Clothing Apps Could Make Fast Fashion a Thing of the Past

Old, worn, or vintage are the new desirables

  • We wear barely half of our clothes. 
  • Swapping, repairing, and wearing vintage clothes is getting pretty cool.
  • Selling them is still the hardest part for many people.
Someone shopping for clothing beneath a neon sign for a vintage store.

Luis Montejo / Unsplash

Clothing apps could help you refill your closet with new fashion trends without filling up more landfills.

We don't wear half the clothes we own, yet they sit there, taking up closet space, while fast fashion shovels more and more items into the landfill. If we stopped buying so many new clothes and started swapping our old ones instead, we'd not only save money and reduce waste, but we'd end up with better-quality clothes instead (as we shall see). One helpful trend is the rise of apps for selling used and vintage clothes and now for swapping them. And the great news is that younger people already value the worn-in look and are happy to buy used to get it. 

"What if we started swapping clothes? It's a simple concept but one that could have a big impact on the fashion industry and the environment. By trading clothes with friends, family, or even strangers, we could give new life to items that might otherwise go unworn or end up in a landfill," interior designer and walk-in-wardrobe pessimist Keely Smith told Lifewire via email. 

Older and Better Beats Fast Fashion

Do you sometimes feel that the clothes you buy today are not nearly as good as the ones you bought ten years ago? T-shirt cotton is thinner, clasps and zips are junkier, and they’re just not put together as well. It’s not just you. Thanks to the demands of fast fashion, clothes, along with many other consumer goods, are worse than ever. 

According to an article by Izzie Ramirez for Vox, this is partly due to the difficulties of making enough cheap clothes to meet demand and partly down to the priorities of modern product design, which is geared towards ease of manufacturing and lowering costs, rather than making good, high-quality items. 

By trading clothes with friends, family, or even strangers, we could give new life to items that might otherwise go unworn or end up in a landfill.

Thought about from this angle, the unworn shirts, skirts, sweaters, and pants in your wardrobe become a valuable source of quality vintage clothing. Those clothes can be given a new home and can last for years more, be repaired, and even swapped again. All while being better than what you could buy new. 

The problem is getting them out of your wardrobe and into somebody else’s.

Find Your Fashion in an App

The first step is to wear and care for the clothes you already own. Save Your Wardrobe is an app that lets you "digitize" your clothes by photographing them. You can then browse your "collection" and also find local dry cleaners and clothing repair shops. 

Then, there are plenty of ways to buy and sell used clothing, from high-end designer-label-only services like the Vestiaire Collective, which vets each listing before sending it live, to your local eBay classified service. 

"Buying preloved or second-hand is becoming more and more the norm, and on Instagram, style influencers are sharing their bargains and preloved treasures. Apps like Vinted make this very easy, and obviously, eBay has been doing it for years," Kiera O'Mara, director of accessories boutique Scott-Samuel, told Lifewire via email. 

Someone in a vintage clothing store taking pictures of items with a smartphone.

Nuria Gual Belles / Getty Images

But depending on what's available to you, the experience can be less than ideal. 

Clothing Apps Help Meet Growing Demand

"The worst part of buying second-hand clothes from apps is the quality of the photos. You often can't see the clothes properly, and it can be impossible to see accurate colors," professional fashion stylist Nuria Gregori told Lifewire via email.

Gregori told me about Circlow, a store in Barcelona's Maquinista mall that has a professional photo setup just for selling used clothes. You take in clothes, cleaned and ready to sell, and the attendants photograph them and put them up for sale online, in-store, and via a local classified ad service. When the clothes are sold, the owner gets the money minus a commission. 

While that takes care of the supply, the demand is also growing. Gen Z is not only more accepting of used clothes—they value them. Beaten-up vintage purses are hot, for example, a kind of status symbol that mimics dressing like "old money." And anecdotally, many of my own friends have kids who prefer used clothes to new and enjoy repairing and customizing them. 

"Thrifting, mending and vintage clothing is gaining popularity, especially amongst Gen Z because of climate change and the desire to find unique pieces at an affordable price," vintage fashion blogger Annette Vartanian told Lifewire via email.

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