2020 was a big year for old clothes: How vintage, secondhand, and upcycling took off
This hasn’t been a great year for clothes—not new clothes, at least. Fashion spending plummeted a record 79% in April, early on in the pandemic. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work remotely had little reason to shop for new clothes, let alone buy anything discretionary in such uncertain times. Loungewear was the only exception; demand for sweats is still growing.

But it wasn’t just that we didn’t “need” new clothes this year. A perfect storm of crises has caused fashion to lose some of its luster. In response to that spending dip, brands attempted to offset their losses by canceling orders from their factories, triggering a garment worker crisis in the Global South. Four million Bangladeshi workers were out of a job and on the verge of starvation. By June, fashion was forced to recognize its systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. And through everything, the climate crisis reached a tipping point; its PR efforts notwithstanding, the industry has made little progress in curbing its environmental impact.