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Old Clothes Took Center Stage at New York Fashion Week

Although luxury brands usually push their new styles in September, over 35 brands at this year’s NYFW made sustainability their trend of choice. That’s a big shift from the usual runway mindset.


Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer
Diane von Furstenberg | Wikipedia

Could it be the beginning of changing the culture to treat vintage garments as heirloom pieces meant to be passed down and reworn?


A good example is Diane von Furstenberg. For years, she has sent models down the runway at New York Fashion Week, unveiling her latest clothing collection. This September, however, she’s abstaining from the shows. Instead, she’s encouraging customers to visit her flagship store in Chelsea to shop secondhand pieces from previous seasons. Meanwhile across town, the designer Ulla Johnson has curated vintage garments from her own personal collection, making them available for sale at her store on Bleecker Street.


For decades, the fashion industry has seen September as a chance to cultivate a desire for newness. This constant push to get consumers to buy more is not good news for our planet as the industry now churns out more than 100 billion clothes annually and is responsible for 8 percent of global carbon emissions.


So, this new shift - called 'Secondhand September' - could indeed be good news. It's a movement that encourages consumers to buy used garments instead of new ones, if they need to update their wardrobe. And more broadly, fashion brands across the spectrum are embracing resale, to keep clothes in circulation for longer.


“I think sustainability is top of mind for many customers right now, after we’ve just had the hottest summer on record,” says Emily Gittins, founder and CEO of Archive, a startup that powers the resale operations of all of these brands.


There have always been ways to buy used garments (such as ThreadUp and Vinted), more often than not these days referred to as pre-loved or vintage. But until recently, most brands didn’t want to have anything to do with the resale market, worried that the resale market may cut into their sales, if consumers choose to buy used rather than new products.


But over the past five years, some fashion labels have been willing to consider resale as a way to signal their commitment to sustainability by extending the life of their products.

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