Demand for sustainable fashion and second-hand clothing on the rise

Two friends shopping in second-hand fashion shop

Sustainable fashion and second-hand clothing has seen a surge in demand as people look to switch to eco-friendly shopping styles.

And alongside Love Island promoting sustainable fashion for the first time, there’s been a 50 per cent increase in online searches for ‘second-hand clothing’ in the past year, according to analysis of Google search trends.

What does this latest shopping trend mean for sustainable and vintage fashion small businesses?

Online searches for ‘sustainable brands’ up 614%

The reality TV programme, Love Island, ditched its usual fast fashion brand partner to support smaller outlets on eBay this year. The show has previously partnered with brands including Saw It First, MissGuided, and JD Sports, which are all known for offering cheaper fashion items and a high stock turnover.

Within a week of the reality show airing in June 2022, the searches for ‘sustainable brands’ jumped by 614 per cent, compared to the same period a year ago.

Searches for ‘circular fashion’ increased by 100 per cent and searches for ‘vintage fashion’ went up by almost a quarter (22 per cent).

Growth in small sustainable fashion businesses

Analysis of new Simply Business insurance policies taken out last year shows that the number of independent fashion businesses has grown by 23 per cent in just one year.

Small businesses are experiencing first-hand the rise in popularity of vintage and second-hand fashion, which previously might have been considered niche.

Evie, owner of clothing store Ever-Kind in Manchester and a Depop shop, said: “We have been trading for just under a year. We have definitely seen an increase in demand for sustainable fashion in the past year.

“More and more people are realising that you can invest in amazing quality, one of a kind clothing that lasts a lot longer than clothes from fast fashion retailers.”

Holly standing outside her second-hand fashion store

One Scoop Store sells vintage and pre-loved fashion

‘A massive change in attitudes’

Holly, owner of One Scoop Store in Stoke Newington, London said: “I’ve been selling second-hand clothing for 25 years, originally via eBay and market stalls.

“There’s definitely been a massive change in attitudes towards second-hand clothing. The demand is huge now, and the sector is set to overtake fast fashion within the next couple of years – I definitely wouldn’t have predicted this when I started selling vintage clothes aged 14!

“Consumers who previously wouldn’t have considered secondhand are now actively shopping this way, I think largely due to the fact that stores like mine make it so easy to do so. Previously you would have to trawl charity shops and markets, now so many businesses are doing the hard work for you.”

‘A brand that provides a platform to SMEs’

Love Island’s partnership with eBay has seen contestants on the show wearing stylish second-hand outfits from independent sellers on the ecommerce platform.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, said: “Love Island is watched by so many across the UK, so I’m delighted to see that they have chosen to partner with a brand that provides a platform to SMEs. This has already had a direct influence on consumer searches – namely a 100 per cent increase in searches for ‘sustainable brands’ within the first week of the show airing. It’s also promising to see in our data that there has been a 23 per cent rise in independent fashion SMEs in the past 12 months.

“Small businesses are vital to the UK economy. They’re the lifeblood of our local communities and collectively contribute trillions of pounds a year in turnover. The uptick in sustainable fashion businesses is demonstrative of the growth and innovation that the UK’s SME community is capable of, and it’s never been more important for us to champion them.”

If you’re looking to start an online shop, our how-to guide has tips on setting up an ecommerce platform (including eBay) and other practical steps you need to know. And our guide to creating a sustainable fashion business includes tips and trends from independent businesses.

Have you got a sustainable fashion business? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.

Read more: The best sustainable packaging materials for small businesses

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Photograph: AntonioDiaz/stock.adobe.com

Photograph: AntonioDiaz/stock.adobe.com

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

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