the social media age?
I would vote the latter.
The proliferation of resale retail websites has allowed anybody to turn out to be a digital retailer proprietor, promoting and transport their items to patrons everywhere in the world. ThredUp, the biggest of the web consignment shops, claims that by 2029, off-price retailers resembling itself will make up 19 p.c of the market, whilst shops promoting new garments dwindle to only 7 p.c. In August, clothes-selling app Depop counted 30 million energetic customers throughout 150 international locations. When retail suffered in the course of the pandemic, the reseller sold around $660 million in merchandise in 2020, truly doubling gross sales from the 12 months prior. Even Gucci and Burberry have launched their very own resale applications to get in on the sport.
All these corporations share a key demographic of their buyer base: Gen Z. Ninety p.c of Depop’s customers are younger than 26. As Esquire UK reported, “Depop — like its contemporaries The Actual Actual, Grailed, Poshmark, and Vestiaire Collective — has capitalized on a want amongst younger customers to buy classic.” However is the recognition of Depop truly a mirrored image of Gen Z’s heightened environmental consciousness?
It is true the setting tops the list of concerns for Gen Z; in spite of everything, they’re the primary technology to develop up with an consciousness of the quite a few and always worsening results of local weather change. And for not less than some, this anxiousness informs their procuring selections: In the words of one high school student who spoke to The New York Times, thrifting is the right reply for somebody money-conscious and sustainability-focused, as “it is normally very low cost and helps hold completely fantastic clothes out of landfills!”
However complicating that conclusion is the parallel explosion of environmentally detrimental quick style e-commerce corporations just like the Chinese language retailer Shein. In a revealing 2020 Vogue Business survey, greater than half of the 105 members of Gen Z surveyed reported shopping for “most of their garments” from fast-fashion manufacturers. Shein alone earned nearly $10 billion in 2020 — its eighth consecutive 12 months of income progress over one hundred pc. In Might of this 12 months, the Shein app overtook Amazon to turn out to be essentially the most downloaded procuring app within the U.S. The positioning can be not solely probably the most mentioned manufacturers on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube, but in addition the most-visited fashion and apparel site in the world.
However on-line retailers like Shein should not a brand new phenomenon — or not precisely. Immediately’s fashionable fast-fashion retailers stole a web page from a playbook perfected over the past two decades by brick-and-mortar shops like Zara and H&M, whose extraordinarily low costs and knock-off designs contribute to their elevated consumption in addition to their dispensability. Clothes from Shein, for instance, usually ranges from between $8 to $30. And whereas Shein has turn out to be the chief on this market, there are many different locations to supply low cost fast-fashion gadgets, from Missguided and Vogue Nova to Boohoo and Fairly Little Factor. This mannequin has clearly profited off Gen Z’s want to pay much less for extra.
All this consumption will not be with out penalties. Whereas quick style manufacturers usually come below fireplace for doubtful manufacturing and employee therapy practices, their scale and consequent waste are additionally extremely unsustainable. Quick style corporations produce 10 p.c of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions yearly whereas using an estimated 1.5 trillion liters of water yearly, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change. The worldwide style trade itself contributed to 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse fuel emissions in 2018, which quantities to 4 p.c of complete international emissions — that is more than double the emissions of the worldwide aviation sector. What’s worse, over 50 p.c of quick style clothes are reportedly disposed of inside a 12 months of producing; the common American throws out an estimated 70 kilos of textiles and garments yearly. In the meantime, Shein and its ilk churn out 1000’s of things every week for lower and lower prices due to a enterprise mannequin that relies on little take care of environmental prices or the next accumulation of waste.
By being a part of the circular economy, websites like Depop do present a way for lowering waste and emissions — and in an ideal world, it’d scale back the size of manufacturing at present required of the style trade. However this is the sticking level: As a study by sustainability consulting agency Quantis notes, to be efficient, a round economic system should not result in extra consumption, which may happen if there’s a “rebound impact of elevated or ongoing quick style consumption.”
Thus, whereas Depop’s recognition continues to rise, so does the stress to have a seemingly infinite closet that may sustain with the breakneck pace of developments. This want has been appeased by quick style, but in addition by the chance offered by resale websites to make room in a single’s closet for extra … and increasingly. As one Depop vendor revealingly writes in her bio, “I like all of those garments however I hate sporting issues greater than as soon as.”
So whereas on-line consignment retailer websites are on the rise, in the intervening time, they don’t seem to be a lot of a risk to their much less sustainable e-commerce competitors. Members of Gen Z need extra for much less, and resale has turn out to be simply one other technique to maintain this consumption.
Maybe, as the results of local weather change multiply, a higher sense of urgency will trickle all the way down to Gen Z’s shopping for habits. However for now, sustainability will not be essentially what’s “in” for Gen Z. It is nonetheless concerning the look — secondhand or not.