In a backlash from the overconsumption mania of the past, 57% of Brits agree that buying too many fashion items is bad for the environment. So what are they doing instead? Savvy young Brits are buying, selling, mending, swapping, and renting their clothes, according to the latest research from Mintel.
“Thrifting” is trending among young British fashion shoppers, as Mintel research shows that in the last year alone over half of those aged 25-34 bought secondhand clothes, compared to an average of 43% among all age groups. Young Brits are turning their old clothes into hard cash, with half selling unwanted clothes in the last year, compared to 35% of consumers as a whole. And in the spirit of “make do and mend,” half of 25-34-year-olds have repaired damaged or worn-out clothes.
“Swishing“—swapping clothes with friends or acquaintances—is also on trend, particularly among young people. Three quarters (75%) of 16-24-year-olds say they either have swapped fashion items with others or would be interested in doing so in the future. This compares to an average of just 51% of Brits.
Rental services are most likely to be used by Generation Z, with 54% saying they have rented or would be interested in renting fashion items, compared to an average of 33% of Brits.
“The idea of reusing, reducing and recycling has the potential to be a big disruptor in the fashion industry, ” says Chana Baram, a retail analyst with Mintel. “Young shoppers seem to be emulating their grandparents, who were forced to ‘make do and mend’ during World War II. As the climate crisis continues to gain headlines, consumers’ perspectives are shifting.”
The new demand has prompted more retailers to offer repair services, secondhand items, or rental options, she says. And it pressures fashion brands to strategize accordingly.
“It’s no longer enough for clothing to be priced well or to reference the latest trends,” Baram says. “Fashion brands and retailers also have to [provide] more sustainable options.”
Purchasing decisions hampered by confusion
Following in the green footsteps of celebrity sustainable fashion advocates, such as Emma Watson and Joaquin Phoenix, younger consumers are starting to shop more responsibly when it comes to fashion. In fact, 68% of 16- to 24-year-olds say they are trying to make more ethical fashion purchases now than they did in the past 12 months; this compares to an average of 57% of British shoppers.
Overall, 30% of consumers would choose a retailer based on whether it sold sustainable fashion ranges. However, 79% have trouble determining which fashion retailers are ethical. Price is not perceived as an indicator of sustainability, with just 22% agreeing that the more you pay for fashion, the more likely it is to be ethical. However, six in 10 Brits are willing to pay more for sustainable fashion.
Over two thirds of people agree that fashion retailers should let customers know when items are not made sustainably.
“Consumers want to see fashion retailers doing more to help them shop more ethically and sustainably. However, with so many conflicting messages regarding what is, and what is not, sustainable, many shoppers are finding it difficult to understand which retailers and brands are leading the way,” Baram says.
“It has become more necessary than ever for the fashion industry to work together and push for industrywide best-practice guidelines [for] the lowest environmental impact.”