Thrift shopping is a harrowing experience. Anyone who has ever stepped inside a thrift store knows it is a haven of ill-fitting clothes, mysterious stains and the overwhelming smell of mothballs and sadness.
Luckily, fashion re-commerce websites are now changing the thrift shop game, utilizing the powers of mobile usage and an active fashion community to give the entire experience a much needed makeover. No longer will Fred Armisen ridicule you for wanting to trade in that "Free Geek" t-shirt.
I am no stranger to this thrifter plight. I’ve had more instances trading, buying and gaining store credit than you can shake a used furry vest at. Hell, I even have a pair of thrifted fuchsia flats— something I can now look back on and say no, buying worn shoes found in the boonies of my local Wasteland might not have been the best idea.
But Macklemore says it’s cool, right? Thrift stores have all types of clothing in one place and it’s cheap. So where can one find that rare, thrift gold without sifting through the inevitable grime (or as Macklemore so eloquently states, R. Kelly’s piss sheets)? What’s the upgrade from trolling re-sale sites like eBay or Craigslist, where each buy is a gamble of whether or not you’re dealing with a real, trustworthy human being?
The answer to the polished, upscale thrifting experience is found in fashion re-commerce websites like Poshmark and Threadflip. These sites have utilized the swelling online fashion community and put actual, fashionable humans' worn clothing to good use. Both Poshmark and Threadflip have solidified a specific niche in the fashion community, believe in the push towards mobile and see their position as building blocks in the future of online re-commerce and clothing exchange.
Manish Chandra founded Poshmark in early 2011 with the goal to be a women’s online fashion marketplace. Users create “closets,” where they can upload photos of clothes from their own wardrobe that they aim to sell. Users often display pictures of themselves wearing their clothing to show the details of draping and fit. Other specifics listed in each photo’s description are brand, material, size and price. Poshmark users interested in buying can look through various closets to find their “style mate,” and reap the rewards of another fashionista’s wardrobe.
Poshmark released the iOS 7 version of their mobile app on September 23, a move that seemed inevitable to Chandra, who sees Poshmark’s success in large due to their bustling mobile community.
“I think mobile is really the main reason why re-commerce is going through a renaissance today. Mobile makes it very easy to both list and engage with a marketplace. It breaks down all the barriers which previously existed for women who wanted to sell fashion. It also allows women to model their fashion while selling it, provide visual feedback, and have engaging conversations, which ultimately makes commerce easier and more social,” says Chandra.
This mobile community has helped Poshmark reach over one million items bought and sold through its marketplace in 2013 alone. This impressive feat has again contributed to the intersection of mobile use and community building, where real-time communication between buyers and sellers allows for these users to create connections and foster bonds.
Using mobile facilitates a blurred line between an offline and online experience that allows Poshmark’s online marketplace to mimic real life gatherings, where people physically trade, chat and share their passions.
“The millions of women who make up our community interact with each other over one million times a day by liking, commenting and sharing each other’s listings. These women are obsessed with Poshmark, opening the app 7-8 times a day and spending 20-25 minutes in the app daily,” says Chandra.
The interaction on Poshmark doesn’t end with just buying and selling. Users utilize the app as a social media platform—liking, sharing and commenting on various listings. Chandra states that Poshmark’s style of a “shoppable magazine” grants women from across the country an outlet to express their fashion sensibility. An entrepreneurial passion for couture and the desire to create bonds are what the founder believes to be his user’s unifying interests.
Like Poshmark, Threadflip is an online fashion re-commerce marketplace, loved by web-based fashion plates seeking their next thrift store fix. Users of this site upload images of pieces from their wardrobe, which browsing users can interact with and buy. Distinguishing itself from similar fashion re-commerce hubs, Threadflip aims for the “elevated experience,” a polished, high end, and luxurious platform. Founded in 2011 by CEO Manik Singh, this site focuses intently on its growing community and its users’ mobile experience.
Threadflip released its iPad app on September 24, with an entirely reconfigured mobile design aptly timed after the launch of iOS 7. The website’s desire to cater to its mobile audience is clear with the redesign—imagery takes front and center, giving a more beautiful experience for users as they thumb through the site.
Because the online fashion community is such a niche and specific use case, passion drives the interaction and engagement levels shoot up. And this is evidenced by the sheer number of willing participants: Threadflip announced it passed half a million users in 2013.
Threadflip’s head of product Anand Iyer sees the transition towards mobile as a completely natural progression in e-commerce. The user experience becomes quicker and easier with mobile, as users are able to browse, purchase, and sell items on-the-go. Threadflip urges this type of intermingled relationship between user and site, as Iyer states Threadflip aims to be their user’s “best companion”.
The social media-type community that Threadflip has built is founded on the basis of transactional experience. Users take the time to browse and really pick up on other users whose style they admire. Who you follow and what you follow on Threadflip ultimately becomes a very personal experience. In turn, sellers get to know the people who they are selling to, and thus get to grow their outreach.
Both Poshmark and Threadflip understand that their respective communities would not be faring as well as they are without the basic foundation of trust. Wading the waters of e-commerce is tricky and full of your typical scam sharks, but re-sale platforms like Poshmark and Threadflip that display user’s images and encourage participant interaction increase feelings of trust and security. With the ever-growing phenomenon of re-commerce, it is essential that users are empowered to feel comfortable in the platform.
“It instills trust, without worrying about who you’re buying from, or if something will be faulty. Through this, you can make intelligent decisions without taking too much time worrying about the unnecessary,” says Iyer.
The future of fashion re-sale looks sparkly and bright. Websites like Poshmark and Threadflip demonstrate that dedicated mobile use and a passionate community can rescue you from overflowing closets and pull you from the deep, dark recesses of the thrift store change room.