To quote a very relevant saying, “Do I get a coffee? A snack? Or something to wear?’ from the book Overdressed authored by Elizabeth L. Cline, one does get an idea of the dangerous level of fast-fashion in the retail segment has reached. This behaviour of consumers has seen an intriguing connection and turn the environment has taken to date. Shopping for clothes is awesome, but how does one slow down the process or even in some cases reverse the process?

The retail sector in the fashion industry has thrived on the notion of fast fashion, however, the trend today is building on the concept of “saving natural resources and lessening land-fills”. History has shown us that the textile and fashion industries boost the economy of the nation, but in due course of time we have set ourselves on the path of destruction because we have not understood the concept of ‘giving (resources)’ against ‘receiving’. Time is now running out in terms of the validity of living life recklessly and sustainable causes have brain-washed consumers in general. 

This constant dependency on fast fashion has led some of us to let the notion of sustainable and slow fashion creep into our system. When we read statistics which tell us that a simple T-shirt which could be worn around 7-9 times, costs the Earth 2700 litres of water, it does make the fashion fraternity stop to think about how and where we are going wrong in our fashionable lifestyle.

Building a vibe of second-hand clothing is one of the many constants we can adapt to work around the idea of living sustainably. We do understand that human behaviour or urge to delve into fashion, is fuelled by the desire for emotions and peer pressure. Observing the fact that humans are closely connected to emotion, there could be a possibility for fashion to regenerate itself through second-hand clothing, refurbished and restyled. Thus, giving birth to hand-me-downs and sibling love, this concept tugs on the human nature/emotion and at the same time attempts to re-build nature or at least sustain nature in a non-despicable manner. This concept will conceptualise into advocating for ethical issues and subjugate the hedonistic subconscious manner of consumers to go on a buying-spree anytime they choose to fancy. Now, that is the time. Second-hand shopping is one of the most sustainable things you can do as a consumer to lessen your negative impact, and savvy buyers have caught on. 

The conversation reiterates that second-hand shopping is on the rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, which seems to have been driven by the affordability of second-hand goods. Thus, in the spirit of second-hand goods, we liked to share how second-hand clothing can be a sustainable and fashionable lifestyle. 

Keywords:   Positive-impact, Redefined-style, Purpose, Nostalgia, Millennials 

What Does Second-Hand Mean?

One of the basic principles of the recycling philosophy is the second-hand economy. This practice makes the consumers more aware and responsible for the textile industry’s environmental effects. Certainly, this subject raises the desire of consumers to purchase clothing from eco-friendly brands that invite us to reflect on the reality that the clothes you wear must never be disposable. 

The increase in second-hand purchases is an inescapable consequence of the impact of the major trends in the global fashion market, such as recycling and environmental sustainability with zero impact. Further, consumers of used garments increased by sixty-four percent compared to 2016, and that percentage continues to rise every day.

Because of the current economic crises, a little due to the pressure exerted by environmental associations, and the media railing against hyper-consuming and waste, second-hand clothing has become the answer to the many evils afflicting the textile sector.  

The Nostalgia in Buying Second-Hand Clothes

Part of the appeal of second-hand clothing has been the opportunity to find one-of-a-kind pieces that stand out from mainstream fashion. Today’s individuality-focused Gen Z and Millennials is a major key factor in their buying behaviour. 

The interest of millennials in nostalgia is a key driver, with most young people searching paparazzi shots and old fashion magazines for style inspiration. Even fashion brands are trading off the interest in nostalgia, such as the recent collections of Versace that have reworked archive silhouettes and prints. Fendi has also reissued the 90s era Baguette bag to excellent fanfare. 

For the past few years, celebrities and style-leaders have been bragging about their fashion experience by wearing iconic classic pieces from Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Azzedine Alaia, and Thierry Mugler collections. 

Fast Fashion No Longer Hold the Reigns of Style

Fast fashion has been the wrath for everybody to wear the newest styles. However, the overproduction of such garments is polluting the planet. Did you know it takes 2,700 litres of water to create a cotton shirt? That is enough water for one individual to drink for 2.5 years. 

You see, the fast-fashion business model is great for clothing designers but not for the environment. After a clothing factory in Bangladesh failed and killed more than 1,000 factory employees, consumers—particularly professional women—started wondering about the real cost of the fast fashion industry. That caused a massive shift towards sustainable fashion. 

Further, fast fashion has contributed to the rise in what experts refer to as a throwaway culture. It refers to when consumers throw out foods, goods, and other products—instead of donating or recycling—after they are seen as useless or no longer need it.  

International Labels Moving Towards Sustainability

The fashion industry is seeking to make trends, and now it is working on its most crucial trend yet: sustainability. Compared to a few questionable fashion decisions, it’s a trend all consumers could get behind. 

You may be already aware that Nordstrom is selling used clothing. Everybody is beginning to wake up to the reality that consumer preference has evolved and wants more eco-friendly products. 

Some of the top fashion brands leading the way in sustainability are the following:

  • Everlane 

The brand combines sustainability with transparency by sharing with its customers the breakdown of the cost of every item and displaying the factories where garments are produced. The company creates strong relationships with factory owners to guarantee the employees and production meet the brand’s high ethical standards. 

  • Levi’s

Denim is infamous for requiring big amounts of water to make a single pair of jeans. However, the recent collection of Levi’s Water<Less uses up to ninety-six percent less water. For that and all its products, the brand is dedicated to sustainability through the whole design and manufacturing process. That also includes working towards sustainability-sourced cotton and recycling old jeans into home insulation. 

  • People Tree 

Established in 1991, People Tree was one of the first sustainable fashion brands in the world. It’s the only brand acknowledged by the World Fair Trade Organization and invests massively in eco-friendly and sustainable practices, which involve organic farming.

The brand also supports good working conditions fair wages and employs sustainable materials such as chemical-free dyes, natural fibers, and organic cotton. 

  • H&M Conscious

H&M is shifting away from its fast-fashion roots along with its Conscious collection. The clothes are made from materials such as recycled polyester and organic cotton. The brand hopes to lessen its environmental footprint by using environmentally-friendly fabrics and more sustainable production methods. On top of that, consumers can recycle unnecessary garments at H&M stores and receive a discount for their next purchase. Remember that H&M strives to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030.  

Designers Re-Using Their Earlier Collections

In 2019, as the climate crisis weighed more on consumers globally, designers thought more critically about their impact on the environment and came up with creative answers for excess fabrics. It is not a new solution to the problem of excess fabrics post-production runs. Alexander McQueen has been repurposing extra material and scraps into runway collections for years. Many indie brands have also been established on this concept. There are many organisations committed to collecting and recycling waste. 

In the same year, Tanya Taylor dropped a limited edition remixed and restitched sleep collection, which features a pajama set and accessories made from fabrics leftover from different 2019 collections, including pre-fall and resort. 

Hand-Me-Down Clothing 

Bear in mind that sustainability in fashion is not all about using earth-friendly materials. It goes far beyond that and challenges the fashion sector that flourishes on different looks at different times of the day, let alone months, years, seasons. 

Sharing clothes enables you to connect with other people. It is a simple and practical way that we can provide to support one another—something we need to do more often. Whether you are sharing hand-me-downs with a neighbour, friend, co-worker, or even a stranger, you have the opportunity to visit for a few minutes and experience some camaraderie. 

Why You Should Participate in the Second-Hand Clothing Trend

To safeguard the environment and ensure there is enough resources leftover for the next generation (your kids), wearing sustainable second-hand clothing is a vital step you can make towards a better future. 

  • Lessen textile waste

Clothing and textile waste are a major concern at the moment. Every year in the UK, 350,000 tons of used clothing that are still wearable is delivered to the landfill. The quantity of wearable clothing that’s discarded every year weighs nearly as much as the Empire State Building. That figure is only an estimate from one nation. Just visualize how much the global number is? Each time you participate in sustainable clothing, you extend the time until a piece of clothing becomes waste. Many high-quality garments purchased second-hand still have another decade or two of life left in them. 

  • Old trends return on fashion 

It has been known that fashion works in cycles. Things trend for a little while, then they vanish. Sometimes, they will appear again in a new generation.

You have seen this numerous times. Remember when bell-bottom jeans returned in the early 2000s, it was a 70s motif. A more modern trend is high-waisted, straight-leg jeans. That look has nearly been transposed from the mid-90s. 

Where is the ideal place to get these on-trend items of garments? You guess it right, sustainable second-hand clothing. 

The Future of Second-Hand Fashion 

Driven by nostalgic millennials, sustainable consumption, and celebrity style, second-hand clothing looks to substantially impact retail in the following years. It’s worth mentioning that circular fashion is one of the solutions to remove the impact of the fashion industry on the environment. This problem is now at the forefront of Gen Zers and Millennials. The future will now seek complementary and alternative solutions to the first-hand fashion market.


For a long time, fast fashion has reigned the clothing market, and with it, the environment and many workers have paid a high price. Fortunately, with things such as the sustainable fashion movement and the launch of slow fashion, people are beginning to realise that we need to become more proactive if we want this planet of ours to stay beautiful. Young India is moving rapidly towards taking climate change and responsible lifestyle very seriously. Youngsters are creating their own multi-dimensional spaces to work on areas that hold sustainability at the core. Namrata Iyer founder of The Local Thrift concept speaks about the growing increase in second-hand clothing and also stresses on emotive the tag ‘pre-loved’ given to second-hand clothes. 

There are many platforms like Instagram, Facebook, online Garage sales which in increasingly popular among the youth while creating a feeling of responsibility. The growing social and environmental issues in India have nudged the audience to take steps towards searching for long-lasting and better solutions. The emotion which connects to second-hand clothing is the various stories each clothing item has. The persons who put up for sale, their pre-loved clothing and accessories attach them with love and a series of stories and events connects the buyers to those emotions. These unique stories build attachments and attractiveness which further paves the path towards the popularity of second-hand clothing.

According to another young entrepreneur Asenla Jamir, founder and creative director of Otsü Clothing Co, the pandemic has led to many a downfall of popular online shopping brands, which has built the novelty and the acceptance of second-hand clothing among online shoppers today. 

You will find many ways to be proactive and partaking in the second-hand clothing market is beneficial to the environment and extremely fun at the same time. So, we encourage you to have a look for some second-hand bargains, and you will not certainly regret it! History has shown and taught us that culture and commodity are intertwined which build our consumers and their values. This is the century for revisiting that concept and evolving into a conscious segment of consumers, creating platforms for forward-thinking practices and demand that consumers must learn to be credible for their purchases.


Cline, E. L. (n.d.). Overdressed: The shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. 

Franscesco Morace, P. F. (n.d.). End of Old Luxury and Rise of the New Paradigms of Fashion. 

Linden, A. R. (n.d.). An Analyst of the Fast Fashion Industry. 

Nusrat Zahan. (n.d.). Sustainable fashion: A paradigm shift or a pipedream.

Prasad, A. (n.d.). How hand-me-down fashion became haute during the pandemic.

Prof. Dr. Patricia Sumod
Dr. Kundlata Mishra, Associate professor
Ms. Shweta Rangnekar, Assistant professor