In today’s age, socially conscious shopping is en vogue. You might’ve thought that harkened the death of fast fashion, as a new generation of consumers has begun to shun its wastefulness—embracing, in its place, secondhand clothing as a planet-friendlier wardrobe—but according to vintage reseller ThredUp, that’s not quite true.
While Gen Z’s heart is in the right place, fast fashion is still hard to quit. In ThredUp’s 2022 annual report on the state of retail, the company found that only 17% of shoppers say they plan to spend less money on fast fashion in the next five years, despite 50% believing it’s harmful for the environment and 43% even admitting they feel guilty for buying from stores like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21.
Why the dichotomy? Blame a suffering economy and high inflation rates, for starters. Apparel is among the top five categories where consumers have noticed rising prices recently (alongside groceries and gasoline), and against that backdrop, fast fashion’s famously budget-happy price tags for off-the-runway designs are hard to pass up. According to the report, 72% say they shop fast fashion because it’s “good value for the money,” and another 20% say they feel pressured to have the latest styles due to social media.
But of course, it’s more than just that. Secondhand shopping is a treasure hunt, but unearthing a gem that’s the right look, size, quality, and price takes time—meanwhile, 53% of shoppers say they choose fast fashion because it’s, well, faster. There’s also the rush and thrill that comes with scrolling through a zillion in-stock products, loading up a full cart of dresses, skirts, and shirts, and commanding it all be dropped on your doorstep with a tap of a finger. Much like any addiction, 42% say fast fashion is a bad habit that’s hard to break.
Despite that, vintage is still thriving—both as another way to save money on clothing, and as a growing culture in itself. According to ThredUp, thrifting is trendier than ever among Gen Z and millennials: 59% of those who bought secondhand for the first time in 2021 say they feel it gives them bragging rights, and 72% overall felt proud to tell people their outfits were secondhand.
That’s pride well-founded, as the fast fashion industry’s climate impact is far from negligible. According to a 2019 United Nations report, fueling the churn of its mass production emits more greenhouse gases than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Meanwhile, mountains of discarded garments have been heaped and burned in landfills, releasing pollution from chemical fabrics into the atmosphere and our oceans.