Thrift Flipping: An Ethical Answer to Fast Fashion or Justified Overconsumption? (2024)

Ever heard of thrift flipping?

Its a growing trend in the sustainable fashion industry that has both advocates and critics. The practice involves finding items in thrift stores with a higher resale value than what the store charges, then reselling them for a profit on platforms like Depop, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy or Vestiaire. Sometimes this involves repurposing or improving the original garment, creating unique, upcycled clothing.

On the one hand, thrift flipping can be seen as an ethical alternative to fast fashion. It promotes a more sustainable wardrobe, benefits the environment, and reduces carbon emissions and textile waste. It also allows individuals to generate a side income.

However, the trend has sparked controversy amongst avid thrifters. It’s been argued that thrift flipping can lead to gentrification of thrift stores, making preloved clothing less affordable for lower-income shoppers and can contribute to overconsumption, even if the items being consumed are secondhand (this is a whole blog post on its own!). We’ve outlined some of the main issues below:

Gentrification of Thrift Stores

Thrift flipping can potentially result in the gentrification of thrift stores. With the trend's popularity, thrift stores might increase their prices to capitalise on the higher demand, thus making preloved clothing less affordable for lower-income shoppers who rely on these stores for essential items.


Even though thrift flipping involves secondhand items, it still contributes to overconsumption. The trend encourages buying more items than necessary, with the intention of reselling them for profit, which can perpetuate a cycle of excessive consumption.

Accessibility and Inclusion

There's also a concern about accessibility and inclusion in thrift flipping. If thrift flippers buy large amounts of high-quality items at low prices, this can limit the availability of these items for those who truly need them. Plus-sized clothing, for instance, is already scarce in thrift stores. If thrift flippers buy these items in bulk, this could further limit options for plus-sized individuals.


While thrift flipping is often seen as a sustainable practice, it's not exempt from environmental concerns. The process of flipping and shipping items to buyers contributes to carbon emissions. Additionally, the trend doesn't necessarily discourage the production of new clothing, which is a major contributor to environmental degradation.

Ethical Concerns

Lastly, there are ethical concerns related to thrift flipping. Critics argue that thrift flipping can exploit the concept of thrift stores, which were originally intended to provide affordable items for those in need. Instead, some thrift flippers use these stores as a source of cheap inventory, which they then sell at a significant markup for personal gain.

Despite criticisms, the thrift flipping trend shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, online thrifting grew 69% between 2019 and 2021, with some predicting that the fashion resale sector will be larger than fast fashion within a decade.

So, what’s the solution?

Whilst its great that people are embracing secondhand, preloved garments, there are some things sellers can do:

  1. Conscious Shopping: Thrift flippers should avoid buying in-demand items or items from shops in lower-income neighborhoods.

  2. Transparency: Be honest with product marketing and pricing when flipping thrift store clothes. Don't trick people (!) and honestly note any flaws, imperfections, or defects.

  3. Sensible Consumption: Avoid "thrift hauls" where large amounts of clothes are purchased, contributing to overconsumption.

  4. Respect Size Availability: Be cognisant of sizes. Don't buy items way outside your size range as plus-sized clothing is often limited in thrift stores.

  5. High Quality Items: Choose items that are of higher quality and will last longer, thus reducing waste.

  6. Local Shopping: Buy from local marketplaces, yard sales, or smaller thrift stores instead of big ones.

  7. Organise Clothing Swap Events: This helps find items to flip and promotes a sense of community.

  8. Upcycle Your Own Clothes: Start in your own closet. Why pick up clothing from a thrift store when your own old items can be the canvas for endless upcycling ideas?

  9. Avoid Shipping: Sell your thrift flip creations in person instead of online to reduce the environmental impact of shipping. If you do have to ship, consider using a fraction of your profits to support carbon offset programs.

  10. Mindful Reselling: If reselling from thrift stores on platforms like Etsy, they'll offset the carbon emissions on your behalf.

Buyers should keep an eye out for a few things to make sure they’re getting a good deal. (And if you’re not sure, you can always shop on Reluv where each item is quality checked and always fairly priced, earning a ‘Certified Reluvable’ tick!).

  1. Research Prices: Check the average prices of a particular brand or item online before buying.
  2. Ask for Provenance: Ask the thrift flipper for information about where and how they acquired the item.
  3. Check Condition: Examine the item thoroughly for any damages or signs of wear that could devalue the item. Or ask for more photos if they’re unclear!
  4. Negotiate: Don't be afraid to negotiate the price. If you feel it's too high, propose a price you're comfortable with.
  5. Compare Sellers: Look at different thrift flippers and marketplaces to compare prices and quality.
  6. Check Seller Reviews: If possible, check reviews or feedback of the seller to ensure they have a good reputation.
  7. Beware of Counterfeits: Be cautious of items that seem too high-end for the price. They could be knock-offs.

Are you a thrift flipper? Have you had an experience purchasing an item from a thrift flipper? We’d love to know your thoughts on the matter!

Thrift Flipping: An Ethical Answer to Fast Fashion or Justified Overconsumption? (2024)


Thrift Flipping: An Ethical Answer to Fast Fashion or Justified Overconsumption? ›

On the one hand, thrift flipping can be seen as an ethical alternative to fast fashion. It promotes a more sustainable wardrobe, benefits the environment, and reduces carbon emissions and textile waste. It also allows individuals to generate a side income.

Why thrift flipping isn t as ethical as it seems? ›

For many, thrift shopping was simply akin to just shopping for needed goods. But with today's surge in thrift store flipping, more people are motivated to thrift as a pastime and side hustle, rather than a necessity. In turn, this affects the availability of secondhand clothes for those who really need it.

Is thrifting a solution to fast fashion? ›

Fast Fashion has long been the “evil” that is responsible for one-fifth of the world's pollution. As society moves towards more sustainability, many look to thrift shopping as the best alternative to combat the high turnover rate of trends in the apparel industry.

Is flipping clothes ethical? ›

These concerns resonate with Harpster, but she's looking at it from a different angle: thrift flipping promotes the reuse of discarded items, which makes it an environmentally friendly practice. “I definitely disagree that it's not sustainable,” she says.

Is it ethical to go thrifting? ›

'Trendy' sustainable practices like thrifting can be particularly harmful to marginalized and low-income people, as the increase in secondhand shopping by economically advantaged people results in “many thrift stores raising their prices, [which] exacerbat[es] income inequality, and effectively marginaliz[es] the ...

Why is thrift flipping good? ›

Thrift flipping has emerged as a popular and eco-friendly alternative to fast fashion, providing individuals with the opportunity to create unique, personalized clothing items while reducing waste in the fashion industry.

Is it ethical to resell clothes? ›

At the end of the day, reselling cannot be 100% ethical because nothing is ethical under capitalism. However, being mindful when it comes to reselling and being well researched in the merchandise you are putting out is the only way we can keep reselling and thrifting morally ethical.

Is fast fashion ethical? ›

In addition to environmental issues, fast fashion garments spark a lot of ethical concerns. They are often made by underpaid workers who are employed for long hours in unsafe conditions and are exposed to harmful chemicals used in textile production.

Is thrifting good or bad? ›

Thrifting and reusing clothes for other purposes may extend the life cycle of clothing, but it does not change the fact that many garments end up in landfills at the end of the day, especially those not designed for resale and use by multiple people over time.

How is thrifting good for the economy? ›

Thrift shopping encourages a more sustainable approach to consumption rather than the traditional buy-use-dispose cycle that dominates modern consumerism. This shift in consumer behavior is crucial to support an economy where resources are utilized more efficiently and responsibly.

Is it morally wrong to buy fast fashion? ›

Fast fashion is widely considered to be low-quality apparel produced rapidly to follow current trends in the industry and sold at rock-bottom prices. Although the monetary cost is low, textile workers and the environment are paying a high price. Fast fashion is cheap because workers are not paid adequately.

Does fast fashion violate human rights? ›

The Fast Fashion Industry Model: Fueling Exploitation

These workers, predominantly in developing countries, toil in garment factories under appalling conditions. To name a few, they receive meager wages, endure unsafe workplaces, and face gender-based violence.

Is it safe to wear thrift store clothes? ›

One of the key steps in making used clothing safe is to give it a thorough wash before wearing it. Whether you're thrift shopping or receiving hand-me-downs, washing garments with hot water and detergent can help eliminate any potential germs or allergens.

What problem does thrifting solve? ›

1) Bettering The Environment

Thrifting promotes the reuse of these pieces, keeping more of these materials out of landfills for a longer period of time. In addition to reducing the amount of waste we create from manufacturing clothing, thrifting also decreases the amount of energy we use to make these clothing items.

Is thrifting cheaper than fast fashion? ›

Thrifting is a cheaper option than purchasing brand-new clothing. This makes it much more enticing for the average shopper, who has been greatly affected financially in recent years by the economy-crashing COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the benefits of thrifting? ›

Thrifting is not only a great way to find good clothes for affordable prices, but it's also very environmentally friendly, as it recycles clothes for people to buy and reuse, rather than sending them to landfills where it can take many years for them to fully decompose.

Is thrifting actually helping the environment? ›

Less clothing in landfills: Most clothes are made from synthetic materials, which take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. When you thrift, you help extend the life of clothes, which can reduce the volume of clothing sent to landfills each year. Fewer wasted resources: Making clothes takes a lot of water.

Is there anything wrong with thrifting? ›

Clothing and textiles that are donated to thrift stores are not laundered before they end up in the store and could contain lots of bacteria or even bedbugs. Some of these clothes are so dirty, a thrift shop will likely immediately throw them away.

Why do people think that thrifting is being gentrified? ›

Some argue that thrifting has essentially become gentrified because of its trendiness. Wealthier people have begun to frequent thrift stores, shopping for the same items as low-income people who were the original customers of the secondhand shops.

What are the disadvantages of thrift shopping? ›

10 downsides of buying second hand (or how to make thrift shopping a success)
  • You are more likely to buy stuff you don't need. ...
  • Buying second hand takes patience. ...
  • Many second hand items need some work. ...
  • You don't always know if it's still working. ...
  • You don't always know the previous owner.

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