Thrifting is officially a mainstream movement in the US.
And National Thrift Store Day on Wednesday features dozens of new (and old) fashion fans for the history, current and relevance of thrift stores. Whether it’s the inspiration behind a new fashion design show called “Upcycle Nation” coming this fall, or the resurgence of Y2K fashion and brands, thrift is hitting American shoppers.
What is National Thrift Store Day?
Most Americans have bought something secondhand in their life. And today, everyone from thrift store mainstays like Goodwill, to municipal waste programs like New York City’s DonateNYC (with 30 participating thrift stores), to online resellers like ThredUp, have promoted messages for National Thrift Store Day. According to the National Association of Resale Professionals, or NARTS, the number of physical thrift stores is 25,000 in the US, contributing to a multi-billion dollar resale industry estimated to reach $77 billion by 2025.
Although the narrative is increasingly dominated by online resale, the early American thrift movement finds its roots not only in industrialization, but also in World War I rationing and price understanding. But it wasn’t until Earth Day came on the scene in 1970 that National Thrift Store Day shows any record of a formal celebration. Originally intended to raise financial support for local thrift stores and their charities, the holiday has since evolved into a broader promotional and environmental call to action to waste less and buy more thrift.
What designers say about savings
More than half, or 54 percent, of Americans are trying out more throwback trends thanks to the ease of secondhand clothing, according to a recent report from web-based style platform StyleSeat. Surveying more than 1,000 US consumers, the trends span everything from an affinity for Y2K fashion, sportswear, sporty sunglasses, mom jeans, cargo pants, tie-dye and matching outfits.
For this reason, designers continue to bet on used products for the future.
“Recycling is technically the only relevant conversation we should be having these days in every industry, as we see landfills full of bottles, blankets, clothes, bags and furniture, often with labels still on them,” said fashion designer Jérôme LaMaar. to WWD. “We live in an era where goods are created quickly and used once and thrown away. This way of life needs a practical solution that has style and imagination to usher in a new way of experiencing our beloved assets.”
LaMaar, along with recycling innovator Peder Cho and “Claws” actress Karrueche Tran are the judges for Fuse’s new show “Upcycle Nation,” airing in November 2022. The show captures how aspiring designers and recyclers from across the US transform previously discarded items into clothing items in hopes of inspiring a collective and stylish solution to waste.
As a long-time thrifter, LaMaar said, “Very often when I wear thrift paired with my couture, then it becomes a trend,” comparing it to a kind of gift and curse that means the more dynamic pieces They are no longer such frequent findings. “Thrift is in fashion simply because the level of craftsmanship doesn’t exist at that level in today’s fashion climate. Now, I try to buy things that feel magical to my personal taste, like cool jewelry or glasses.”
Why the labels carry, crossroads of consumption
Unsurprisingly, the search for brands and designers is driving thrifty shopping behaviors.
Data-driven online resale platforms document how name-brand apparel (names like J. Crew, Lululemon, Nike, and Levi’s) consistently increase searches and sales. However, a recent report from Recurate said that fast fashion brands were only second to mid-priced brands in terms of demand. A closer look at ThredUp data shows that Shein’s inventory alone increased a mind-boggling 186 percent from 2020 to 2021.
“Seeing fast fashion so high on the priority list of respondents to this report surprises me, but I wonder how the results would be different if vintage was factored into the equation,” said Emily Stochl, director of education and community engagement at advocacy nonprofit organization. Remake, as well as host of the “Pre-Loved Podcast.”
Reflecting on the thrift ecosystem, Stochl believes that today’s thrifter is caught lamenting the comparative quality and uniqueness of the garments of bygone eras compared to the lesser quality mass-produced garments of today. She argues that labels, regardless of price or quality, make it easy for newcomers to enter the conversation secondhand.
“Especially for mid-size and large thrift buyers, I often recommend this option as a great option to hone in on specific pieces available in your size from brands you already recognize,” he added. “In addition, it’s also an easy way for fast fashion regulars to slowly transition their purchases from first-hand to second-hand.”
Still, be wary of overconsumption. “As thrift shopping grows in popularity, I think our consumer education for the thrift buyer will need to focus on cutting back on shopping altogether, so we don’t just copy and paste overconsumption habits.”