Vestiaire Collective, a luxury marketplace that claims to have “the best selection of designer clothing on the internet,” is taking the radical move of banning all fast fashion from its platform. The second-hand online e-tailer said the move is consistent with its philosophy as a brand implementing its mission to drive collective change towards a circular fashion economy.
For the first time in recent memory, a market has taken a stand on a social issue, although many companies weighed in on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark legislation that granted women the right to have an abortion. Vestiaire said it would have been hypocritical to continue offering fast fashion on the platform when it is no secret that the global fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world, while denying workers a living wage.
Dounia Wone, director of impact at Vestiaire Collective, said everyone at the brand is on board with the initiative. So where will fast fashion go once it’s discarded and now that it can’t get a second life at Vestiaire Collective? The obvious answer is where it’s been going all along: the landfills. Vestiaire Collective works to provide consumers with alternatives such as clothing, repair, upcycling, upcycling and constructive donation strategies. An ad from Vestiaire Collective shows how invested they are in their members’ fashion.
Of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tons of fashion waste end up in landfills, according to earth.org. To put this into perspective, that’s the equivalent of a garbage truck full of laundry emptying its load into a landfill every second.
Last year, slow fashion brand Archive said it would limit customers’ shopping visits to the platform to 12 times a year, or once a month, to do its part to achieve sustainability and save the planet. It’s unclear how consumers will react to being told how and when they can shop.
Vestiaire said it could not, in good conscience, continue to offer fast fashion when there is no solution for society’s garments. The e-commerce site wants consumers to know that people all over the world are suffering while making their clothes. Vestiaire said she would stop shopping at brands like H&M and Shein, where items like dresses and skirts sell for as little as $9.
Retail analyst Carol Spieckerman, president of Spieckerman Retail, has been following the markets since their inception about five years ago. The market concept is not new, he said. Every society since the beginning of time has had bazaars and shopping centers where townspeople came to barter with merchants for the price of their used clothes, household items, and toys.
Spieckerman said members of any society don’t want to be told what to do, even if it’s for the good. H&M has introduced a sustainable collection every year since 2015, and Shein often holds special sales of soft-wear clothing that its members resell on its retail platform.
However, experts said that a token sustainable collection is not scratching the surface of the amount of pollution unleashed by the fashion industry, when the other 90% of a brand’s inventory is made in Third World countries where workers are exploited, the outdated factories are unsafe and a flood of pollution is unleashed that contributes to the global crisis of climate change.
Sales in the second-hand fast fashion market have been brisk, H&M said, noting that items in the sustainable capsules often sell out within hours of going on sale. H&M said that when consumers feel good about the products they are buying and are confident in the knowledge that their purchase is not harming the environment, they buy more. Consumers, whose taste favors fashion inspired by rock stars, have a lot to choose from at H&M.
Fast fashion has been under attack for several years, since environmentalists exposed the vertical and the extent to which clothing manufacturing contributes to the global warming crisis. Retailers don’t want to take on the world’s problems or police suppliers and factories. But when celebrities and influencers began to speak out about fast fashion’s impact on the environment, consumers and retailers began to listen.
Fast fashion has been a driver of initiatives that recount the ills of the industry. However, it is safe to say that no industry in today’s world has completely clean hands. Transatlantic gas, oil and pipeline rigs are wiping out endangered species in Alaska, and beyond, affecting the environment.
Archive Projects of the London College of Economics launched an initiative called Change, which explains to what extent the fashion industry has been complicit in world pollution and the environmental cost of making clothes.
French fashion label Sandro has teamed up with Archive, a digital resale-as-a-service company, to debut its second-hand program in the US. More retailers are turning to SaaS to offer recycling opportunities to consumers, earning cash or store credit while keeping them on the e-commerce site.
There is no magic pill to stop the fashion industry from making solid profits off the backs of poor, and often uneducated, workers when the reality is that money speaks louder than equality.