In recent months, fast fashion brands Pretty Little Thing (PLT), Shein and Zara have entered into the resale market. PLT launched PLT Marketplace in late August, Shein introduced Shein Exchange in mid-October and Zara followed suit with Zara Pre-Owned in early November. The move into the resale game poses a large question: are fast fashion items suitable and durable enough to sustain repeated wears by multiple individuals? Will they remain fit for purpose or should reselling be reserved for high-end items which may consist of more durable materials?
Fast fashion is regarded as such due to the breakneck speed in which "popular" styles are turned into items to be purchased and worn by consumers whilst the style is still fashionable. Maria Chenoweth, CEO of charity shop and textile waste charity Traid, describes fast fashion as “disposable clothing, which is designed to be worn once or twice”. If the intention when garments are first produced is that they only survive a handful of wears, we surely cannot suddenly expect these items to see a second life cycle with another consumer after they have been resold. Unless these brands are actively improving the quality of their garments, they are surely not fit for purpose when resold. Chenoweth echoes this idea, stating that "[i]f these brands really believed in their resale, they would improve the quality of their clothing. Otherwise, it’s just greenwashing". Of the three fast fashion brands mentioned above, only Zara has put into effect efforts to extend the life of its garments by offering a repair service to shoppers. Following Chenoweth’s description of fast fashion, however, one could argue to what extent can you successfully "repair" an item which was designed to only survive a couple of wears?
While the durability of fast fashion items compared to more high-end and luxury items may suggest the reselling space should be reserved for the latter group, Chenoweth does admit that fast fashion brands may normalise the resale market faster than other players have managed to. This in turn can decrease the stigma around secondhand fashion to make it a more common practice. The resale of fast fashion would still contribute towards a "new mindset" which more readily accepts the practice of reselling clothing garments and accessories. Some commentators have suggested that to incentivise the reselling of branded goods, industry standards need to be created to foster collaboration. Having both luxury and fast fashion brands within the reselling market promotes unison within the fashion industry, showing a concerted and consistent effort to create workable solutions for the second life of fashion and the circular economy. This works in favour of the belief that the fashion industry needs to foster collaboration, suggesting fast fashion is as deserving of a seat at the reselling table just as much as luxury brands.
“There is so much disposable clothing now, which is designed to be worn once or twice,” Chenoweth says. “If these brands really believed in resale, they would improve the quality of their clothing. Otherwise, it’s just greenwashing.”