Secondhand shopping is an integral part of the Sustainability movement and getting quite popular with every year. But is it sustainable enough or it has an unseen dark side too?

secondhand fashion downsides

Secondhand shopping is something to be encouraged and adopted by everyone. It is an integral part of the sustainability movement. Secondhand industry promotes circular fashion but is it sustainable enough on environmental and social justice terms, we are about to know it.

As the climate crisis is awaiting on our doorsteps and ready to storm in to cleanse humankind all because of this insatiable thirst of consumption. In this scenario, the second hand industry seems quite reasonable. But today we are not here to discuss the good sides of this emerging secondhand industry. When the world is celebrating secondhand September, I want to draw  attention towards its downside.

To understand this clearly lets see some statistics of secondhand industry. According to a global report, the secondhand industry of clothing will grow to $84 billion by 2030 whereas the Fast Fashion industry will be worth $40 billion.

The issue here is that overconsumption rates have gone even higher than before. According to one report of Thredup  secondhand  fashion industry is growing faster than the sustainable clothing industry. Which clearly shows the mass buying and selling of mostly pre consumption of fast fashion. We will have to understand that the reason we discourage fast fashion is because of its policy of encouraging overconsumption. And clearly this emergence of secondhand industry is a red signal in the way of stopping overconsumption. It is definitely a solution of reusing mass production of fast fashion but definitely not a sustainable solution.

Now let us come to another dark aspect of the flourishing secondhand industry. Second biggest reason to boycott the fast fashion industry is its blood sucking exploitation of workers. That is the biggest social justice issue of the time. It promotes an unethical working environment for artisans and daily wagers because of the cheap prices of clothing by producing on mass level. All these unethical practices are going to thrive even more if we keep consuming resale of Fast Fashion. Secondhand industry is just an indirect gateway for dumping mass produced fast fashion. According to one report, Fast Fashion brands like SHEIN introduce new collections every 6 to 7 days which is the lowest of the time in comparison to any other fast Fashion brands. By doing so, SHEIN made around annual income of $10 Billion USD. And it doesn’t end here, giant secondhand companies are partnered with Fast Fashion Brands and also collect already consumed FAST FASHION clothing directly through the customers and resell them. In this way overconsumption comes back in the business again. Decreased quality and mass demand will never get workers to the ethical environment as well as fair wages. 

Thirdly and most importantly, the Secondhand industry has affected developing countries financially and economically. Fast fashion clothing brands are partnering with re- Commerce companies to get into the secondary market of apparel. They are getting their second hand apparels imported to African and Asian countries. According to one report by Thredup, because of a big bounce in awareness for sustainable clothing, the secondhand market is on boom more than ever. 70 percent of the population globally are consumers of the secondhand market.

This situation has created big risks for the home grown brands and small businesses as producers and traders of sustainable clothing of respective countries. People prefer to buy cheap second hand clothing than reasonably priced homegrown sustainable clothing. According to one report, the African Association had to pass a law for the prevention of imports of secondhand clothing. But illegal dumping of clothes continues there. Some Asian countries like the Philippines and India have banned second hand clothing imports. But there some companies from Canada and USA are illegally dumping the used clothing in India. The biggest secondhand market of Gujarat carries 25 per cent second hand clothing dumped from western countries despite of all prohibition.

So does that mean we should stop shopping secondhand? I have a wider answer than just a yes or no. In my personal opinion, we should be very mindful regarding whatever we are consuming. At Least we can weigh our options. I have put some points which can work in a situation of getting something secondhand.

Shop homegrown In condition of buying something for yourself, check the available homegrown sustainable brand in your budget. I am not saying one should go broke while putting effort into the conscious lifestyle. But we really need to support local artisans and small and cottage sustainable brands and need to create a conducive environment for them.

Putting Quality over Quantity Cheap fast fashion quality is known to everyone and if they are out for resale, quality will be even more compromised. If one must buy secondhand or preloved, prefer quality over quantity. In this way clothes will last longer and consumption will also be less.

 Personal Style Finding one’s own style is really helpful in consuming better and less. If you know your personal style it gets easier to find the quality  pieces which you can mix and match and wear for a long time. Which will also help you avoid junk shopping and increase the quality of your capsule wardrobe.

Need Vs Want Whether it is first hand shopping or secondhand, rules of conscious shopping will be the same. Sleep on things you want before you buy it. Weigh its importance if you really need it or you just want it. Need stands for quality and it is going to stay there in your wardrobe. Something looking good on someone, doesn’t mean your personal style matches with it.

Minimal Wardrobe Minimal wardrobe doesn’t mean having four pieces of clothes. It means having a circular wardrobe which contains your essentials you like to wear throughout the year carefully selected for each season.  And Buy only to refill when  you are out of one of or some of your essential pieces or mix and match to expand the horizons of your wardrobe utility.

So these were my thoughts on the second hand clothing industry. Idea behind this article was to expose something popular with a clean image and a lot of white washing and glorification involved  which has not come into the limelight yet.

However, finishing this article with a good note, “ we must want less and become minimalists in order to keep our landfills clean to protect our mother earth and restore social justice by providing an environment where sustainability and consciousness can grow. By doing so, we can dream of a greener tomorrow.”


















    1. Thredup 
    4. BBC
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