Gentrification of secondhand style – part 2

My recent blog on why the gentrification of secondhand fashion is a positive trend provoked a strong reaction.  People asked whether there’s evidence that charity shops are getting more expensive.  A good question. 

The answer is that there hasn’t been a price hike in the past few years.  The Charity Retail Association collects data on average selling prices.  In 2019, average selling prices were £3.95 for womenswear, and £4.25 for menswear.  In 2016, women’s clothes sold at an average of £3.76 and men’s at £4.06: not much change.   So, although there are anecdotal examples of high prices, you can still expect to pick up bargains.  In a Facebook discussion about my last blog post, someone commented that, ‘If someone feels the hipsters are taking all their finds their thrifting game needs stepping up.’  Exactly!

Charli (@secondhandcharli on Instagram) is an influencer who advocates preloved fashion.   She points to the fact that it could be the very low prices of fast fashion these days that make charity shops seem more expensive by comparison.  When you can pick up a new top from George at Asda or on for £6, paying a fiver for a secondhand piece in a charity shop no longer feels like a bargain.  Very true. 

@secondhandcharli on Instagram

Charli believes that secondhand clothes are for everyone: “By saying secondhand clothes are only for ‘poor’ people, we’re further stigmatising the use of secondhand clothes which is bad in itself.”   This makes sense: the more people who shop preloved, the better for the environment.  For secondhand to be adopted by as many shoppers as possible, it needs to seem socially acceptable – even aspirational. 

While initiatives such as Selfridge’s space dedicated to preloved is undeniably a prime example of gentrification, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Celebrities are also popularising the trend for upmarket vintage: you can buy clothes from Lily Allen or Emily Ratajkowski on Depop.  Speaking of which, Kate Moss is a preloved fashion fan  Her favourite secondhand purchase?  “My original Vivienne Westwood Sex boots I found at Portobello market in the 90s.”  Of course.  

If secondhand fashion is not adopted by the middle classes, the danger is that production of new clothing will increase further: In the ten years between 2009 and 2019, UK consumer spending on clothing went up by almost 19.75 billion British pounds:

Consumer spending on clothing in the United Kingdom (in million GBP) Source: Statista

New clothes create 10% of global carbon emissions as well as using up a lot of water in drought-prone countries.  87% of used clothes are ultimately incinerated or end up in landfill.  That’s why I’m happy for secondhand clothing to attract middle class shoppers (even hipsters!), knowing that this doesn’t have to be at the expense of people in real need. 

Please look out for forthcoming blogs on where to pick up preloved finds at all pricepoints, and follow @secondhandcharli on IG.


#preloved #secondhandfirst #thriftstorefinds #thriftstore #sustainablefashion

Published by jengreggs

I'm a London-based writer and blogger focused on sustainability in fashion. My purpose is to help everyone discover the joy of living more sustainably.

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