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Are we thrifty and thriving?

Buying secondhand has never been so enticing. But is it sustainable?

Time are changing, out with the new and in with the old. In recent years, resale, pre-loved, secondhand, rental, thrift and vintage fashion has become increasingly desirable, particularly in South Africa. As shoppers begin to question the impact of their clothing, many want shopping alternatives to fast fashion.

Y2K fashion enjoyed a recent ressurgence, and the retro style revival has not only made the late ’90s and early noughties fashionable again but also resale and other shopping alternatives.

Resale is one of the biggest shopping trends today, as many people want to shop more sustainably and get rid of the clothes they no longer want. Secondhand used to seem cheap and unfashionable but has recently become very trendy, especially among Gen Z and millennials. There are many ways to wear more and buy less. Search your grandmother’s closet for hidden gems such as a vintage baguette bag, one-of-a-kind jewellery, or a cosy button-up cardigan or oversized blazer hiding in the back gathering dust. Clothes swops with friends are also a fun (and free) way to get new clothing.

Thrifting means to search for used clothing at thrift stores, and the thrill of finding unique pieces has filtered down to many secondhand shops. The appeal of used, vintage or rental is in finding rare treasures.

Rental has been around for the last decade but has taken a while to gain desirability and profi tability. Renting has become the new owning, as customer behaviour and people’s sense of temporary ownership has changed. We no longer need to own our clothes. Rental means you don’t need to wear the same outfi t twice, which is ideal if you have functions to attend, but no idea what to wear to them. Not only does rental make fashion more sustainable and circular but also more accessible to luxury brands. Today, you can rent luxury or designer clothing for a fraction of its retail price. Rental is a growing market, but countries such as Africa still need to embrace it as widely as they do luxury.

Fifty people could rent one Gucci dress as opposed to buying one each. Rental is a sustainable way to shop and thrive. But although shopping secondhand or renting may seem sustainable by keeping clothing out of landfills, we need to shop more consciously and make meaningful purchases. A report by Business Wire predicts that by 2030, the resale market will be twice as big as the fast-fashion market. Our buying behaviour needs to change too, as we mustn’t shop secondhand guilt-free like it’s fast fashion. Buying used doesn’t mean fast fashion brands will produce less, and it still induces consumers’ satisfying feelings of newness. This speaks to broader issues in the industry, such as always buying trends, how clothing is made and the habits of overproduction and overconsumption. As fast fashion and luxury brands are tapping into the resale market, we need to ask what happens to unwanted clothing that isn’t resold? Look for versatile, quality clothing made to last, and you can wear it for years, not just one season. Repair that zip or sew on that missing button. Dress more consciously, and you’ll be thrifty and thriving. Being thrifty isn’t just a trend; it’s here to stay.



Style Rotate aims to redefine wardrobes by renting and rotating outfi ts within its community. With Style Rotate, you can rent an outfit for any occasion, and what someone else has worn is new for others. Dresses, jumpsuits, matching sets and suits are subcategorised by occasion or size, making it easy to choose. Browse their offering, book your rental online and then try it on at their Cape Town store, or you can pop in for a fit-it day to try on as many dresses as you like.



This store sells curated, quality vintage clothing and accessories. If you’re lucky, you may find vintage Jean Paul Gaultier, Tommy Hilfi ger, Calvin Klein or Prada. They’ve recently launched their KIND collection of stitched tops made from off-cuts and damaged items.



Founded by Clare Robertson, THE FLIPP sells a curated selection of preloved luxury fashion and pieces from influencers’ closets by brands including Coach, Gucci, Jacquemus and Zimmermann.



Vintage with Love combines fashion with charity, selling pre-loved, gently worn designer clothing with all proceeds to support literacy charity programmes in South Africa. They believe it’s better to donate than accumulate. Not only does Vintage with Love sell secondhand, but raises money for a good cause.

By Tamar Hayden

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