One of the biggest fashion resale sites Vestiaire Collective launched their ‘Circularity in Fashion’ consumer guide in April. It looked at how attitudes have evolved through commissioning a survey in 10 of their key markets, and they came up with some surprising results. Despite 77% of consumers in Asia, Europe and the US feeling sustainability in fashion was important, over 70% of consumers had never heard of circular fashion. That raises the point that if more businesses offered the consumer a more sustainable, mindful option from the start, they would be inclined to take it. Even without fully understanding quite how beneficial it could be.

Their guide breaks down the circular fashion model, making it easy for consumers to understand how it works, clearly defining the term coined in 2004 by Anna Brismar. “Circular fashion is defined as “clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.” This learning, coupled with the potential of unearthing a vintage Prada piece, makes websites like Vestiaire a no-brainer to those looking to create longevity in their wardrobe.

The sustainable movement is creating “the end of ownership,” which is how authors Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz describe the new shopping attitudes in their book. The sharing economy in general has started to soar outside of the fashion realm, with companies like AirBnB and Uber.

Allied Market Research estimated the global online rental clothing market to reach $1,856 million by 2023. Consumers keep coming back, and with that demand comes more considered production. Supermodel and sustainability champion Arizona Muse told Vestiaire in their report, “I love the fact that the whole industry of pre-own clothing is thriving because if brands know that their items need to have a resale value, they will be more likely to produce high-quality garments.”

We know that Millennials and Gen-Z shoppers find experiences much more appealing than something hanging in their wardrobe, and they’re becoming a lot more mindful of overspending on products. Even the women who create audiences online based on their style have rebelled, with fashion influencer Katherine Ormerod starting a hashtag #ThisOldThing to do away with the idea of constantly updating your wardrobe. Websites like YCloset, a Beijing-based designer rental service, and Armarium, are leading the charge in renting the latest pieces to get that runway look.

The UK’s first peer-to-peer wardrobe lending site Hurr uses technology to partner like-styled women and create a sharing economy, “allowing them to share their wardrobes and take even better care of the planet we all love.” The Hurr Collective uses real-time ID verification, geo-tagging and AI-powered fashion stylists to create a space that encourages people to consider their wardrobes more carefully too, as an investment to lend out.

US-based site Humm allows you to rent out your own wardrobe and borrow designer pieces in a move that sees a full circularity in the way brands produce and we shop. Going one step further, they also introduced the Humm Foundation, giving financial aid to female entrepreneurs.

And it’s not just online shopping that has revived vintage clothes. London has admittedly taken some time to catch up to the US, but is on its way to change. While William Vintage dresses red-carpet moments – think Meghan Markle in vintage Dior – Laura Von Behr runs a small studio in East London with a curated edit of vintage pieces for consumers who want a one-on-one experience, telling us, “I didn’t think there was a space to buy vintage in a relaxed environment so I started doing studio appointments. It gives the opportunity to try different vintage styles and eras.” She showed us a ’60s Pucci dress, one of her favourite finds. “If you are into fashion, vintage is a way to find original pieces that are the inspiration for contemporary trends. Girls want to buy what they are seeing in magazines but a sustainable version, and vintage provides the answer.”

Is pre-owned fashion enough? Is it possible to ever create a fully circular fashion economy? There’s hard work to be done if the industry is to revolutionise. While a shift in consumer habits and consumer guides are certainly worth celebrating, there is undeniably a need for fashion brands to remodel their way of working from the outset. And educating the consumer on why they are making these changes is key. With the sustainability train well on track and powering full speed ahead, those who don’t risk being left behind.

By Positive Luxury