Second Hand Shopping Gets A Digital Upgrade


A number of new startups bring convenience to the second hand fashion world.

When it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for the environment is not buy new clothes. A satisfying second best for those not quite ready for minimalist fashion – and I don’t mean the monochromatic simplicity seen at the recent pre-fall collections – is buying second hand clothing.

A growing number of new startups such as Poshmark, Threadflip, The RealReal, Copius, Tradesy and Twice are targeting online shoppers to buy and sell used clothing from their own closets. P2P. Buying green fashion that fits your style has never been more fun or easy.

According to Lorraine Sanders founder of Digital Style Digest, a blog devoted to the intersection of fashion and technology, the trend marks the second coming of the used goods marketplace. “Ebay and Craigslist certainly are its predecessors. But they haven’t done anything innovative in a decade, and Ebay is now moving away from auction-style buying experiences and towards fixed-price sales.”

This sudden growth and focus on the used clothing space is fueled by a confluence of factors: the cultural phenomenon of sharing your personal style through fashion blogs and the increased popularity of fashion bloggers; the mainstream adoption of transparent social media identities, like Twitter handles and Facebook pages, creating a certain amount of visibility and trust between buyers and sellers in the market; and the widespread ability to take quality photographs with mobile phones. As Sanders notes, “It was only a matter of time before someone figured how to make money out of it.”

With its tradition of innovating around sustainability, it’s not surprising that many of the new companies are based in the San Francisco Bay area. But the eco play of moving multitudes of unused items from the average woman’s closet is not their main message. Instead, it’s the technology behind the creation of these peer-to-peer (p2p) marketplaces and the potential for more collaborative economies and business models that’s getting investors to sit up and take notice.

In contrast to the traditional consignment store’s impersonal image, the real-time social experience features squarely in the center of the new site’s product offering, with each handling the theme of making selling more social in slightly different ways. Threadflip spotlights one-of-a-kind items from the personal collections of its Style Stars, allowing you access to your favorite tastemaker. Poshmark has made its mark throwing Posh Parties thrown around specific themes such as “Back to Basics” and “Jet Set Glamour.” Sanders says, “Users are not just there just to buy, they comment on pieces, each others’ outfits, tweeting – having fun in that social way.”

For many women looking for an easier alternative to sustainable second hand shopping, the sticking point may be the prices. This is not the same as shopping thrift; you won’t see the dollar deals that you’d find at your local Goodwill. Twice – The Clothes You Love, Prices You Can Afford – a company that was originally launched as an online version of Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange quickly implemented the standard brand list limiting viable sales to well known brand names.

And unfortunately, it doesn’t solve the problem of what most people across America have in their wardrobes, which is clothing from Target, H&M and Forever 21. If you want to get a sense of the prices you can charge, Twice has a calculator that will calculate what you can realistically expect to buy and sell for. On the other end of the scale, The RealReal currently has a Hermès Lizard Birkin Bag on sale for $18,500. Clearly, saving money is not the value proposition here. The allure is owning something you can’t find in stores, something fundamentally untrendy.

Moving away from trends has ironically been the most significant fashion trend happening over the last decade. “People have more freedom to set themselves apart and dress in ways you wouldn’t find hanging in a store,” says Sanders. And while that concept might seem very normal to us now, “if you look back 10 years you can see how different it is and how major a shift has actually taken place in fashion.”






Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.