Most Baby Boomers and Generation Xers have a possessive attachment to the big things in their lives: homes, vehicles, furniture, recreational equipment, clothing, electronics, etc. But Millennials and younger generations are less attached to things and are evolving the concept of ‘ownership’ in ways that will permanently change our worldview.
For Millennials – the roughly 77 million Americans born between about 1980 and 2000 – the trend of "no ownership" is moving beyond property and cars. Millennials place less emphasis on owning and more on sharing, bartering and trading for access to many types of coveted goods.
Within the last six years or so, many traditional retailers have been disrupted by the growing movement toward ‘temporarily owning’ or renting everything from clothing to small appliances.
Instead of paying for something and then getting nothing for it when they’re done with it, Millennials prefer swap and resale because these methods allow them to extend the value, and life, of the items they use. They want to use items that are already in the economy. Not only does it cost less, it’s also eco-friendly and green because it keeps items in circulation longer which reduces their carbon footprint.
The resale clothing industry, which includes consignment, is poised for continued growth and success because the resale business model dovetails perfectly with the growing consumer trend of buying clothes with the intent of selling or trading them instead of owning them forever.
The clothing rental industry is also growing. Services like Rent the Runway charge a monthly subscription fee to receive designer clothing in the mail, or users can rent one-off pieces for special events.
“I predict anything outside of athletic clothes and undergarments will not be owned in 10 years,” said Rachel Sipperley, founder of Rent My Wardrobe. “The sharing economy is happening in every other vertical, so it only makes sense that fashion would follow suit. Women don’t want to wear the same thing twice, especially when our lives are documented on Instagram.”
Our constantly documented ‘Instagram society’ drives Millennials’ to rotate through clothing quickly in order to avoid being seen in the same outfit twice. This currently fuels an environmental problem: the fast fashion industry. Today, many millennials feed their need for new looks by shopping at cheap fast fashion retailers like H&H, Forever21 and Uniqlo.
However, the counterbalance is that Millennials are also very fond of secondhand clothing because it’s environmentally friendly. As society becomes more environmentally conscious, I believe younger generations will migrate more to secondhand and shun the fast fashion industry, despite its accessible price point.
Elizabeth L. Cline, Author of The Conscious Closet, stated it well: “Resale offers the wardrobe-rotating fun of fast fashion without the guilt or waste. By driving preferences away from disposable fashion towards higher-quality clothes, reuse is a boon for our personal style and the planet.”
How else do you think Millennials are changing the way we think? What do you think about the idea of trading or swapping most of your clothes instead of keeping them in your closet for years? Comments welcome!