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In recent years, issues related to fast fashion have become more prevalent, with problems such as pollution and exploitation just some of the many concerns brought to light. To combat this, the Gen Zers around the world have begun to support and engage in slow fashion and thrift shopping, accelerating the demand for an already popular industry in Southeast Asia.
The global sustainable fashion industry is projected to hit $9.81 billion as of 2025, and has no plans on slowing down. With a continuing surge in demand for upcycled and vintage clothing, creating an online thrift store where consumers can sell or buy used clothing online is a great way to tap on the e-commerce market.
Fast fashion continues to take its toll on the environment with increased air pollution, water pollution, and carbon emissions, and is projected to increase global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% within the next decade.
This backs the decision made by many consumers in switching to more sustainable methods of clothes production: a report by Forbes has found that 62% of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy from sustainable brands. , However, there are still many who are unfamiliar with what exactly slow fashion is.
Slow fashion is the exact opposite of fast fashion: it encourages slower, more ethically and sustainably sought after methods of production, and promotes wearing clothing that is made of a higher quality and therefore that lasts longer. One aspect of slow fashion includes thrifting or upcycling, which is the process of revamping used, old or second hand clothing (e.g., designer, tailored dresses and suits, vintage, traditional) and increasing their value, so that they can be reused or sold. This type of fashion helps to significantly reduce consumption and waste – decreasing its impact on the environment.
First off, it’s important to find out everything there is to know about the thrift clothing business, what your ideal market and niche is. That will help you establish your brand identity. After which, you should proceed to fill out the necessary paperwork to officially set up shop and sell second hand clothing. The next step involves deciding how you will sell used clothes online: your preferred e-commerce platform, your production and storage methods, and your marketing plans to attract customers to buy used clothes.
It’s also important to note that different countries have different processes, such as custom paperwork or regulations to adhere to. For example, if you’re shipping goods into Singapore all goods entering the country, above a certain total value, are subject to a 7% Goods and Services Tax. So make sure to check with your local authorities to ensure you’ve completed all steps before you start selling your used clothes from home.
When first starting out, third-party e-commerce sites are an excellent way to market your business and sell second hand clothes, as they tend to have a significantly larger amount of website traffic and attention compared to e-commerce sites owned by smaller businesses. This would help your brand build brand awareness and reach out to your consumer base. Additionally, according to Statista reports, there are lower costs associated with using an e-commerce platform versus starting your own website, such as advertising. Some of the more popular platforms in Malaysia are Shopee, Lazada and others.
However, as you gain credibility and your brand starts being more known amongst consumers, it’s advisable to start your own e-commerce website along with selling on a marketplace. It provides you the flexibility of customisation, gives you more control over design and offers you access to data regarding your website’s traffic. In this way, you can grow your brand, use insights to drive effective marketing campaigns and acquire loyal customers.
While thrifting is already commonplace in Malaysia, the continued popularity of slow fashion and upcycling signals a great opportunity to start an e-commerce store, in order to let your target audience buy thrifted clothes online. On top of that, selling your used clothes can also help you earn some extra cash and cleans out your home at the same time.
Before you begin, find out how some of the most successful online thrift stores in Malaysia have started selling preloved clothing.