The Highsnobiety Better Earth Manual is a guide for style enthusiasts in the age of ecological crisis — a crisis caused in part by the fashion itself. Here, you’ll find a growing set of resources about conscious consumption and the pioneers who are making change in our industry.

As the old adage goes, "one man’s trash is another man’s treasure." Over the last decade, a cohort of savvy individuals have adopted that mindset by selling pre-loved garments to online secondhand marketplaces. In doing so, they are helping to transform retail into a more conscious space, one that continues the lifespan of garments which would otherwise be thrown away and builds a platform for young entrepreneurs to grow.

As the resale space expands — driven by the feverish interest of its communities — platforms like Poshmark and ThredUp have filed for IPOs following promising fundraising rounds. According to a report from GlobalData (via ThreadUp), the secondhand market is expected to double to $64 billion in the next five years, with resale overtaking traditional thrifting and donation. In its lifetime, Grailed has featured over 20,000,000 listings, while Depop counts 3,000 top sellers globally who account for 10 percent of all items sold on the app. Vestiaire Collective, with over 11 million members, adds 550,000 new listings per month.

This growth has created fantastic opportunities for top sellers too, who have been projected into the fashion universe through collaborations with adidas and CAT Footwear, and support schemes with the Black in Fashion Council. In order to be recognized as a top seller on these platforms, the selection process is based on sustaining monthly sales targets, shipping time, and customer reviews, which connects sellers with account managers who can afford them a variety of opportunities outside the platform. And it's not just online; the boom is taking place offline, too. The RealReal opened the doors to a flagship store in San Francisco, while Selfridges welcomed Depop and Vestiaire Collective to its shop floor permanently.

Of course, as with any product market that grows at such a rate, there are negative aspects to consider. While the merits of resale are abundantly clear, there are unavoidable downsides — primarily when new, hyped garments are bought just to be flipped for profit, often leaving buyers who actually engage with the product and brands in the first place empty-handed and excluded from the conversation.

“The general idea of this as a business model is a great one," Maxine Bédat, founder of New Standard Institute (a think tank focused on achieving sustainable development in the fashion industry) tells Highsnobiety. "I think popularizing this notion that clothing has an extended life beyond the one that you or an individual are purchasing is great. Used clothing doesn’t have this grimy or taboo idea about it anymore.

“The one caveat that I think is critical to add," Bédat continues, "is that [the resale] business model, from an environmental point of view, is only successful if it leads to that piece of clothing being worn more. If it's just to make more purchases and not extend the life of a garment, then that business model is not in service of the environment. The potential downside is that we’re flipping our clothes all the time and the trend is still part of it — we think that we’re doing something great but the planet doesn’t care about the marketing. It only sees whether we’re utilizing our resources for a longer period of time."

With all of this in mind, we spoke to a group of super resellers about their business, success, and whether resale can drive positive change or even change retail altogether. To varying extents, the sellers pride themselves on the quality and exclusivity of sourced stock, championing secondhand wares as luxurious, upcycling, and low-waste packaging, in addition to other practices, that allow them to play a part in the future of fashion. Here's what they had to say.

SAD SAC

Who: Daniel Walters, 25 What: Founder, SAD SAC on Depop Where: Donegal, Ireland

Walters entered the secondhand market as a teenager in rural Ireland. Fast forward five years and he has collaborated with CAT and adidas, with the help of Depop.

How did you get your start in resale?

I’ve taken the premise of buying and selling clothing online and turned it into a small business —  a clothing brand and artistic venture, run from my bedroom. I started off by going to car boot sales and charity shops, acquiring clothing, and finding brands I liked. I had such a collection that I became known as "the clothes guy" in my secondary school. When I graduated, I inevitably found Depop. I always say SAD SAC is a "coming-of-age" brand — I come from a background where there’s no real foundation of what art could be or what resale can be, so I approach it humbly with an open-armed "I don’t know what the heck I’m doing" approach. If anything, I think it feeds originality in my work. The clothing industry can be a bit egotistical or narcissistic but I like that I can come at it with a genuine point of view.

How do you approach selling?

I do this full-time. There’s definitely a "hustle" mentality; I abide by that word, I don’t finesse or anything, I do what I can to get by. I might have to get by on low income for the month. I like the adrenaline of how to make it work. Or I might get lucky and have a good month. I’m also designing a collection for a big artist at the moment. What I’ve done and how I’ve done it, I find myself with these opportunities. It’s definitely not glamorous but it fulfills me.

What would you attribute your success to?

Being too stubborn to give up. I’m my own biggest critic, which is a motivator if anything. I care for clothes. If you’re approaching resale, art, or content creation, you essentially have to sell your soul to it.

Do you think resale can drive positive change?

I think the positives outweigh the negatives with resale. My generation is touching on the potential of it. The internet is too new and there are way too many people in this industry to know what’s really happening. If anything, we’ll go down in history as innovators. At the moment, we don’t really know the full potential. We’re only starting to enter the realm of possibility of what online resale can be. It’s popular, it’s cool, there’s money to be made — once there’s a decade behind us, it could be revolutionary. This is the start.

Bax & Thistle

Who: Zachary Chadwick, 26, and Emilia Harker, 24 What: Founders, Bax & Thistle on Depop Where: Staffordshire, England

Bax & Thistle started as a project to re-wax old, battered Barbour jackets and blossomed into a vintage store that prides itself on finding unique pieces and sells them at affordable prices. With a background in photography and marketing, Chadwick and Harker combine their expertise to bring a sense of storytelling to secondhand.

How did you get your start in resale?

Chadwick: When I was at university in Sheffield, I found a shop that sold secondhand Barbour jackets. They were battered, no wax on them, falling apart, musty. I was buying them for £15 and using beeswax and thistle to refurbish them in Emilia’s mom’s kitchen.

Harker: We repurposed them and sold them on. Then we branched out to more high-end stuff and streetwear. People asked us to source specific things.

Chadwick: We tried to get stuff other sellers didn’t have but, obviously, that’s hard to sustain as a business.

What does business look like?

Harker: We finished working with Dawn Ward [from The Real Housewives of Cheshire]. It was a stressful, exciting, and entertaining six months. We did that alongside Bax & Thistle.

Chadwick: When we finished university five years ago we started working full-time and, recently, we just started a marketing firm. Harker: Our friends often ask us "when will you get a real job?" but just because it looks fun — and it is — if you don’t do the work the money doesn’t come in.

What would you attribute your success to?

Harker: We take great pride in how we present our work. Someone can fall in love with an item when they see it, but it’s how you tell the story through pictures.

Chadwick: We’re trying to show that just because it’s secondhand or vintage doesn’t mean it's not luxury, or that the consumer doesn’t want to experience that side of it.

Harker: It’s changing that attitude. It’s still a luxury item regardless of who’s had it and loved it before.

Do you think resale will transform retail?

Harker: It’s innately positive, but you’ll always have extremes of things — there’ll be people who sit with a bot, buy everything, and push the prices up. But you look at other sellers, like us, who look for one-off pieces who try to bring the life back into it. There’ll be other people who make art out of clothing.

Chadwick: The positives are fairly obvious. Unfortunately, fast fashion is popular because larger brands buy large quantities and you can’t beat them on the price, and, at the end of the day, it’s about the consumer and they want to pay as little as possible. It might be hard to change that on a larger scale.

Harker: But if you’re offering that alternative (which we try to do), then you are being part of that positive side to things.

Fuzz Clothing

Who: Jack, 25 & Oliver Swain, 23 What: Founders, Fuzz Clothing on Depop Where: Bedford, England

The Swains’ journey started with a £3 trench coat in a charity shop. The purchase sparked interest amongst Jack’s friends who similarly wanted to embrace lower-priced, pre-loved fashion. Sourcing products became an obsession, a careful process that forms the basis for Fuzz Clothing.

How did you start your business?

It started when my mom took me to a charity shop for the first time. I picked up a trench coat for £3 that looked amazing. The next day, I met up with my friends and everybody loved it. They wanted one or something similar. My brother’s friend had started up a Depop shop, and when I found out what it was I thought I could turn some charity shop finds into some extra cash. We went charity shopping everywhere. It evolved from there. All the stuff we sell is something that I would like to wear myself, that’s important.

How do you approach selling?

I work as a graphic designer part-time to supplement everything else. We have a studio space where I do my design work and where we photograph everything for Depop. We’re just trying things out and seeing where they go. Having a space like Depop where you can play around with things and get creative is really amazing.

What would you attribute your success to?

We focus our time on photography, packaging, the basic customer service experience like making sure you ship things promptly, communicating with your customers, and the quality of the clothing we sell. I think those are the things that separated us from other shops; the clothes might be more expensive but we spend more time on all those other things to present [what we offer] in the best way.

Do you think resale can drive positive change?

Apps like Depop promote [ways in which users can] shop more sustainably, which can spark an interest in people to look further into where their clothes are coming from. [It could inspire them to research] how they are made, who they are being made by, how these people are treated, and if the clothes are made from responsible materials. This could then lead to people investing their money into brands/companies that practice fair wages and working conditions. Millennials and Generation Z are becoming more conscious consumers and we’re demanding change when it comes to sustainability.

GroceryStore99

Who: Alex Lin, 25 What: Founder, GroceryStore99 on Grailed Where: New Hampshire, US

Lin’s desire for quick cash to take a vacation turned into a passion project that led him to build a Grailed store. GroceryStore99 curates a selection of Japanese designers and vintage pieces alongside some modern streetwear from brands like Billionaire Boys Club, Supreme, and Bape, with a belief that supporting secondhand will foster better buying habits in people.

How did you start your store?

I started in my sophomore year at Plymouth State University. Surprisingly, there weren’t many kids into fashion like I was. During that time, I struggled with money. So I decided to try to sell some of my personal items online, and then I saw an article about Grailed. It was easy to list something to sell for people who don't have any experience selling online. When I started my shop, everything was related to “Hypebeast,” the trending stuff. Over time, I learned more about vintage clothes. Sometimes these high-value Grails are forgotten and unwanted. I don’t think being trendy is a bad thing, but when there are tons of used clothes that can be reused and also profitable, that would be a great contribution to the sustainable development of our world.

What is your approach to selling?

When I was in school, I sold about 15-20 items per month, not a lot, but it was a good amount of money for me to buy and trade more clothes that I wanted. Now, I sell about 40-70 items per month.

What do you attribute your success to?

Passion. When I’m searching for a piece that I love, it may take an hour, a few days, or even a few months, but I enjoy this and it’s a lot of fun. Being a seller on Grailed has become a part of my life, so when selling, good customer service is required. I always try to be very patient with the customers who aren’t satisfied, every problem they have needs to be fixed.

In what ways do you think resale can drive positive change?

Nowadays, we are in a world with overconsumption and overproducing, especially in the clothing and fashion industry. When people buy more old and used clothes, they could consume less new season fashion products, which is a great thing to balance the problem of over-consumption and production. Also, that could lead us to a better result, reduces the environmental impact, won’t promote exploitative work conditions, and a unique style that only belongs to you, and you can save more money.

HANGDRYY

Who: Austin Sager, 24 What: Founder, HANGDRYY on Grailed Where: Los Angeles, US

A five-star seller with discerning taste in covetable streetwear, Sager’s gambit is hard-to-find pieces from Supreme, Carhartt, and Brain Dead, among others. The Los Angeles-based seller prides himself on selling US exclusives to an international audience, as well as finding unique collaborations with the likes of Travis Scott and Young Thug.

What was your path to resale?

I’ve been on eBay and forums since 2014, when I was 17, supporting my own interest in clothing by trading or selling, but not so much thinking about it in a way that would sustain financial growth. But I had rent and other bills to pay, and it’s a community-based thing, so I thought I’d take advantage of my eye for clothing. I sell a lot of stuff I buy from retail, but maybe 30-to-40 percent of what I sell is from thrift stores. It’s this treasure hunt thing that people have monopolized — even to get to a thrift store when it opens, there’s going to be a line. I’m big on using my eye to curate exclusive things.

What is your approach to selling?

I will get stuff that people might not be able to physically get in Dover Street Market LA, for example, or get US exclusives and ship them internationally. I provide a receipt, stickers, and a care note because that’s how I would want to receive something in the mail. If everyone made that effort and had the same attention to detail as going to stores it could have a huge impact for the way people shop with a shift towards more online sales, with online controlling most of the market.

What would you attribute your success to?

I think it’s taking risks and trusting my intuition but it’s also astute to all of the trends and trend forecasting. It’s how I see clothes and the trends I see on social media. If I’m buying things in store, I always ask a lot of questions about interest, sizing, inventory. At the end of the day, I just trust my gut.

Do you think retail can inspire positive change?

You can get undercut in the market a lot, but people need to be more aware that other people on resale sites are not competitors but peers. You need to see your fellow sellers as someone who’s sitting in another cubicle in your office, not from another company. It’s hard to get that through people’s heads, because they don’t want to subscribe to a transparent ethos. I see it as something that’s possible.

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In conclusion, although resale has become an overcrowded market with multiple pundits striving for a variety of aims, in many ways, the positives outweigh the negatives with resale. Not only have sellers rallied against the taboo around "used clothing" as unappealing, but they ground themselves in the belief that just because something is secondhand or vintage doesn’t mean it's not luxury, or that the consumer doesn’t want to experience the history of a garment and rewrite their own while wearing it. The profiteering side of resale encourages many, including the platforms themselves in some cases, to pave a mindful path forward that could see resale transform the retail sphere into a space where customers are inclined to shop with both their beliefs and taste in mind.

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