Hello, my name is Rossanna Ceccato. Ever since 2007, I have been part of the world of fashion entrepreneurs. As many of you might know, I’ve developed fashion companies in Venezuela, Colombia, and the United States. My experiences through all that time has allowed me to create the content I’m sharing with you today.
Every woman in the planet, no matter where they come from or what language they speak, will say the same thing just as they open their closets to get dressed: “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR!”
We surveyed more than 1,000 women in the United States to find out how many practically-new unused pieces of clothes they had in their closets and more than 80% said, “WAY TOO MANY.” Studies show the value of unused garments in an average woman’s closet in the U.S. is around $3,300. That number sends a clear message, we have way more clothes than we need.
The bottom line is that the clothes hanging in our closets have real value, but they are just collecting dust in our hangers. In fact, there are an estimated 5.3 billion barely-used pieces of clothing hanging in people’s closets in the United States alone, which represents a monetary value of 220 billion dollars that, after a while, will add to around 800 thousand tons of textile garbage.
Ironic, isn’t it? The world is becoming increasingly aware of the environmental damage of the fashion industry, but, on the other hand, fashion is a polluting machine that does not stop. 150 billion garments are being manufactured every year. That is 62 million tons of clothing and accessories. And, let me tell you something… 30% of those clothes will never be sold. To make the story worse, the world economy loses about $460 billion every year in perfectly good clothing pieces that the industry and people throw away, when they could very well continue wearing them.
Social consciousness is driving consumers to sustainable consumption and I know women are moving to the second hand apparel market…
I did a research on SECOND- HAND fashion, and I could not believe my findings. Surprisingly, there are 56 million women between the ages of 25 and 55 who buy used clothes in good condition and have stated that with the money they saved, they have been able to renew their wardrobes in a cheaper way. They already understood there is a big economical and environmental problem here.
Now, when most of us think about second-hand clothes, one thing come to my mind about second-hand fashion, and is the belief that used clothes are inherently dirty, gross, full of bacteria, and other crazy things that will make us sick.
A while ago, I uploaded a video to Instagram in which I discussed the topic of people believing that used clothes are unhygienic. At that time, I explained to my followers the process of manufacturing and transporting new clothes from the factories to a distribution center. On many occasions, when receiving a container with clothing, I discovered it had come with lice or even rodents included!
When new clothes arrive at the stores, they are usually neither washed nor sanitized and, adding insult to injury, the average number of people trying on a garment before the lucky owner acquires it is at least of 30 people! To conclude this rather unpleasant journey, on most occasions, clothes are worn for the first time by their new owners without being washed, so they don’t lose their “new clothes’ smell”.
Consumers only fear second-hand clothing, would be shocked to learn about the bacteria, insects, and FLUIDS that have been found in brand-new clothes purchased from well-known retailers in the United States.
Despite the bad preconceptions about it, the mere existence of second hand apparel platforms demonstrate U.S women are looking for solutions for the mint condition clothing they currently own but no longer use. The problem is that available solutions still present important shortcomings:
Let´s look deeper in those platforms:
Many people resort to resale to recover some of the money spent on clothes they have lying in their closets. Today, there are platforms where people send their clothes auction them, waiting on an offer to be able to sell them. This scheme has even extended to the luxury clothing market.
Resale is an outlet for all those women who want to recoup money so they can renew their wardrobes with the added beneficial effect of contributing to polluting less.
However, the inconvenience with reselling is how much of the money spend on a piece you can actually get back. For example, for a garment with very little use and of very good quality, at best they can recover 30% of the original price. This is because clothes start depreciating or losing most of their value right after they leave the store.
While it is true that they will give you money for the clothes you sell, and that you can use that money to purchase other new or used clothes in these same or different platforms /stores, the problem as I see it, is that with the money you recoup you will never be able to buy something of the same price or quality as the piece you sold.
Not long ago, I was conducting an interview to a focus group, and one of the participants told me: “I disagree with you. If I have a garment that cost me $2,000, I will sell it on a used clothing sales platform for $600, and with that money, I will buy another piece on the same platform.” To which my answer was: “Yes, you could do that. But what you might not have noticed is that the garment that cost you $2,000 and for which you were paid $600, resells on that same platform for $1,500. So, if you change your mind and you would like to buy it back, you would have to put $900 out of your own pocket to get it. This is exactly what I mean when I say that a piece of clothing of a certain quality does not translate to one of similar value. The piece you sold for $600 will not let you acquire something remotely similar to It.
I guess you are as SURPRISED as I was when I found about this? For all purposes, YES, Reselling is and will remain a solution, but it is definitely not a fair one. At the end of the day, you will end up losing a lot of your wardrobes value and you will not be able to buy something remotely similar in quality; much less in price.
Clothes Rental Platforms
What woman hasn’t heard about a famous clothing rental platform in the United States? Some of these companies even rent designer clothes. I have used them myself whenever I wanted to look royal in an event without having to beat up my credit card for something I will only use once in my life.
In terms of practicality, renting clothes is the way to go. This method allows us to look stunning at an event without needing to pay full price. Instead, we only pay a small fraction of that price to have it for a few days.
However, there is something I don’t like about rental. While it allows us to avoid the expense of having to buy a new and expensive single-use outfit, it does nothing to monetize the $3,300 of unused clothing value in the average American female wardrobe. Moreover, if we are talking about hygiene, while it is true that new clothes go through a gloomy manufacturing and transport process, and then about thirty people try it on before it reaches the hands of its final owner, in rental the numbers are much, much worse. A SINGLE PIECE OF CLOTHING CAN BE RENTED BY AS MUCH AS 120 DIFFERENT PEOPLE IN A YEAR. Furthermore, if I told you that I trusted the laundering methods of rental services, I would be blatantly lying.
Clothes Swapping Platforms
You might be thinking, third time’s a charm, right?
Over the years, several of my clients approached me to purchase my own dresses. The same dresses that I have worn only once or twice, and many of which still have their labels because I only put them on only for a photo shoot.
It was an interesting proposition. However, I did not agree with the price they offered me. Being a CPA, I have a hard time understanding the depreciation method that people apply to garments, even when these pieces have not covered their useful life by any means and still have the original labels attached. Nonetheless, as I knew that I would never use them again, I proposed making an exchange. If they brought the new or practically new pieces they had in their closets, perhaps we could all come up with a barter agreement in which we all would leave feeling happy and had some fun in the process.
It would be an understatement to tell you that this experience was anything short of groundbreaking for me because I realized that the exchange was fair in both quantity and value, and the clothes I got were practically new and absolutely gorgeous!
On that occasion, I managed to exchange eight items from my wardrobe for eight other pieces from other women. If I had sold mine, I would have recovered 30% of the original price, at best. However, I ended up swapping eight garments of little use for eight in the same condition, which if I had purchased new at a store, they would have cost me around $1,200. All of this for the total grand number of $59, used simply to cover the expenses of the event and the laundry.
In fact, this is the most cost-effective and fun way to renovate your wardrobe without spending more than an entry fee. On top of that, I SAVED ABOUT 90% OF THE ORIGINAL VALUE OF THE PIECES I EXCHANGED! MY WARDROBE VALUE WAS PRACTICALLY UNSCATHED.
I have to confess that it was very exciting to realize I had discovered a way to find beautiful clothes, without spending thousands of dollars a year. But nothing can be absolutely perfect. Swaps are limited to one to one transaction. This means that in order for a swap to happen you need to like somebody else’s piece but at the same time that person needs to like yours. This inherit limitation can be frustrating for swap participants, but more importantly has relegated this model to fun but small events or mom and pop shops without the possibility of scale.
I am still looking for the fairest solution not just for my wardrobe, I am talking about the wardrobe of 165 millions of women in U.S.
And I Know I will find it!
See you soon