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H&M gives garments a second life, partnering with thredUP to launch its first U.S. resale shop

An H&M sign with red lettering on a white background displayed in a shopping mall.
Image Credit: Flickr/Mike Mozart

Thanks to social media, influencers, and the rise of climate conscious consumers, thrifting has hopped on trend over the last few years, with vloggers taking their cameras to thrift store racks, and resellers like Depop, Poshmark, Mercari, and thredUP making secondhand shopping more accessible and convenient.

Now H&M is getting in on thrifting; not just because its trendy, but because it can also help lower the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.

Powered by threadUp, H&M’s new “Pre-Loved” shop debuted on Tuesday, March 14, with the goal of offering consumers an easy way to add secondhand pieces to their wardrobe while working toward the retailer’s sustainability mission. This is the fashion giant’s first resale venture in the United States, and also makes them the largest retailer to use thredUp’s Resale-as-a-Service (RaaS) platform.

H&M plans to close the loop and establish a circular business model, achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and have a positive net impact on biodiversity, as deforestation and habitat destruction is an unfortunate consequence of fast fashion.

“We need to take responsibility for the impact fashion has on climate and the environment. Circular business models can help us reduce and limit this negative impact, while continuing to deliver fashion and style for our customers,” Abigail Kammerzell, Head of Sustainability at H&M North America said via the company’s press release. “With the launch of our first resale model in the U.S. market, we're taking the next big step in that direction.”

Swedish retailer H&M has more than 5,000 stores worldwide, and is known as one of the world's most recognizable fast fashion brands. It’s the second largest retailer on the planet, trailing close being Inditex, the owner of Zara, which like H&M is launching similar sustainability initiatives.

However, like Zara and other fast fashion retailers, H&M produces an excessive amount of clothing. For the Stockholm-based brand, this adds up to 3 billion garments a year, much of which goes unsold and quickly ends up discarded. If the resale shop could help bring this number down, it would be a huge win for sustainable fashion.

In recent years, the company has heavily pushed its green mission, touting itself as the more “Conscious Choice” in comparison to competitors. In fact, over the past three years the company has invested over $100 million into textile recycling machines, new organic and biodegradable fabrics, and even textiles made from microbes that eat carbon dioxide.

As FootPrint Coalition previously reported, last month they took the next step and got into the recycling business, with LooperTextile to collect, sort and sell wasted and used clothes.

Despite its green ambitious, reports show H&M’s greenwashing practices have undermined its sustainable goals.

Just last year, an investigation by Quartz, revealed that H&M showed customers false environmental scorecards for its clothing. As the publication wrote, “In the most egregious cases, H&M showed data that were the exact opposite of reality,” showing that a dress, for example, which reportedly used 20% more water than average, actually used less.

This wasn’t the first time H&M was a spectacle of greenwashing, and it wouldn’t be the last. Later that same year, H&M was hit with a greenwashing lawsuit for misrepresenting items as sustainable when they were in fact made from environmentally harmful materials.

H&M isn’t new to the resale game, as it already has resale operations in Europe and Canada, through its majority stakeholder investment in European Sellpy, and H&M Rewear in Canada. After its greenwashing issues in America last year, it makes sense that H&M would want to launch resale in the U.S.

“When we looked into bringing second hand to the U.S., we took all our learnings within our brand DNA and looked at testing and learning and adapting,” Kammerzell said via Forbes. “It really made sense to partner with ThredUP.”

According to Forbes, H&M Pre-Loved is launching with 30,000 pieces, which will have an impact on how many people buy second hand. The pieces are organized in traditional H&M sub-shops of &Denim, Sport, Ladies, Divided and Kids, as well as one that includes the brand’s past collaborations with guest designers, which H&M projects will be highly sought after.

In addition to launching the resale shop, H&M also says it is working to make it clothes last longer and its current circularity tool supports designers working to break the cycle of buying clothes just the throw them away a short time later. Instead, these garments aim to ensure they’re not wasted when their lifespan ends.

“We're thrilled that H&M has chosen to partner with thredUP to debut their first resale program in the U.S., building on their global momentum investing in new circular business models,” said James Reinhart, CEO and Co-Founder of thredUP, in a statement. “As one of the largest retailers in the world, H&M's impact potential is tremendous, and we are pleased that thredUP's Resale-as-a-Service is powering a scalable resale program to reach H&M's customers in a new and sustainable way.”


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