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Resale and Rental Pave the Way Forward for Clothing and Textiles


The largest study into clothing habits ever undertaken by climate action NGO WRAP shows changes over the last 8 years around how long we retain our clothes, and how our openness to new ways of clothes ‘shopping’ could significantly reduce the environmental cost of clothing the nation – and save shoppers millions of pounds.

The study revealed that between 2013 and 2021, the predicted length of time people in the UK kept a range of clothes increased.

Non-padded coats and jackets tend to have the longest lifespans at more than six years, while underwear and bras have the briefest at just 2.7 and 2.6 years respectively. The data affirms that preloved and second-hand vintage finds remain in our wardrobes longer than newly bought items, nearly a year and a half longer at 5.4 years for vintage and preloved clothes, compared to 4 years for off the peg. 

And if we repair an item of clothing, we’ll typically keep it for a further 1.3 years. But while our wardrobes are storing more clothes for longer, a considerable number of items are underutilised. Here, says WRAP, is a prime opportunity for on-trend businesses to provide alternative clothing models like rental subscriptions, and for savvy sellers and buyers to save money, make a bit of cash and grab a bargain. 

WRAP found that the average UK adult keeps upwards of 118 items of clothes in their wardrobes, but one quarter (26% – 31 items) have not been worn for at least a year. 

Key reasons for owning but not wearing items include:

With the UK’s wardrobes full of unworn clothes, this hasn’t slowed our shopping habits with a significant number of people purchasing clothing at least once a month (45%), and around one in eight buying clothes weekly. This translates into a UK average monthly spend of £76.53 on clothing for the whole population, increasing to £133.06 for the more frequent shoppers who purchase clothing at least once a month. 

Age is a key motivating factor, with over four in five (81%) of 18-24s purchasing clothing at least once a month. Today, just over half (54%) of UK citizens say they are happy to purchase second hand and vintage with women more comfortable with second-hand than men; and those aged 65+ least comfortable. And overall, almost three in five people (59%) say they go to a lot of effort to maintain their clothes.

The findings come in a two-part report by the climate action NGO WRAP called Clothing Longevity and Circular Business Models Receptivity in the UK. This examined the UK’s attitudes to clothing, and our keenness to adopt new forms of acquisition through the burgeoning market of circular business models – some of which even discard the notion of owning clothes all together. 

These include clothing subscription services, rental (pay-per-wear), preloved (resale), upcycled and repair (where a brand repairs an item of clothing a customer has purchased from it for a fee). Both studies offer some good news for the environment and our pockets, as WRAP found two in five people (40%) are likely to use a subscription service, with three in five (58%) open to using a repair service. Among those who have already used a ‘circular business model’, the majority said they would do so again – with young people and high frequency/spend shoppers most likely to have engaged already, and most receptive. 

In recent years – and in some cases days – examples of circular business models have sprung up online and on the high-street, including: 

These are supported by established and highly used examples including the charity retail sector and existing business-to-consumer and peer-to-peer resale services and marketplaces. 

WRAP’s research confirms a clear case and mainstream potential market for brands and retailers to implement circular business models and increase the utilisation of clothing. 

At Fashion-Enter Ltd our two in-house brands Belles of London and B of London offer bespoke fitting services to ensure the perfect fit as well as an alterations and upcycling service, where our expert seamstresses can repurpose any style to suit your wardrobe. To find out more tap here.

If you are local to north London we also offer a ‘Repair and Upcycle Workshop’ a free monthly event at the FC Designer Workspace where participants can drop in with existing garments and learn the basic skills on how to rework clothes. Tap here to find out more.

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