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Why Secondhand Style Might Headline Festival Fashion This Year

Festivals are set to return in a big way next month.

Coachella will kick off Gen Z’s favorite season on April 15, with Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and the artist formerly known as Kanye West headlining three weekends of musical pyrotechnics lighting up Southern California’s Colorado Desert. Ticket holders are shelling out to see Doja Cat, Green Day, Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Baby and Metallica take the stage at July’s Lollapalooza on the Chicago waterfront. Austin City Limits Music Festival has yet to announce its lineup but blocked off two weekends in October for its annual extravaganza, where Cardi B, Drake, Foo Fighters and Childish Gambino have drawn legions of fans.

Though festivals seem to be mounting a comeback after the pandemic temporarily put most of them on ice, the fashion that consumers will be wearing to see their top acts perform could follow the trends dominating wallet share in recent months. And one company is helping revelers find sustainable inspiration before they decamp to the desert as the season gets into full swing.

ThredUp is using its position as one of the secondhand movement’s biggest players to call attention to the waste associated with music festivals. The Oakland, Calif. company’s proprietary festival fashion survey of 2,000 U.S. adults last month says roughly one-quarter will attend some sort of music concert this year, and 42 percent plan to splurge on something new to wear to these events, equal to roughly 26.9 million outfits, ThredUp estimated.

What’s troubling is almost one-third of those shopping for festival-specific outfits say they probably won’t wear them again after the lights go out. Even respondents in the Gen Z cohort, famous for their eco-conscious ethos, are likely to engage in decidedly unsustainable behavior, with 40 percent not planning to don their festival duds more than once.

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This is where ThredUp can help solve the “underutilization” of clothing, said Erin Wallace, vice president of integrated marketing for the online resale giant, which recruited celebrity stylist Karla Welch to curate thrifted head-to-toe outfits sourced from the preowned platform as well as individual pieces pulled from her own styling closet.

“Reusing all the amazing clothes already in existence is one of the best things we can do to reduce our fashion footprint,” said Welch, who’s worked with Karlie Kloss and Tom Brady and describes thrifting as “one of the easiest ways to get a unique, eco-friendly festival look that’ll make you stand out from the crowd.”

As a lover of music festivals who’s “passionate about promoting sustainability,” Welch decided to contribute to changing the conversation around festival fashion by making more than 30 items from her styling closet available for sale. Consumers can purchase fashion intended for A-list celebrities at prices that start at $14 and top out at $225.

Celebrity stylist Karla Welch curated festival fashion for ThredUp
Celebrity stylist Karla Welch curated festival fashion for ThredUp Courtesy

Welch styled eight complete looks and pulled solo pieces that tap into many of today’s top trends. Buckets hats, including a fuzzy pink Kangol, make a notable appearance, dovetailing with Afterpay data showing sales of the Gen Z-approved topper up 44 percent since last summer. Neon green pops in a bag and accents a multicolor shirt, aligning with Afterpay intel showing sales linked to bold shades of the hue have surged 55 percent over summer of 2021—underscoring the dopamine dressing trend.

Sexy, skin-baring clothes were already on the rise leading into New York Fashion Week (NYFW), Afterpay found, with sales up 34 percent in January and unlikely to slow when warm weather festivals give consumers a reason to shed their layers and flash some flesh. Crop tops, cutouts and short skirts all feature in Welch’s looks, with the latter playing into the micro mini skirt trend that’s seen sales of the thigh-skimming styles rise 24 percent since the fall, Afterpay said.

Ripped, loose, cuffed and cut off, denim serves as the foundation for six of Welch’s curations and pairs with Chuck Taylor sneakers and fringed or studded combat boots. A pair of Denim Tears x Levi’s jeans comes from Welch’s vaunted closet. Festival denim is poised to be all over the map, with some consumers sticking with their modern-favorite straight fits. Others will likely show out in of-the-moment throwback trends when rises left little to the imagination. Afterpay, which said sales of low-rise denim were up 115 percent the month leading into NYFW, “expect[s] this streetwear trend made famous by Bella Hadid to bubble up throughout the year.”

ThredUp hopes Welch’s star power will convince consumers sitting on the fence to give thrifting a try. “Stylists are the arbiters of taste, dictating what’s cool on the red carpet, in street style, on social media, and beyond,” Wallace said. “We believe stylists have the power to redefine what’s fashionable, emphasizing circularity and reuse to combat the industry’s wastefulness.”

This isn’t the first time ThredUp has called in high-profile experts to insert sustainable fashion into the cultural dialogue.

In December, the company seized the spotlight around “Sex and the City” spinoff “And Just Like That” to show consumers how to copy the iconic style of the controversial HBO series’ main characters, Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes and Charlotte York Goldenblatt. The secondhand shopping platform leaned on the comedy-drama’s costume designers Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago’s “clear passion for sourcing unique, sustainable styles” to populate three storefronts, one per character, filled with fashion in sizes XXS-2X priced at “$6 to nearly $6,000,” Wallace said at the time. All of the proceeds went to the Willie Garson fund, a nonprofit set up for the actor who played Stanford Blatch on both shows and died from pancreatic cancer complications after filming just three episodes of the sequel.

“I think many customers come to ThredUp to find aspirational fashion that’s actually attainable and that’s what we hope to offer here, combining Molly and Danny’s unique sense of style and knack for creating unexpected outfit combinations with [our] vast array of inventory,” she added. Santiago pointed out that the curation included the brand most closely associated with Carrie Bradshaw. “Yes, there are thrifted Manolos,” he said.

And ThredUp previously worked with Eric Daman, the costume designer of the “Gossip Girl” reboot. “Television is increasingly driving shopping trends, and we know our customers love the opportunity to thrift the look, so stay tuned for more to come,” Wallace said.