The fashion resale industry is causing a monumental shift in consumer habits. As more people use clothing apps to buy and sell pre-loved fashion, secondhand clothing is getting a fresh start, which is recharging fashion's circulatory model and reducing its carbon footprint.
The secondhand industry has gotten a new lease on life in recent years, resulting in a value of $36 billion, with the potential to more than double to at least $77 billion within the next five years. ThredUp co-founder and CEO James Reinhart stated in the company's annual global report that “consumers are prioritizing sustainability, retailers are starting to embrace resale, and policy makers are getting on board with circular economy.” Especially during the pandemic, consumers (particularly Gen Z, then millennials) have been finding more time to purge their wardrobes online.
An estimated 36 billion items of clothing are thrown away in the U.S. each year, with 95% being recyclable or reusable, and now consumers are seeing value in their unwanted clothing items. “Consumers are understanding the benefits of keeping items in circulation, and therefore, are turning to resale even more as a sustainable way to shop or sell pieces that might no longer be in use," explains TheRealReal's women's and fine jewelry head, Sasha Skoda. "We’re also at a time where people are shopping based on their individual style. After a year of not being able to dress up, shoppers are seeking out pieces that spark joy and feel special to them. Resale offers a unique opportunity to shop your personal style and discover trends from past decades as well as from current seasons."
A greater facilitator for the resale industry is the momentous impact on the environment as buying used instead of new reduces the carbon footprint of your purchase by 82%, in addition to displacing the carbon dioxide emitted from the new clothing production. It appears that resale clothing apps are not only radically transforming retail, but emphatically charging at the traditional fashion model.
We know that the resale market can be overwhelming, so we got tips from stylist and founder of personal styling service Style Made Simple, Allison Berlin, on navigating pre-loved clothing apps as both a buyer and seller.
- Start by familiarizing yourself with an app’s operating terms so you know what you’re getting into. For example, with apps like Poshmark, you set the selling price and they take a percentage of your sale for use of their platform, while The Real Real is a consignment platform and offers a straight commission percentage.
- As a buyer, make sure you know whether you can return an item for a refund before purchasing.
- As a seller, ensure you know if consigning apps will allow you to request your items back in the event you’re unhappy with the resale performance.
So, where is the pre-loved fashion market taking place, and what are the apps that consumers are constantly using? No longer settling for misinformation, poor pictures, and patchy product descriptions, we've rounded up the best resale clothing apps for you to explore. Taking service, experience, and quality into consideration, these are the best pre-loved apps on the market.
A peer-to-peer online marketplace that allows you to directly shop and purchase from other people’s wardrobes for a fraction of the price, Depop is like thrifting but virtual. With over 21 million users, you can guarantee that you’ll discover a wardrobe gem, whether it's new season or vintage. Sellers are required to add a detailed description, hashtags, and a plethora of images (some with items being modeled), as this helps to increase visibility and build buyers' trust.
Vestiaire Collective is a luxury resale clothing app where you can find pre-loved luxury fashion items for anywhere between 30% to 70% off. All products go through an authentication process, which provides you with the security that you're getting what you were looking for. And with a speedy, trusted delivery service from the Vestiaire Collective HQ, you can guarantee your item will be in your wardrobe in days—you’ll rethink purchasing your luxury items new ever again.
ThredUp makes it easy to buy or rent secondhand clothing directly from consumers and stores. With each item going through a 12-point inspection before being available on the app, you can be sure the fashion you'll find here is high-quality and a fair price.
A virtual thrifting business, Vinted lets you list your items for free, then allows you to communicate with the consumer before shipping and posting the item. Those buying can rest assured that while the direct sale is between the buyer and purchaser, the company offers an additional layer of protection for your money.
The RealReal is one of fashion's favorite resale clothing apps, with both vintage and lightly loved pieces from top luxury brands available at heavily discounted prices. Fashion lovers on a budget know to check for the platform's restocks twice a day in hopes of grabbing that unique item you've been lusting over.
"When selling with TheRealReal, both our in-person and virtual valuation appointments with our experts are an excellent resource in understanding market demand and resale value for luxury items," Skoda explains. "Our experts use data to offer recommendations of what to keep or sell, and this depth of expertise helps our consignors to make educated decisions. For buyers, it’s important that the source you’re purchasing from has an authenticity guarantee so you can feel confident about your purchase."
Combine the power of resale with the skill of negotiation and you're an Ebay master already. On this OG pre-loved clothing app, once an item is listen, interested customers can bid on the item withing a particular time frame. It’s the thrill of an auction with the potential to bag an unbeatable bargain.
Almost as though you're shopping directly with friends, Poshmark is considered the leading social marketplace for pre-loved items. From making listings to attending virtual Posh Parties, you can buy, browse, and sell items alongside your friends, discover boutiques, or shop for a specific event. For those who sell with Poshmark, all postage and packaging is provided and buyers have protection with Posh Protect, making this one of the easiest clothing apps for all users.
Do you ever find that when it comes to shopping vintage in store, it can be hit or miss? Upgrading that experience is Object Limited, the premium marketplace when it comes to buying and selling your vintage clothes. Finally, a place where you can guarantee a wardrobe win—it’s as though fashion history has been curated in one app.