United Wardrobe, the leading online second-hand clothing platform in the Netherlands, has been taken over by its international competitor Vinted. The world of second-hand fashion is growing rapidly in popularity, leading to an astounding number of four million users to sign up as members on the United Wardrobe app. This is a huge number, considering it covers only three countries: the Netherlands, France and Belgium. Vinted, founded in Lithuania, is a similar online community, which has reached as many as twenty million members from twelve different countries. The two applications have decided to merge in an attempt to take the world of second-hand fashion by storm.
As attention to sustainability becomes more and more prominent in the media, consumers are becoming more aware of their personal impact on the environment. Research into the practices of fast fashion brands has brought shocking stories to the surface. Evidently, the mass production of clothing at low cost often has detrimental consequences for workers. In addition, these brands collectively contribute to 20% of the global wastewater and 10% of global gas emissions. Keeping these statistics in mind, it is fair to say that mass consumerism has made its mark on our world.
Desperately trying to sustain this materialistic mindset, popular fast fashion brands claim to make up for the damage they do by taking small steps in the right direction. However, attempts at sustainable clothing lines, better treatment of workers and more eco-friendly forms of production often get negative press. These efforts are simply not large enough to make a noteworthy difference. Sometimes research leads to even more questions about the balance between the actual efforts and the transparency of what these brands claim to represent. For example, just last year H&M was under fire for its so-called ‘conscious collection’. While descriptions were persuasive in making the line seem sustainable, no actual details were shared about the changes in production. Whether this was just a marketing ploy or not is still unclear.
With the slowly deteriorating popularity of fast fashion, a rapid growth in second-hand shopping occurred. Both the social and economic climate have contributed to this trend. Donating and selling old and unused clothing used to be something one could only do in person. Creating an online platform for this has made it easier to find a new home for unused items. Both Vinted and United Wardrobe have successfully implemented this concept, simplifying and streamlining the process of sustainable clothing exchange. The apps work with several modes of giving and receiving feedback, allowing minimal malpractice in selling and acquiring clothing pieces.
So, if the two apps followed exactly the same process, why did they decide to merge? According to the founders of United Wardrobe, Vinted has become a ‘unicorn’ company, with its profits exceeding a billion euros. The partnership will allow even more of Dutch, French and Belgian users to contribute to the cause. This sounds like an ideal situation; however, one problem has angered previous United Wardrobe users. Although a United Wardrobe account is easily transferrable to the new Vinted platform, accounts that are seen as ‘too commercial’ are immediately blocked by Vinted. This means that accounts processing too many transactions, or users that make their own clothing and decide to sell them on Vinted, are banned from the platform. Although this is understandably disappointing, it is important to remember that this app is not intended to become a tool for independent businesses.
Overall, the growth of Vinted and its collaboration with United Wardrobe will benefit the global progression towards a more sustainable form of fashion. The benefits of a global clothing exchange, accessible to more and more users, definitely outweigh the downsides. Currently, spending more time indoors gives us the chance to finally sort out our wardrobes. Directing our sights to the future, selling used clothing might be our best bet, even if it was originally bought from a fast fashion brand.
Written by Charlotte Seijger