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Fast-fashion pioneer Zara launches second-hand platform

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As part of its sustainability efforts, Zara is launching ‘Zara Pre-Owned’, a platform that will allow UK-based customers to resell and donate their clothes, as well as request repairs.

  • Zara is launching a new platform for second-hand clothing.
  • Parent company Inditex, considered one of the pioneers of the fast-fashion business model, has made various sustainability pledges.
  • Lengthening the life cycle of garments is one solution to address the increasing quantities of textile waste globally.

The new platform supports a more circular economy model

‘Zara Pre-Owned’ will launch in the UK in November 2022 and will offer three services: repair, resale and donation. Customers will be able to request repairs, such as the replacement of buttons and zippers and repairing seams, on any of their Zara garments, from any season. 

Users will also be able to sell their used Zara garments or to request home collection of clothing of any brand so it can be donated. The donations will go to the Red Cross charity.

The resale service is likely to compete with peer-to-peer platforms such as Vinted and Depop, as well as other in-house circularity initiatives such as those by Patagonia, COS, Lululemon and SHEIN. Many companies are taking a circular approach in some parts of their businesses in efforts to reduce waste and the consumption of new raw materials.

A pioneer in fast-fashion

Zara’s parent company, Inditex (BME:ITX) is considered a pioneer of the fast-fashion business model. The retail giant started as a dressmaking workshop in 1963 in Spain, then established Zara in 1975. It is now valued at €71.8 billion and owns brands including such as Pull&Bear, Oysho and Massimo Dutti.

Zara became a disruptor by designing, producing and delivering clothing lines to shops in only three weeks. It did so by vertically integrating its supply chain and moving production to Europe, while its competitors outsourced production to lower-cost suppliers in Asia.

This allows Zara to spot fashion trends and quickly reproduce them for the mass market. Stores are continuously stocked with new lines, which are replenished based on demand.

Inditex has made various sustainability pledges to limit its impact on the environment, including a commitment to net zero emissions by 2040. It said that the new platform “is emblematic of its commitment to moving towards a circular economy model that encompasses all phases of its activity – from product design to the management of its stores, as well as manufacturing, logistics and the company’s offices”. 

The company has also established the Inditex Sustainability Innovation Hub, which focuses on searching for new materials, technologies and processes. It has partnered with start ups such as CIRC and Infinited Fiber, and innovation accelerators such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in order to identify new opportunities.

The issue of textile waste

The fashion sector plays a huge part in the global economy, as it is worth $2.4 trillion and employs 300 million people, but is also responsible for 2% to 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. Lengthening the life cycle of garments by repairing or reselling them is one solution to address the increasing quantities of textile waste globally

According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), creating a circular economy for textiles can reduce greenhouse emissions, pollution and water use, as well as helping to end unethical labour practices. Demand for raw materials, however, is expected to triple by 2050, while an estimated £140 million worth of clothing is sent to UK landfills per year.  

Industry observers such as consultancy firm Textile Consult point out that donating unwanted garments, while commendable, damages textile industries around the world. This is because charity shops in countries such as the US and the UK struggle to sell all of their donations, often due to the poor quality of those items, so they offload them to textile traders or donate them to other countries, usually in the Global South, where they compete with the local fashion industry.

As such, it is important that companies such as Zara engage in circularity projects, but it should be complementary to tackling the issue at the source by manufacturing clothes in a more sustainable way or addressing overproduction.

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