The Resale Revolution

Thanks to TikTok, Gen Z, and the impending climate crisis, the online second-hand clothing resale market is booming — but in-person thrifting is here to stay.

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On a cool August evening last summer, I was strolling through a flea market in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba with my two best friends. The market was full of vintage clothing resellers, and I was on the hunt for a leather bomber jacket. While pushing through the crowd, something caught my eye.

I stopped and stared at the jacket. It was the style I was looking for, an oversized, collared leather jacket in black. I peeked at the tag inside: Italian leather, exactly my size. I slipped it on over my sweater — it fit perfectly.

“How much is this?” I asked the seller, mentally crossing my fingers for luck. From looking at other vintage clothing vendors that night, I was predicting it to run me almost $100. The seller found the price tag on the jacket and showed me.


The thrift gods had spoken.

For me, the perfect thrift find ticks four boxes: no one else has it, it’s a little worn in from the previous owner, it fits perfectly, and it’s less expensive than buying the same type of item brand new.

I’ve always enjoyed thrifting with my friends and searching the racks at shops for hidden gems. But finding that perfect thing became more difficult when the COVID-19 pandemic closed thrift and vintage stores in Winnipeg. The start of the pandemic coincided with the beginning of my TikTok addiction, and I remember enviously watching other thrifters share the amazing pieces they were picking up at their local stores while Winnipeg’s shops were still closed.

I missed thrifting and wanted to update my wardrobe sustainably. After stumbling across YouTube and TikTok hauls from people thrifting online, I was inspired to enter the world of online second-hand resale for the first time. I started scouring websites like thredUP and Etsy and finding second-hand, one-of-a-kind pieces that became staples in my wardrobe. Buying the exact second-hand items I wanted had never been so easy. 

While I had thought of thrifting as a strictly in-person experience, people have been able to buy second-hand clothing online since the beginning of the internet. Selling pre-loved clothes online first started on websites like eBay and Craigslist in the mid-nineties to early 2000s. However, it wasn’t until the early 2010s that websites dedicated to helping people buy and sell their new or used clothing popped up, said Teen Vogue, who defined the decade as when second-hand shopping online blossomed. Today, sites like thredUP, Poshmark, Depop, and TheRealReal are a part of a resale industry that The Business of Fashion says is growing at five times the rate of overall commerce.

ThredUP’s 2023 Resale Report is one of the most comprehensive reports about the global second-hand market and consumer trends. The report says online resale is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. second-hand market and is predicted to grow 21 per cent each year on average over the next five years. 

Due to the increasing popularity of online thrifting, more small, local second-hand businesses have grown their online presence. Carjelu Delera of Clothing Bakery, Joanna Przytula of Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop, and Natasha Rey of Nuage Vintage are all founders or employees of Winnipeg-based shops that have created websites and grown their social media platforms to keep up with consumers’ thrifting habits. Brick-and-mortar stores and pop-up shops are adapting with online platforms, showing how trends in thrifting are changing the way we buy second-hand, globally, and locally.

The Rise of Online Resale

A ring light shines on a pile of books, blanket, and pillow strategically placed on a table with a white tablecloth for a social media image. Beside the table is a rack of vintage sweaters.
Joanna Przytula and the e-commerce and social media team at Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop shoot content for their website “Love to Thrift” and their social media. (Christina Klysh)

Joanna Przytula is a part of the e-commerce and social media team at Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop. What makes Kildonan MCC different from other large thrift stores in Winnipeg is they have a website where they re-sell clothing, shoes, accessories, books, and homeware goods.

“The plan was to start an online section that we can sell stuff of higher value and attract customers, especially the younger generation, or even people from different parts of the city who would buy stuff from re-sellers,” said Przytula. Once COVID-19 hit, the need to create a website grew. In December 2023, Kildonan MCC’s website Love to Thrift celebrated its three-year anniversary. 

“The idea behind the name was to highlight the passion for thrifting, for repurposing items, and from keeping stuff from the landfill and buying used stuff,” said Przytula. One of Kildonan MCC’s goals for 2024 is to promote upcycling. They want to inspire customers to create something new from their purchases or highlight the skills of their employees and volunteers who repair or upcycle donated items. Kildonan MCC has a curated section called Re-imagine in their store, which is dedicated to highlighting and selling upcycled items, and they have a “repurposed” section on their website where they transform donated items into something new. 

In the global second-hand market, many large brands have started their own online resale programs. These programs allow customers to buy and sell pre-loved clothing directly from a brand rather than from a third-party seller or marketplace. According to Trove, a company that helps brands extend the life of their products, clothing companies like Eileen Fisher and Patagonia have been running resale programs since the early to mid-2010s. ThredUP’s “The Recommerce 100 report” found a huge growth in the industry between 2021 and 2022 resulted in over 163 brands now having resale programs. Among this list are brands like Shein and Zara, fast fashion giants known for cheaply made clothing and poor environmental practices who are likely using their resale programs for greenwashing. Good on You, a company that analyzes the sustainability of fashion brands, advises avoiding these brands at all costs.

Many brand’s resale programs work like Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” program, which has been a leader for online clothing recycling since it started its program in 2011 on eBay. Customers can trade in their used Patagonia items for a store credit to buy a used item or something brand new, or they can send in their damaged product to Patagonia to get it fixed by a repair tech. However, brands with resale programs are still struggling to get consumers to use them to offset the damaging effects of clothing production on the environment, or to make a profit. According to an article by Bloomberg Businessweek, second-hand clothing only accounts for up to five per cent of overall revenue for brands who have invested the most time and marketing into their resale programs. The article suggests retailers list used and new items together on their websites — instead of separating pre-loved products — to encourage customers to buy second-hand.

Generation Thrift

ThredUP’s 2023 Resale Report predicts the growth of the second-hand market in the 2020’s will be because of shoppers buying second-hand for the first time. Of consumers making up the second-hand market in the U.S., 40 per cent are estimated to be existing second-hand shoppers while 60 per cent will be new to purchasing second-hand. Two-thirds of these shoppers are expected to be Gen Z and Millennials due to their purchase-power increasing as they age.

While thrifting has traditionally been popular among teenagers and young adults, Gen Z brings a different perspective. According to Forbes, Gen Z is the generation most concerned with global warming and is the group adopting the most sustainable consumer behaviors. As a member of Gen Z and a fashion lover myself, buying new clothing has always been an exciting, yet anxiety-inducing experience. I’m torn between wanting to express myself with clothing, but also not wanting to contribute to destroying our planet. Purchasing quality, thrifted pieces that will be in my wardrobe for many years to come from second-hand sources allows me to be creative while not feeling guilty.

Gen Z is also a generation growing up with an incredibly high cost of living, with the affordability crisis in Canada predicted to continue in 2024. In McKinsey & Company and BOF’s (Business of Fashion) The State of Fashion 2024 report, inflation is anticipated to negatively impact the fashion industry, with a decrease of unnecessary spending expected in 2024. The online second-hand market not only allows younger generations to buy affordable clothing, but it also provides an easy and low-cost way for them to make money. For example, Depop is a marketplace app predominantly used by Gen Z, according to their Gen Z report, and Depop says they have helped sellers on the app make over $2.5 billion

Annika Scheelar is a Gen Z college student from Winnipeg who started selling her clothes on Instagram and Facebook Marketplace in 2020 when thrift stores were closed. She has sold over 500 items on her Instagram @windsorparkthrifts, which has over 1500 followers. She started selling clothing from her family, friends, and her own closet, and pieces she found at thrift stores once they re-opened after the pandemic. Scheelar thrifts in person and online, including on Kildonan MCC’s website.

“I would like to say that 95 per cent of my closet is second-hand,” said Scheelar, who started buying second-hand clothing at age 13. “I wanted to wear the brands and stuff that other kids were wearing, but I realized I didn’t have the money to buy that.” She was also inspired to thrift by YouTubers like Emma Chamberlain, Alexa Sunshine83, and Haley’s Corner, who all create content about buying second-hand.

Now, Scheelar says she shops second-hand to find unique, affordable, and quality vintage pieces, and because its more sustainable.

“Over the years, I’ve looked into how clothing is made, the environmental impact it has, and how workers are treated that are making these clothes,” said Scheelar, who’s concerned about overconsumption. “That’s been a big thing, realizing how much [clothing] is in the world and wanting to buy second-hand, even if that makes a drop of a difference.”

A woman with short brown hair wearing a beige sweater, beige pants, and brown boots sits in the open door of a cream-coloured Boler trailer. There is a rug on the ground in front of her surrounded by racks of vintage clothes on each side.
Natasha Rey, founder of Nuage Vintage, sits in the 1968 Boler trailer that she does pop-ups and markets with in the summer. (Supplied by Natasha Rey, photographed by Sarah Lamontagne)

Natasha Rey is the founder of Nuage Vintage, a vintage store that combines her French and prairie-inspired style into curated timeless pieces. Rey says her audience is mostly women and non-binary people from their late teens to mid-thirties.

“That’s why I like to keep my prices really reasonable, because usually those people are maybe having to start their career and don’t want to have to spend a ton of money on expensive clothing,” says Rey, who sells her clothing on her website and does pop-ups and markets with her vintage 1968 Boler trailer in the summer. Wanting to combine her love for fashion and her drive to be a business owner, Rey started Nuage Vintage after graduating college, allowing her to be her own boss and test out different ideas for marketing and content creation. In December 2023, Nuage Vintage was featured in Elle Canada for being one of Canada’s coolest second-hand stores.

Carjelu Delera, co-owner of the streetwear-inspired vintage store Clothing Bakery in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, has been a part of the online resale market since high school, when he and his friends would resell their old clothes on Instagram. 

“We were just trying to figure out how we could make money, as we could not work regular part-time jobs,” said Delera. “We saw an Instagram page where they were selling their own clothes and we said, ‘Why don’t we do that?’ So, we started selling our own clothes, and once our old clothes ran out, we started thrifting, and we just kind of built from there.”

Five years later, he and his business partner have turned their clothing resale business into a popular website and storefront. While Clothing Bakery’s vintage streetwear style pieces are nostalgic for Delera’s older customers, he often sees teenagers and young adults in his store. Delera credits Clothing Bakery’s TikTok page for bringing in new, younger customers to their shop. 

A women in a brown winter coat browses racks of jeans in Clothing Bakery. The store is decorated with penchants on the wall and t-shirts for sale hang from the ceiling.
A shopper browses through Clothing Bakery’s store in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. (Christina Klysh)

Thrifting on TikTok

ThriftTok is a community on TikTok where users post and watch what other people have discovered at thrift and vintage shops. Hashtags like #thrifthaul now have over 400,000 posts and 4.5 billion views, while #thrifted has 1.1 million posts and 11.9 billion views.

Fashion trends that gain popularity on TikTok influence trends in thrifting, and vice versa. Many of these trends are what TikTok users call an “aesthetic,” which Time magazine describes as a “catch-all term for Gen Z, encompassing moods, feelings, and subcultures around which people can find link-minded users online.” A few popular aesthetics have gone viral on the app in the past year, such as ballet core, coastal cowgirl, and eclectic grandpa. One trend taking over TikTok right now is the mob wife aesthetic. Many credit this trend to the resurgence in popularity of the TV show The Sopranos and as a rejection of the minimalist, clean girl aesthetic. Now TikTok users are running to their local thrift stores to purchase fur coats, leopard print, and leather. There is even a “mob wife aesthetic mystery style box” made up of second-hand clothing available for purchase from user @krisrandall on Poshmark.

Rey attributes these niche trends to an overall trend of individualism she has seen grow in the thrifting community since creating Nuage Vintage. TikTok users are taking inspiration from each trend to create their own individual style, and rather than buying fast fashion, they’re turning to second-hand clothing to express themselves. Instead of listening to what large brands are telling them to wear, TikTok users are more influenced by their peers.

“People are really passionate about finding what their style is, and I think they find their own style by shopping vintage and second-hand because they’re not being told what to wear,” said Rey. “You can walk into Zara and see what the mannequins are wearing and say, ‘This is what I’m going to put on.’ But I think there’s a trend where people want to figure that out for themselves and what works best with their body type and how they want to present themselves.” 

Style bundles are another popular trend taking over ThriftTok. Style bundles are items or capsule wardrobes of second-hand clothing curated by re-sellers or vintage shops, specified to the customers sizes, preferences, and style. Style bundles are not only a sustainable way to buy clothing, but they also make curated second-hand more accessible for everyone. Many resellers have style bundle options for different budgets, and they often ask customers for their clothing measurements. Resellers can also curate second-hand clothing for people who may have mobility or health issues that make it difficult for them to thrift in-person. 

Rey brought back her style bundles after seeing how popular they were becoming on social media. In November 2023 she re-launched this service, and the bundles sold out within an hour.

“When someone places an order through the website, they fill out a questionnaire that I’ve prebuilt so they can tell me about the type of clothes they like to wear or what they’re looking for,” said Rey. “They can tell me who their style icons are based on a Pinterest board or any fashion blogs they really like.” Customers also choose how many pieces they want in their bundle. 

“Because I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and I’m in the French community, I often get phone calls from elderly people who are wanting to sell their vintage clothes,” said Rey. “So sometimes I get it right from the source, which is really cool.”

I wanted to try out a style bundle for myself. However, I found it hard to order from TikTok creators who are known for this service. Popular style bundle curators on TikTok like Erica Lubinic, Esme Carpenter, and Elizabeth Venter have “sold out” of their bundles after reaching their capacity of clients, or have wait times of up to six months to order a bundle.

After searching TikTok, Instagram, and Google for two hours, I finally found Elizabeth O. Vintage, a vintage clothing storefront and online shop from Penticton, British Columbia that offers curated style bundles. I paid $65 for four pieces. A day after placing my order I received an email directly from Holly, the owner of the store, and they asked for my sizes and measurements, style preferences, and any inspiration I have for my bundle. While some sellers can take up to two months to curate and send a bundle, Elizabeth O. Vintage guarantees it will be shipped in two weeks. 

Waitlists, price, shipping cost, the seller’s estimated timeline to create the bundle, and making sure the seller is credible are important things to consider when ordering a style bundle. I recommend checking the seller’s website or social media to see what kind of bundles they make or reading their reviews to ensure they’re legitimate. It was a long process to find a style bundle seller that checked all these boxes.

Thrifting Should be Affordable, Right?

New sustainably made clothing is often expensive, but buying second-hand is an option for environmentally conscious people to update their wardrobe at a lower cost. However, resellers and shops have started to hike up their prices, making buying second-hand less accessible.

“I think there’s definitely more resellers popping up, which is cool, because that means there is more demand,” said Rey. “The thing I really don’t love seeing is people hiking up their prices, when having been in the industry for a couple years. I know how much they probably pay for it.”

While Rey takes a very selective approach to her collection, ensuring she’s picking high-quality pieces she would wear, she has noticed many resellers picking and upselling a random collection of styles to make more money.

“Of course, you’ve got to have your margins. But I think for me, I want people to afford shopping second-hand, that’s the first reason I’m doing this,” said Rey.

Przytula says Kildonan MCC has gotten pushback on their social media for the pricing of their vintage items, but says these higher priced vintage items are things people want, not need.

“The idea behind online, the boutique, and our vintage lane — those items are your wants. We still sell items that are your needs for people who need a t-shirt, winter jackets, dishes, they can still buy these items for cheap,” she said.

However, when customers are shopping curated vintage stores, or buying style bundles, they’re not just paying for the clothing. They’re also paying for the many hours it takes curators to search for specific items, sizes, and quality pieces. For example, it can take Rey from six to ten hours to curate one style bundle, as she searches through her own collection, scours local thrift stores or websites like eBay or Facebook Marketplace, or buys items from other vendors.

The Fast Fashion Takeover

For those searching for affordable thrift finds, the good — and bad — news is that we’re not running out of clothing in thrift stores anytime soon. Approximately 80 to 150 billion new items of clothing are produced each year. One reason the exact number is unknown is due to gaps in the data of how many products clothing brands are making. According to British Vogue, mega-brands like Zara, Shein, and H&M have not shared the exact number of items they produce. Business Insider reported that Zara produces 450 million garments per year, while Shein releases 6000 new styles a day.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo and Seneca Polytechnic found that Canadians alone get rid of around a billion pounds of clothing and other items made from fabric each year. While only 20 per cent of these garments end up recycled, thrift stores are still struggling with the sheer number of items they receive. The book Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter details how thrift stores need more time and employees to sort through clothes and are running out of storage and floor space for donated items, forcing them to find ways to get rid of excess product. 

When I visited Kildonan MCC to interview Przytula, I went on a tour of the back of the thrift shop where donations were sorted and stored. With boxes of items piled up to the ceiling, and many racks of clothing still needing to be organized, it was shocking to see how much inventory a single thrift store in Winnipeg has. However, their inventory does not have the number of quality pieces their store once saw. Przytula has worked at Kildonan MCC for six years, but lately she has noticed an undeniable increase in fast fashion donations. 

Racks of colourful clothing with pink signs attached to the racks that say "Ready to price." Behind the racks are shelves all the way up to the top of the ceiling stacked with cardboard boxes filled with donations.
The back storage room of Kildonan MCC Thrift Shop where clothing is stored, sorted, and priced to be put out on the store floor. (Christina Klysh)

“We can talk about not supporting fast fashion and trying to buy your stuff from the thrift shop, but unfortunately more and more items that are donated are from Shein, Fashion Nova, and Zara,” said Przytula, who tries to avoid selling fast fashion on Kildonan MCC’s website. 

“The quality is worse. A lot of the longevity of these products will be shorter than your t-shirt from 20 years ago that’s 100 per cent cotton. You touch the fabric and then you know its Shein,” said Przytula.

People are buying and discarding new clothing more than ever. McKinsey & Company found the amount of clothing purchased has increased by 60 per cent, while consumers only keep clothing half as long as they used to. Many consumers believe buying and donating clothing at a rapid pace is okay because their donated clothing will stay out of landfills and go to someone who needs it. However, Canadian non-profit Fashion Takes Action found that only 25 per cent of clothing donated in Canada is sold to local customers. What isn’t sold in Canada is shipped to Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, or Sub-Saharan Africa, which has negatively affected developing countries’ textile markets, and resulted in clothing being dumped in their landfills.

Clothing Bakery buys most of its inventory from a wholesaler who owns a warehouse with second-hand clothing from Canada and the United States. Delera has a weekly video call with the wholesaler, where he chooses which items he wants for his shop.

“A big issue is that they’ve been getting a lot of newer stuff because it’s harder to find vintage,” said Delera.

Another reason curated vintage is becoming so popular is thrifters are struggling to find quality, vintage pieces in thrift stores. According to the thredUP 2023 Resale Report, the biggest motivators for consumers to buy second-hand are value and quality. The 2023 Resale Report from TheRealReal, an online luxury resale service, shows customers of all ages are willing to spend more money on items of higher quality. If thrift and vintage stores are full of fast fashion and micro-trends, how are consumers going to buy one-of-a-kind quality pieces?

“That’s the convenience we bring to the table,” said Delera, “Stuff that [the customers] like and want is all in one place, so it’s just easier for them.”

The Future of Second-hand Fashion

A pink, blue, and orange floral dress wrapped in a blue yarn bow, folded in a tissue wrap-lined cardboard box.
My style bundle from Elizabeth O. Vintage. (Christina Klysh)

As I walked up the icy path to my house, I noticed a package on my front steps — my style bundle had arrived! I brought it inside, sliced open the tape, and peeled back the white tissue paper. Placed on top of my clothes was a note from Holly, the store owner, explaining the choices behind each piece. The Pinterest board I sent Holly was inspired by my upcoming trip this spring, and it included many long flowy dresses, floral patterns, and fabric for hot weather. I undid the bow wrapped around the clothing and pulled out the first piece, a gorgeous pink floral dress. Holly and I had worked together over Instagram DMs to choose the four pieces I wanted, and for $65 I received two dresses, a tank top, and a vest. I tried on each piece, and all of them fit perfectly and were exactly like the pieces I had envisioned for my trip. If buying second-hand clothing online is this easy, affordable, and fun, there’s no reason to continue buying fast fashion.

It looks like the future of second-hand fashion will be a combination of both online and in-person thrifting. The online resale market is expected to grow, but in-person thrifting is not stopping any time soon. Clothing trends may come and go, but second-hand is here to stay.

Christina Klysh

Christina (she/her) loves a good bookstore, visiting new countries, playing basketball, and expressing herself through fashion. She hopes to combine one of the things she loves with a career where she can be creative.
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