Second-hand fashion: the green alternative to fast fashion?

Second-hand fashion: the green alternative to fast fashion?

Second-hand fashion is booming

The fashion industry, particularly the fast fashion sector, has long been criticized for its significant environmental impact. This sector, characterized by rapid and cheap production of clothing in response to fleeting trends, is responsible for various forms of pollution, from water contamination to greenhouse gas emissions, and massive textile waste production (Dissanayake, 2019). In this context, the second-hand fashion market emerges as a potential solution to mitigate the harmful consequences of fast fashion. This dynamic raises an essential question: to what extent does the rise of the second-hand fashion market effectively address the environmental challenges posed by the fast fashion industry?

The rise of the second-hand market constitutes an economic and sustainable alternative to the mass consumption encouraged by fast fashion. In 2023, the resale market reached a turnover of 33 billion euros and is expected to nearly double to 70 billion euros by 2025 (BPI France). ThredUp even predicts that this market will reach 350 billion euros by 2028, growing 11 times faster than the global clothing market. These figures not only illustrate the economic appeal of second-hand fashion but also its potential to transform consumption practices towards more sustainable models. Platforms like Vinted, a global leader in clothing resale, are proof of this shift. According to ThredUp (2024), by 2025, second-hand clothing sales are expected to account for 10% of the global fashion market, reflecting a significant change in consumer attitudes in favor of sustainability.

European consumer behavior towards sustainability has seen a notable evolution, particularly accentuated by the COVID-19 crisis. During the pandemic, 57% of people changed their lifestyle to reduce their environmental impact, and more than 60% strive to recycle and buy more sustainable products (McKinsey, 2020). In fashion, 65% of consumers are willing to buy more sustainable items (Sawers et al., 2020). This trend is reflected in the rapid expansion of the second-hand fashion market in Europe. Cross-Border Commerce Europe predicts that this market will double by 2025 to reach 34 billion euros (2021). In 2021, 90 million people tried resale for the first time, compared to 16 million in 2020, illustrating exponential growth compared to traditional retail (Business AM, 2021). Consumers are increasingly turning to circular and sustainable products, with 45% of online buyers having already purchased a circular product and 70% of second-hand buyers making their first luxury purchase on vintage resale platforms (Silicon, 2021).

In Portugal, where the fashion sector accounted for 5% of GDP in 2020 (Executiva, 2020), consumers are showing increasing sensitivity to environmental issues. A study reveals that 95.18% of Portuguese people consider it crucial to protect the planet’s health (Comunidades Lusófonas, 2021). However, despite this awareness, purchasing behaviors remain mixed. According to Domingues and Gonçalves (2020), environmental attitudes are not systematically studied in Portugal, although the country is particularly vulnerable to climate change. A BNP Paribas study indicates that 52% of Portuguese consumers buy sustainable products, but only 11% exclusively opt for ecological options when other alternatives exist (Correia, Distribuição Hoje, 2021). Nevertheless, a survey reveals that 64.73% of Portuguese consumers are willing to pay more for ethical brands (Comunidades, 2021), showing a positive evolution towards more responsible consumption choices.

A global and steady change in consumers habits

The rapid growth of the second-hand fashion market reflects a deeper cultural shift, where the value of sustainability begins to surpass that of novelty and trend. This transition is beneficial not only for the environment but also for the economy. By extending the lifespan of clothing, second-hand fashion reduces the demand for new production, significantly decreasing the resources used and waste generated. A study by the Stockholm Environment Institute revealed that extending the life of a garment by just nine months can reduce its carbon footprint, waste, and water use by 20-30% (WRAP, 2020).

Furthermore, the second-hand market integrates into a circular economy, an economic model aimed at reducing waste and maximizing resource use. By reintroducing clothing into the consumption cycle, it helps combat textile waste and overcrowded landfills. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), around 700,000 tons of clothing are thrown away each year in France, with only 38% being recycled (ADEME, 2020). The rise of the second-hand market could significantly improve these figures by encouraging the reuse and recycling of textiles.

Second-hand fashion as a response to environmental damages from fast fashion

However, despite its many advantages, the second-hand fashion market is not without challenges. One of the main obstacles is the cultural and social perception of second-hand clothing, often associated with lower status or poverty. Additionally, authenticity and quality of products can be an issue, requiring rigorous verification systems to gain consumer trust. Moreover, the market faces increasing competition from fast fashion brands seeking to establish themselves in the second-hand sector, potentially diluting the positive environmental impact.

In conclusion, the rise of the second-hand fashion market represents an effective response to the environmental challenges posed by the fast fashion industry. By transforming consumption practices towards more sustainable models and integrating circular economy principles, it significantly contributes to reducing the fashion industry’s ecological footprint. However, to maximize its potential, it is crucial to overcome cultural and quality challenges while encouraging greater adoption by consumers. Thus, second-hand fashion can play a key role in building a more sustainable future for the planet.


  • ADEME. (2020). La gestion des déchets textiles.
  • BPI France. (2023). Le marché de la revente de vêtements.
  • Business AM. (2021). Les consommateurs et la revente de vêtements.
  • Comunidades Lusófonas. (2021). La conscience environnementale des Portugais.
  • Correia, Distribuição Hoje. (2021). Les comportements d’achat durables au Portugal.
  • Cross-Border Commerce Europe. (2021). Le marché de la seconde main en Europe.
  • Dissanayake, G. (2019). Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion.
  • Domingues, R., & Gonçalves, P. (2020). Attitudes environnementales au Portugal.
  • Executiva. (2020). Impact économique de l’industrie de la mode au Portugal.
  • McKinsey. (2020). L’impact de la COVID-19 sur les comportements de consommation.
  • Sawers, P. et al. (2020). Sustainability and Consumer Behavior.
  • Silicon. (2021). La mode de seconde main et les produits circulaires.
  • ThredUp. (2024). The Future of Secondhand Fashion.
  • WRAP. (2020). Prolonging the life of clothes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top

This project aims at exploring the implications of Covid-19 for economic development, with particular insights on green growth alternatives and social development.

Project incubated by International Impact.

Contact us

Phone: +33651579727
Mail :