Can the hype of thrifting hauls be the end to the fast fashion overconsumption market?

There has been a rise of TikTok thrifting influencers, as the Business of Fashion reports, who have opened up their own in-person stores as vintage stores have become more popular with their audiences.

It’s no surprise that these types of videos have become so prevalent when the hashtag #thrifting has been viewed 3.9 billion times on the TikTok app, coming in close to the infamous #sheinhaul hashtag at 5.1 billion views. So does this mean that this is the fall of ultra-fast fashion hauls as we know it?

Fashion stylist Natalie Robinson believes that although the concept of thrifting has existed for a long time, it became more important during the pandemic when people’s focus shifted towards sustainability, particularly with influencers online.

She says: "Influencers themselves were recycling their clothing and reusing pieces not only to repurpose their content but to also raise awareness about environmental issues."

Iona Fyfe, a folk singer based in Scotland, is someone who has made the decision to only buy second-hand during the lockdown last year. As a performer, she feels very passionate about using her position to inspire more people to do the same, even though she was hesitant to do so at first.

"I’ve always been scared about speaking out about fast fashion in case people who don’t like me come back at me saying I use single-use plastic or something else," she says. "(…) You open up Pandora's Box of criticism when you speak out about one cause, and then people expect you to be a saint for everything else."

After researching the mistreatment of fast fashion employees and its impact on the climate, it made her realise that it is her responsibility to speak up about it as someone who is in the public eye.

Fyfe notes that it is important to normalise seeing celebrities, especially women, wear the same outfits twice without being judged for doing so. So much so that she has a running joke with friends about a particular "stinky jumpsuit" that she owns that "could be walked by itself because it’s been worn so much".

"There’s definitely examples of people wearing the same things but it’s about changing the way the press reacts to it," she says. "If Meghan Markle or Taylor Swift re-wear the same dress then it’s a scandal and the fact that it makes a news story has misogyny tied into it."

Additionally, Robinson also says that the vintage shopping style is also a reason that this trend has become popular, as fashion has a way of repeating and reinventing itself.

"The great thing about vintage fashion is that you have to have a love for it, and it makes you stand out from others in the way you dress and style it," she says. "It allows you to be inventive and creative with your style, and it's good value for money."

Anna Cargan, who is the co-director of Build a Bundle , a second-hand children's clothing shop, has also noticed a similar trend in which people have been shopping more second-hand since the pandemic started. She believes that it mostly has to do with people becoming more aware of the climate emergency, saving costs, and removing the stigma.

"Years ago buying second-hand was seen as a last resort, only for people who couldn't afford new things," she says. "I think that image has completely changed, and it's now seen as a completely acceptable, sensible and ethical thing to do."

The 35-year-old, along with her co-director Nathalie Redfern, increased their customers by making it more accessible for people to shop from the comfort of their own homes by having clear listings, set postage costs, and plenty of choices.

"Lots of customers came to us for the first time during the first lockdown, saying they would usually buy brand new, but the shops were closed, so they gave us a try," she says. "Lots of them have stayed, saying they've been converted to second-hand shopping this way because it's so easy, and takes no more time than buying brand new!"

While the popularization of thrifting amongst young generations is a great step forward to becoming more sustainable, Robinson does not believe that it will be enough to decrease the market for fast fashion.

She says: "They have an established client base and particularly younger generations will look towards fast fashion for inspiration and don’t fully understand the concept of thrifting and the timeliness of vintage fashion."

However, Robinson who’s in her 40s believes that older generations between the ages of 25 to 50 can do their part in shopping sustainably when they can and provide guidance to younger fashion consumers to appreciate the value of the clothes they own and avoid overconsumption.

"My generation may spend more money in thrift stores and charity stores because we understand how the world works at the moment," she says. "It’s really up to us who are in this position to make change and lead the way for the younger generation."

Amy Beecham, a digital writer for Stylist magazine, is someone who has been open about her experience with shifting to a wardrobe that’s "85% second-hand" after the pandemic when she started taking it more seriously.

Although, the 24-year-old does admit that she’s not perfect and has the occasional slip up when she buys fast fashion, like a dress she bought a week before from Primark. She however emphasizes that doing your best is more important than not doing anything at all.

She says: "It's all about doing what you can, and I would never be in a position and would never want to make people feel bad for shopping fast fashion because it's so complicated."

Beecham also notes that it is very important to recognise the privileges of being able to thrift exclusively for your wardrobe, as not everyone has that possibility for their lifestyle. Not everyone has the time to stroll through charity shops looking for good finds or has a body type that can fit the displayed clothing.

"I think we've got to be really mindful of not demonising people for shopping fast fashion," she says. "But if we can financially and physically do it, then I think it's a really great thing to do."

It’s also important to be wary of overconsumption when it comes to shopping second-hand because it is so affordable, which is something that Beecham has also experienced and has been trying to reduce as a habit.

"I have to really think about what I want, what I have, and how much of my wardrobe goes with it," she says. "The best thing is to shop your own wardrobe, which is the most sustainable way we can engage with fashion."


Need some tips on how to start your own thrifting journey?

As someone who has had a lot of luck with shopping second-hand in the past with iconic finds like a Burberry trench coat and a Coach bag, Beecham’s advice to any newbies that haven’t tried charity shopping in the past is:

Get inspiration from the YouTube thrifting community

Start watching thrifting hauls on YouTube and find out what is the best advice and what to look out for when you start buying pre-loved goods.

Location, location, location

Go to charity shops located in areas that are upper to middle-class for second-hand designer brands or visit trendy areas for streetwear style clothing like East London.

Be flexible with the sizing

A size 10 from Zara might not fit the same way that a size 10 from another brand would, so keep an open mind with the sizing and try on everything in person if you can.

Lastly, have a lot of patience

Not every charity shop that you walk into means you're going to have a successful shopping trip, but you might find yourself lucky once in a while when you do find that perfect piece.

Do you thrift your clothing? Let us know your favourite thrift shops in the comments!