Used. Secondhand. Thrifted. Pre-loved. Whatever you call it, resale is becoming big business.
The proof is in the statistics: Not only has the clothing re-commerce market grown 21 times faster than its retail counterpart over the past three years, according to secondhand e-tailer ThredUp, which crunched the numbers with analytics firm GlobalData for its 2019 resale report, but it’s also poised to more than double in value from $24 billion today to $51 billion in 2023.
The trend is driven by millennials and Gen Z—which is to say, 18- to 37-year-olds—who are snapping up secondhand apparel 2.5 times faster than other age groups. One in three Gen Zers will buy something preowned in 2019, ThredUp found.
It’s in this milieu that denim, which was first designed as workwear, is uniquely positioned for success. “Well-made denim wears well, it holds up well and it gets more interesting with time,” said Andy Ruben, CEO and founder of Yerdle, a California for-benefit company that creates white-label resale programs for brands such as Eileen Fisher, Patagonia and Taylor Stitch.
For the most part, denim resale occurs in third-party secondhand marketplaces like ThredUp, Depop, Poshmark and The RealReal online and consignment boutiques off. There are exceptions, of course, such as Sweden’s Nudie Jeans, which, in addition to offering free repairs on its denim for life, boasts a buy-back program that funnels into its Re-use range of cleaned and mended “pre-loved” garments. Eileen Fisher’s Renew, Patagaonia’s Worn Wear and Taylor Stitch’s Restitch platforms offer lightly used denim as part of their general assortment. And Levi Strauss, after acquiring 65,000 pieces of archival-quality jeans from a collector, introduced in 2017 its Authorized Vintage collection of pre-worn original styles like the 501, 505 and 517 in its New York and San Francisco stores.