I’ve got a problem.
My wardrobe has outgrown my closet.
As problems go, this is about as first-world as it gets. My great-grandparents sometimes didn’t have shoes to wear — I certainly shouldn’t be complaining about owning too many things.
But in this late-stage capitalist society we live in, having too many things is an issue many people face on every socioeconomic level.
And when your drawers no longer contain all your clothes and you’ve got folded shirts sitting atop dressers, you’ve got a problem.
Now, in the old days (read: three years ago) your options for dealing with this issue were pretty limited. You could…
- Go through your clothes and toss anything ratty or out of fashion
- Load up a few industrial trash bags with some midgrade clothes or those that no longer fit and run them to the closest donation center (getting some good tax relief for your efforts)
- Separate your clothes by season and put everything that isn’t in use in deep storage — perhaps using one of those late-night infomercial products to create a vacuum seal
- Or you could just give up and get more space. Don’t laugh — when my in-laws were building their dream retirement home, they added an extra storage room, at great expense, rather than downsize. It happens.
Anyway, none of those solutions is very satisfying. They all feel like a waste in one way or another. (And there’s perhaps no greater personal shame than packing up clothes to give away and finding the tags still on them.)
But as I said, that’s the old way of doing things. Now there’s a new way.
A way that helps you empty out your closet — and get paid for your trouble.
A way that can help you keep your closet from getting cluttered in the first place. Making access to clothes so quick and cheap, there’s no reason to buy anything until the week of need.
A way that doesn’t leave you feeling wasteful or irresponsible. But instead leaves you feeling resourceful and entrepreneurial.
I’m talking about fashion upcycling.
What’s Fashion Upcycling?
Upcycling is simply a new twist on an old business model.
With a trendy name that piggybacks on the branding of “recycling” and appeals to social responsibility, fashion upcycling is basically just a gussied-up form of selling used clothes.
The difference today is instead of only going to your local consignment shops and getting offered something like $5 for a pound of clothing, you can sell items individually.
In some cases, that might only take the edge off an ill-considered purchase…
In other cases, you can recoup the entire cost of an item…
And in still others, you can actually make good money. Especially if you’ve found or held onto any items that are old enough to have come back into fashion. (Like the ’90s grunge look right now, believe it or not.)
Thanks to a number of websites and apps that make upcycling easy, it’s a simple matter of going through your clothes, taking a few photos and sending ’em out whenever they catch someone’s eye.
It’s that easy.
And it can be extremely lucrative.
Indeed, the CEO of Depop — one of the biggest names in fashion upcycling — says that the top sellers on the app are pulling in half a million dollars a year.
And plenty of others are making $10,000 a month!
Without putting in full-time hours or even having one of the most successful stores.
Now, it’s important to note those numbers are before expenses, so the net pay is surely lower. But even if you cut that in half, you’re still looking at a very profitable side gig.
Especially since you can start by working an hour or so a week on your storefront and only ramping up if it makes financial sense.
If you’ve got drawers that are full to bursting — or are in need of a wardrobe overhaul — I recommend downloading an upcycling site app today and cashing in on cleaning out your closets.
To get yourself off the ground, here are a few of the most popular options.
Depop is one of the trendiest apps in upcycling, boasting explosive growth the past few years.
The catch? It’s aimed almost entirely at millennials and Gen Z. Indeed, something like 90% of all accounts are for people under the age of 25.
Odds are you aren’t under the age of 25… But that can work in your favor.
The Metallica T-shirt you got on tour in the ’80s? Man, will that fetch a pretty penny now. The neon shorts you can’t believe you wore 30 years ago? They’re back — and true vintage items like that fetch a premium price.
As I mentioned before — the most successful users on Depop are pulling in around half a million a year. But you don’t need to be one of the biggest storefronts on Depop to turn it into a very profitable side hustle.
No Relation to Victoria Beckham
The largest and most successful upcycling company to date is Poshmark.
Befitting its size, Poshmark attempts to cover every angle of the upcycling marketplace. Whether you want designer Gucci bags, distressed jean shorts, Victoria’s Secret lingerie or Oakley sunglasses, Poshmark has you covered.
Where Depop markets in fresh fashion (or at least as fresh as vintage gets), Poshmark wants to be your one-stop shop for everything even remotely fashion related.
That makes it a great place to shop — and a very easy place to sell.
Whatever you want to move, Poshmark is ready to feature it. It’s the Walmart of upcycling.
And Walmart does all right… Not a bad business model to emulate.
I Like-Like This One
The RealReal has carved out a very lucrative niche for itself — that of luxury consignment shop.
The RealReal won’t take just anything you want to sell. It has to hit a minimum threshold of quality (or at least have a strong brand name attached).
But in exchange for that exclusivity, you can expect to find high-quality goods. And you can expect to sell your luxury items for luxury prices.
Indeed — because The RealReal has cornered this market, it’s your best option whenever you’ve got a high-quality item to move.
You can use one of the other services for everything else.
There are plenty of other upcyclers out there. As you’d expect with such a young industry, plenty more are coming online every day.
It’s not a revolutionary business model. But by making it so simple and so lucrative, fashion upcycling is only going to grow in popularity.
I suggest getting online today and emptying your closet of detritus now. Because at some point in the future, this marketplace will be much more crowded… and competitive.
For now, though, it’s a wide-open field. One ready to help you flip your fashion surplus — and pay you for the privilege.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Do you have extra stuff you want to get rid of? Have you figured out a way to sell them for maximum gain and minimum pain? Are the new online marketplaces exciting or do you prefer the old-fashioned flea markets and consignment shops? Let us know how you’re turning your goods into spending cash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...