How pre-loved products are changing the world
Second hand is no longer just about hand-me-downs and cosy, musty vintage shops. Today, a “pre-loved” product might be every bit as good-quality, high-performance and attractive as something brand new.
How we find and buy our second-hand gear has also changed beyond recognition. And, as we become ever more conscious of our impact on the planet, buying used is an increasingly sustainable choice. We take a look at some of the ways in which the second-hand revolution is set to change how we shop.
You only have to watch one episode of an antiques show on TV to understand that for something to last a long time and be passed on from person to person, it needs to be built to last.
As a result, some companies are using second hand to highlight the lasting quality of the items they make. This obviously applies to bigger purchases like wardrobes, kitchen equipment, cars and yachts – but it’s becoming more popular with day-to-day things such as clothing, too.
The outdoor gear brand Patagonia is known for its high-quality clothing. They make clothes that last – and they prove it via their Worn Wear initiative, where you can send in your old gear and swap it for credit to be used in their stores and online.
The gear will be patched up, cleaned and then sold on to the next person via an online portal – and if it's been repaired, the company sews a special Worn Wear patch (main picture) onto the item which, over the past couple of years, has become almost as coveted as the clothing itself. Keeping a lot of what they make in good shape and in action also reduces the overall amount of waste that the company generates.
PASS IT ON
This isn’t limited to outdoor gear. The charity Oxfam started the Vintage Stories initiative a few years ago, encouraging people to leave a little history or anecdote about the items they donate and giving buyers something extra with their purchases. (Like how it was worn to the theatre in Stockholm in the 1970s, for instance.)
Online marketplaces for second-hand gear are nothing new, but one app gets companies to buy their stuff back from you once you’ve finished with it, so they can recycle or upcycle it themselves. The app is called Stuffstr, and it’s developed with the ambitious vision that there should be "No Unused Stuff" in the world.
They’re working from the assumption that each American household has around US$7000 in unused “stuff" just sitting around their homes.
Stuffstr makes it easy for you to catalogue your own second-hand-ready items and notify the brands they've partnered with, who will then receive it from you in exchange for credit.
Partners include the British department store John Lewis, which already sells high-quality second-hand furniture and jewellery on its website and in certain stores. John Lewis customers can gather together their old purchases, list and upload the details via the app, and send them off.
Much of the gear is then lovingly refurbished and sold on via second-hand shops. It’s a mark of good quality, a way to keep goods in use and in top condition – not to mention another sound way to reduce waste.
Nothing illustrates this better than the second-hand shopping mall ReTuna. It’s located in Eskilstuna in the middle of Sweden and contains a selection of shops that sell everything from children’s clothes to computers: all second-hand gear, upcycled and refurbished, and passed back to the consumer at a fair price.
ReTuna is a smart galleria that was created to be a cool place to visit, browse and shop, as well as grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee in the café. And it’s a concept that’s working: in 2016, ReTuna sold over 8 million Swedish kroner of second-hand and upcycled products.
Thanks to the efforts of these companies and organisations, second hand is starting to take on a new image. Quality control, sustainable thinking and a bit of imagination are pushing it ever more into the mainstream – and more premium than it has been in the past. Thanks to this, there’s one thing we can say for sure: second hand definitely no longer means second best.