Sustainable style: six simple steps to selling your clothes

Let’s make fashion circular! Buying and selling clothes is an easy way to find unique new looks, make some money and do your bit for the planet.
To the left of the image, red-trousered legs and the bottom of a white blouse. In the centre of the image they are holding a small navy blue satchel-like handbag by a short handle. It has a gold front clasp and long gold shoulder chain, which falls to the back of the bag. The background is blurred grass and bushes.
Louise O’Driscoll

Written by Louise O’Driscoll

Sustainability Communications Specialist, Canon EMEA

Fashion. It’s a human behaviour that speaks volumes about the kind of species we are, but plenty of us barely give it a second thought. Even those of us who might never consider themselves to be a fashionista in a million years are, in some way, part of the fashion ecosystem. We all acquire, wear and eventually dispose of our clothes but the way we do so couldn’t be more relevant to the topic of sustainability in the fashion space.

Whether its online or on the high street, fashion is at an all-time boom. The market is currently worth $1.34 trillion worldwide and influencers and celebrities often bring about the biggest trends. A simple ‘I just threw this look together’ mirror selfie can be powerful enough to generate roaring sale demands on its own. And if you’ve not seen the internet go UP whenever Kim Kardashian hits a red carpet, then are you even online at all? Joking aside, this is actually really important – when celebrities favour a look, it’s often just a matter of days before mass-produced and low-cost replicas are being sold in the ‘fast fashion’ space. And sadly, this can be the point where fashion loses its innocence. It is made cheaply and priced to sell quickly, but this comes at a huge price. According to research by The Guardian in 2019, “one in three young women, the biggest segment of consumers, consider garments worn once or twice to be old”. So, what happens to these old clothes? The simple answer? Landfill. Less than 1% of used clothing is recycled.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are a growing number of sustainability savvy fashion lovers out there. Stephanie Graca da Costa is a student of digital design at Global Academy in West London and a self-confessed fashion fanatic. She is one of a huge number of young people who have shifted from the quick hit of fast fashion to discovering the joy of hunting for and selling one-off items on sites like eBay, Vinted and Depop. “They are the best ways to start selling clothes,” she says. “I also follow a lot of girls on Instagram who have websites where they just sell thrifted clothes.” The beauty of shopping this way means that the clothing has a very clear lifecycle, which can be extended further if you sell the items on again once you’re done with them. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Quick new looks that no-one else has, bought sustainably and that can give you some cashback when you sell them on? Where do we begin?

Clothing and accessories laid flat against a surface of bright blue painted wood. A violet vest, a pair of sunglasses, some blue floral converse-style plimsolls and a light pink shoulder bag with laser cut repeating patterns on the front flap.

Mimic the big fashion retailers and show your clothes in a ‘flat lay’ (like above), as well as worn. If you’re selling accessories too, make it clear in the description.

Well, the buying part is easy. It just depends on how devoted you are to fashion. “I follow a couple of people who do drops every week,” explains Stephanie. “They go to thrift stores and then put everything they buy on their Depop, so people are waiting for it. I set my alarm two minutes before.” Otherwise, it’s a case of finding the app or apps that suit you best and hunting for the kinds of items you’re interested in. Selling, however, takes a little more effort. But it’s worth it – not just because it’s a far more planet-friendly way to shift the clothes you no longer need, but because it’s fun. Grab your camera and a friend who wants to do the same and make an afternoon of it by following Stephanie’s top tips.

1) Consider your shots

Even though sites like Depop let you upload a lot of images, Stephanie thinks that three to five is optimum. Like online fashion stores, such as ASOS, it’s a good idea to show a mix of ‘flat lay’ (clothes photographed on a flat surface to show the shape and size), as well as worn. She also likes to see the seller enjoying life in the items they are selling by showing social shots of themselves wearing the items. “If you have old pictures from Instagram or wherever, where you’re wearing the clothes, that’s really useful as well. It’s more personal.”

2) Choose your background wisely

This might sound obvious, but you want prospective buyers to be able to clearly see what you’re selling, but you also need to stand out against other sellers. “I’m always attracted to white or black backgrounds,” says Stephanie. “Natural light is better too because it looks more casual, not like a studio.” That said, if you have access to a studio light, then give it a try. The trick is to maintain a DIY look, while making the clothes look their best.

A young woman in sunglasses stands in front of a choppy sea in the sunshine. She smiles and poses for the camera. She wears a floral cropped t-shirt and jeans, with her stomach exposes.

If you have a photograph of you wearing the item you want to sell, use it! It’s a great way to show prospective buyers how to style the item – plus, you’re selling a lifestyle too!

3) Play it natural

“The main way to market a piece of clothing is so they [the buyer] can imagine it on,” says Stephanie. “Otherwise, it’s going to be unrealistic, and a lot of people won’t buy it.” Even if you have images that show you wearing the item in the past, it’s important to put it on again and create a very clear ‘sales’ shot. “The pose needs to be very natural, but just standing straight.” If it’s an item that is one size fits all, you can either choose to simply state this in the description, or ask a friend to try it on too, so buyers can see more than one type of body shape.

4) Don’t be afraid to show flaws

The whole point is that you’re selling something pre-owned and pre-loved. So, if it has a little wear and tear – be honest. “Do you want to waste time and energy on refunds and returns? Plus, people will leave bad reviews.” Stephanie is all for using the ‘tricks of the trade’ to make the items easier to photograph, such as stuffing handbags and shoes with paper, so that they stand up properly, but it’s also important to be crystal clear and show any points of high wear or damage and reflect this in your item description.

5) Sell an idea, not just a piece of clothing

Inspire your buyers by presenting it as a complete look and styling the item. It’s absolutely ok to say, ‘accessories not included’, especially if you’re presenting a flat lay image too. “It gives people an idea of how to wear it,” explains Stephanie. “And if you want to sell the accessories too, you can. Loads of people do ‘style bundles’. It’s really common.” This is also where that photograph of you at a party looking amazing in the outfit you want to sell comes in really handy!

Left: a picture of a young woman with long curly hair wearing jeans, t-shirt and a lanyard round her neck. She is bent down and looking directly into the camera, with her right arm outstretched and palm splayed, so her hand is right at the front of the image. On the right, a quote reads: “If you have old pictures from Instagram or wherever, where you’re wearing the clothes, that’s really useful as well. It’s more personal.”

6) Connect your socials

Take a leaf out of the book of professional sellers and use your socials to broadcast that you have items for sale. Equally, if you’re an aspiring professional seller, make sure you have plenty of fashion content on your channels and add the links to your selling sites. “Some people do ‘get ready with me’ on TikTok so customers can see you actively wearing the clothes and how to style them,” says Stephanie. “Then they’ll link to Depop or wherever in the comments section.” The same applies for Instagram, where you can use the platform to announce that you have new items on sale. “I know a couple of people on Instagram who announce drops [share new items] every weekend. It’s really successful because every Sunday at 7pm we’re waiting by our phones, clicking and making sure everything is in their basket.”

So, what are you waiting for? Buying and selling your clothes is fun and there’s a real satisfaction in getting a good deal. But you also know that you’re doing the right thing and every item you buy or sell becomes part of a bigger sustainability story.

Find out more about sustainability at Canon.

Global Academy is a unique school by the media and entertainment group, Global and the University of the Arts London, teaching Year 10 to Year 13 students the skills to kickstart a career in the creative industry.

Louise O’Driscoll

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