BBC 2024-03-05 04:31:55

US Supreme Court rules Colorado cannot ban Trump from presidential ballot

The US Supreme Court has struck down efforts by individual states to disqualify Donald Trump from running for president using an anti-insurrection constitutional clause.

The unanimous ruling is specific to Colorado, but it also overrides challenges brought in other states.

Colorado had barred Mr Trump from its Republican primary, arguing he incited the 2021 Capitol riot.

The court ruled that only Congress, rather than the states, has that power.

The top court’s decision clears the way for Mr Trump to compete in the Colorado primary scheduled for Tuesday.

Mr Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination and looks likely to face a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s general election.

On Monday, the ex-president immediately claimed victory following the ruling, taking to his Truth Social media platform to claim a “big win for America”. The message was followed by a fundraising email sent to supporters of his campaign.

Speaking from his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, soon afterwards, he said that the decision was “very well crafted” and will “go a long way towards bringing our country together, which it needs”.

“You can’t take someone out of a race because an opponent would like it that way,” Mr Trump added.

Colorado’s Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, said that she was disappointed by the ruling and that “Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot”.

Additionally, the watchdog group that brought the case in Colorado, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew), said in a statement that while the court “failed to meet the moment”, it is “still a win for democracy: Trump will go down in history as an insurrectionist”.

  • Trump wins as Supreme Court sidesteps political landmines
  • What is Super Tuesday and why is it important?
  • A simple guide to the US 2024 election

Maine and Illinois had followed Colorado in kicking Mr Trump off the ballot on similar grounds.

The efforts in both those states were put on hold while his challenge to the Colorado ruling was escalated to the Supreme Court.

“We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the court’s opinion says. “But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Sections 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.”

The nine justices ruled that only Congress can enforce the 14th Amendment’s provisions against federal officials and candidates.

Part of the Civil War-era amendment – Section 3 – bars federal, state and military officials who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the US from holding office again.

Groups including Free Speech For People had argued that the attempt to delay the peaceful transfer of power on 6 January 2021 matched the definition of insurrection outlined in the amendment.

One of the court’s justices, Amy Coney Barrett, wrote separately that the fact that all nine justices agreed on the outcome of the case is “the message that Americans should take home”.

“The court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a presidential election,” Justice Barrett wrote. “Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

But the court’s three liberal justices argued that the ruling seeks to “decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this Court and [Trump] from future controversy” by announcing “that a disqualification for insurrection can occur only when Congress enacts a particular kind of legislation”.

“In doing so, the majority shuts the door on other potential means of enforcement,” they added.

Atiba Ellis, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told the BBC that while the court’s concerns about Mr Trump’s exclusion from the ballot are “fair”, the ruling “may have far-reaching consequences”.

“It opens the door to constitutional interpretation matters that weren’t at issue in the case. The decision throws the problem to Congress at a time when partisan deadlock will guarantee inaction on this matter,” Mr Ellis added. “The decision effectively ensures that the question of the former president’s constitutional eligibility under Section 3 will not be resolved prior to the 2024 election.”

Another legal scholar, Albany Law School’s Ray Brescia, said the court’s decision prevents a situation in which there is a “patchwork of states with different processes”.

“If the court was to allow Colorado to proceed in this way, what’s to stop some rogue prosecutor in another state from saying that a candidate from a different party is not a viable candidate because they engaged in insurrection?” he said.

Republican voters in Colorado and 14 other states will vote on Tuesday in a marathon contest dubbed Super Tuesday.

The former president is widely expected to sweep the board and defeat his sole remaining opponent, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in every battleground.

Children starving to death in northern Gaza – WHO

Children are dying of starvation in northern Gaza, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief says.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency’s visits over the weekend to the Al-Awda and Kamal Adwan hospitals were the first since early October.

In a post on social media, he spoke of “grim findings”.

A lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children and “severe levels of malnutrition”, while hospital buildings have been destroyed, he wrote.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported on Sunday that at least 15 children had died from malnutrition and dehydration at the Kamal Adwan hospital.

A sixteenth child died on Sunday at a hospital in the southern city of Rafah, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported on Monday.

Dr Tedros reported “severe levels of malnutrition, children dying of starvation, serious shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, hospital buildings destroyed” in northern Gaza, where an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water.

“The lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The visits were the WHO’s first in months “despite our efforts to gain more regular access to the north of Gaza”, he wrote.

“The situation at Al-Awda Hospital is particularly appalling, as one of the buildings is destroyed,” he added.

  • Gaza Strip in maps: How life has changed
  • Gaza residents surviving off animal feed and rice as food dwindles
  • UN says rape likely committed in Hamas attack

The UN warned last week that famine in Gaza was “almost inevitable”.

A senior UN aid official warned that at least 576,000 people across the Gaza Strip – one quarter of the population – faced catastrophic levels of food insecurity and one in six children under the age of two in the north were suffering from acute malnutrition.

And the regional director of the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, said “the child deaths we feared are here, as malnutrition ravages the Gaza Strip”.

“These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable,” Adele Khodr said in a statement on Sunday.

On Saturday, the US the US on Saturday launched its first airdrop of humanitarian aid into Gaza – including more than 38,000 meals.

However, aid agencies have said these drops – which have also previously been carried out by the UK, France, Egypt and Jordan – are an inefficient way of getting supplies to people.

The deliveries themselves have sometimes turned deadly. Last week, at least 112 Palestinians were reportedly killed when large crowds descended on lorries carrying aid while Israeli tanks were present.

Israel said the tanks fired warning shots but did not strike the lorries and that many of the dead were trampled or run over.

But this has been disputed by Hamas, which said there was “undeniable” evidence of “direct firing at citizens”.

Some aid agencies have been facing difficulties with the authorities. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN’s main human rights agency in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA, on Monday accused the Israeli government of trying to “eliminate” its presence in Gaza.

Israel has long accused different branches of the United Nations, including Unrwa, of bias and even of antisemitism. Several western countries, including the UK, have paused funding to UNRWA after Israel accused some staff of roles in the 7 October attacks.

Mr Lazzarini said that this was not just in response to “neutrality breaches of some of the staff” but had a wider political motive, which included plans to “eliminate the status of refugees and make sure that this is not part of a final political settlement”.

He added that dismantling his organisation would lead to the collapse of the entire humanitarian response on Gaza.

The Israeli military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK, US and others – after the group’s gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October and took 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 30,500 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s health ministry.

France makes abortion a constitutional right

France has become the first country in the world to explicitly include the right to abortion in its constitution.

Parliamentarians voted to revise the country’s 1958 constitution to enshrine women’s “guaranteed freedom” to abort.

The overwhelming 780-72 vote saw a standing ovation in the parliament in Versailles when the result was announced.

President Emmanuel Macron described the move as “French pride” that had sent a “universal message”.

However anti-abortion groups have strongly criticised the change, as has the Vatican.

Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, but polls show around 85% of the public supported amending the constitution to protect the right to end a pregnancy.

And while several other countries include reproductive rights in their constitutions – France is the first to explicitly state that an abortion will be guaranteed.

It becomes the 25th amendment to modern France’s founding document, and the first since 2008.

Following the vote, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was lit up in celebration, with the message: “My Body My Choice”.

Before the vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told parliament that the right to abortion remained “in danger” and “at the mercy of decision makers”.

“We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you,” he added.

  • Why Macron hopes abortion rights are a political winner

While resistance from right-wingers in parliament failed to materialise, President Macron has been accused of using the constitution for electoral ends.

Critics say the revision is not necessarily wrong in itself, but unnecessary, and accused the president of trying to use the cause to boost his left-wing credentials.

Since 1975 the law has been updated nine times – and on each occasion with the aim of extending access.

France’s constitutional council – the body that decides on the constitutionality of laws – has never raised a query.

In a 2001 ruling, the council based its approval of abortion on the notion of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, which is technically part of the constitution.

So many jurists say abortion was already a constitutional right.

The constitutional change was prompted by recent developments in the US, where the right to abortion was removed by the Supreme Court in 2022. Individual states are now able to ban the procedure again, ending the right to an abortion for millions of women.

The move to enshrine abortion in the French constitution has been welcomed by many.

“This right (to abortion) has retreated in the United States. And so nothing authorised us to think that France was exempt from this risk,” said Laura Slimani, from the Fondation des Femmes rights group.

“There’s a lot of emotion, as a feminist activist, also as a woman,” she said.

But not all support it, with the Vatican repeating its opposition to abortion.

“There can be no ‘right’ to take a human life,” the Vatican institution said in a statement, echoing concerns already raised by French Catholic bishops.

It appealed to “all governments and all religious traditions to do their best so that, in this phase of history, the protection of life becomes an absolute priority”.

Turkey’s ‘time-warp’ islands where cars are banned

Home to grand but faded palaces and mosques, the Adalar islands offer a glimpse into Istanbul’s multicultural past as well as a peaceful escape from the massive and chaotic metropolis.

Seagulls circled Istanbul’s iconic Galata Tower and foghorns boomed across the Bosphorus. Kabataş ferry terminal was a whirl of morning activity, and simitsellers did a brisk trade as commuters crashed through turnstiles.

The sun was shining, but when the ferry – one of the yellow, white and black vapur that connects Istanbul’s myriad neighbourhoods in Europe and Asia – edged into the Sea of Marmara, the January swells rocked it like a drunken sailor.

Steaming past the minarets and high-rise apartment blocks of Kadıköy and Fenerbahçe, my destination was Adalar, a collection of nine islands – just four of them inhabited – that I could already see through the spray-battered windows.

Known in English as “Princes’ Islands”, Adalar is where Byzantine Emperors and Ottoman Sultans banished bothersome princes and political foes into exile. This was the last refuge of the Ottoman Empire’s Greek and Armenian communities, too, and today, the car-free islands – just an hour by public ferry from Istanbul – offer a glimpse into Istanbul’s multicultural past as well as a green escape from Europe’s largest city.

“For places of such sea-swept brilliance and dappled light, which look from Istanbul’s ferries like sunning otters, the Princes’ Islands have a very dark history,” writes historian Bettany Hughes in her book, Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities. “Princes have been blinded, tortured and imprisoned here. What is an invigorating boat trip to the archipelago today would more typically have been one of pain in earlier centuries.”

The Princes’ Islands are an hour by public ferry from Istanbul (Credit: Richard Collett)

Thankfully, the tortuous tradition of removing an exile’s eyes before embarkation disappeared long ago, but my guide for the day, Özge Acarfrom Istanbul Tour Studio, explained how the archipelago has since evolved into a place of self-imposed exile.

In the 1930s, Leon Trotsky, hunted by the Soviet Union’s assassins, sought refuge in Adalar, she said, while legions of writers and artists – including Istanbul novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose family owned a house here – have mined the islands for inspiration. Acar went into a self-imposed exile here herself when she spent months isolated on the remote shores of Kınalıada, Adalar’s smallest inhabited island, during the pandemic.

“In winter, just 500 people are living on Kınalıada,” she said as we cruised past the 1.3 sq km island. “I didn’t want to deal with Istanbul, so I went into a voluntary exile. There are only five or six ferries a day, so you see the same faces, you speak to the same people, and you learn their stories.”

Acar – who isn’t just a tour guide but a trained epigraphist with a robust knowledge of ancient languages – pointed out the four inhabited islands in turn, listing the modern Turkish names as well as their original Greek monikers. From smallest to largest, there’s Kınalıada (in Greek, “Proti”, which means first), Burgazada (Antigoni), Heybeliada (Halki) and Büyükada (Prinkipo).

“Many of the people who traditionally lived on the islands are from Istanbul’s minority groups,” said Acar, explaining how the islands kept a strong Byzantine identity even after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453. “Especially Greeks and Armenians. They were often from the upper classes of the multicultural Ottoman Empire, and many of these old families still have houses here.”

Büyükada’s grand ferry port is a reminder of the islands’ Ottoman past (Credit: Liz Coughlan/Alamy)

Multiculturalism was a trademark of the Ottoman Empire, which absorbed hundreds of ethnicities and nationalities from the Balkans to North Africa. But the empire’s dissolution in the aftermath of World War One led to vast population exchanges of Muslims and Christians between the new Turkish Republic and neighbouring countries like Greece.

Istanbul was different, though, and at first, Greeks and Armenians were allowed to stay in the city, and on Adalar. Emigration, integration and, at times, discrimination and pogroms, saw the city’s Greek community diminish through the 20th Century, but some remain to this day in Adalar, a remnant of the Ottoman age of old.

There’s an emotional connection to the past and the islanders are proud of this. They feel they’ve had no interruption to their story, and in some ways, that’s a privilege

“There’s an emotional connection to the past and the islanders are proud of this,” said Acar, explaining how the tough history has forged a unique island identity that’s fiercely independent of the mainland. “They feel they’ve had no interruption to their story, and in some ways, that’s a privilege.

We soon docked at Heybeliada (which means “saddlebag” in Turkish, a reference to its twin hills), the second-largest island in the archipelago where restaurants – many painted in the traditional blue and white of Greek Orthodoxy – lined the harbour and Ottoman-style houses overshadowed wide, tree-lined boulevards. Aside from the odd police car, the islands are car-free, and we hopped in an electric golf buggy that doubled as a taxi for the steep drive to the 9th-Century Monastery of Hagia Triada (The Holy Trinity Monastery).

A Turkish flag flew in the Orthodox Christian monastery’s courtyard, and we were met in the entrance hall by Meletios Stefanatos, a priest in swirling black robes. He gave us the grand tour of a library packed with dusty religious texts and centuries-old copies of ancient epics like the Iliad.

“The majority of people on Heybeliada are now Muslim,” he said, while showing us a chapel stacked with Byzantine icons, some of them more than 1,000 years old. “But there are small groups of Armenian Christians, and maybe 30 or 40 Greek Christians.”

Since the islands are car-free, locals get around on electric scooters and golf buggies (Credit: Richard Collett)

Stefanatos is from Athens, and he’s lived on the island for the last four years. He explained that the Theological School of Halki was founded at the monastery in 1844, but despite being an important place of education, lingering rifts between Turkey and Greece resulted in the school’s closure in 1971.

“But the islanders are so friendly towards us, and we have huge numbers of Turkish people visiting the monastery from the mainland,” he said, adding that they can freely worship, just not teach, in the monastery. “The problem isn’t between Muslims and Christians, or even Turks and Greeks. We have lived for so many years all together, it’s purely a political problem.”

We hiked back down the hill and past a gloriously sandy beach, arriving at the harbour just in time to catch the next ferry to Büyükada. Ten minutes later, we alighted on “The Big Island” where Greek-style tavernas abounded on the seafront.

The islands feel stuck in a time warp, and many of the restaurants, hotels and cafes in Adalar were also painted in the blue and white colours of Greece. Acar explained that islanders like to draw on their heritage to stand out – even if very few people still identify as Greek Orthodox Christians – attracting curious Turkish tourists from the mainland. After a lunch of hummus and vegetable kebabs in a Greek-style taverna that wouldn’t be out of place anywhere in the Mediterranean, we jumped on an electric bus for an island tour.

“Imagine trying to keep this kind of quiet island next to a city with a population of [16 million],” Acar said as we hopped off the bus and hiked up a solitary path to an old Armenian church on the clifftops. “I appreciate the effort. The owners of the €6m or €7m houses can’t bring their BMWs and flashy cars here. The island has a culture and people have to adopt that culture.”

Because no cars are allowed (and with no car ferries, it would be logistically challenging to bring cars here even if they were), locals zip around on electric scooters and golf buggies, while tourists can rent bicycles, take the electric bus or hike. Electric transportation is a welcome change from the first time I visited in 2016, when tourists were taken around on horse-drawn carts. (Horses were kept in unsanitary conditions, so in 2020, the carriages were banned by the local government and replaced by electric vehicles.)

Visitors come to the islands for fresh air and nature (Credit: Mihitiander/Getty Images)

These days the islands are well connected to the mainland (for foot passengers, anyway, who pay around 45 Turkish Lira, or just more than £1, for the journey), but despite this, Adalar has managed to stay surprisingly verdant. As we hiked a few kilometres around Büyükada, we followed trails leading through forests and down to sandy beaches, passing faded summer palaces built for Ottoman princes and often walking in the shadows of minarets. This greenery is a big hit with visitors from the mainland who come here for the fresh air and nature.

After, we hopped back on an electric bus and waited in the grand 19th-Century terminal by the harbour for the next ferry to the mainland. “If you only have a few days in Istanbul, I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Adalar because it’s at least an hour there and back,” another local tour guide, Gulperi Parlak, had told me in Istanbul before my trip. “But if you have a longer time to spend in Istanbul then you should go. The islands are perfect in summer. We locals go to the sandy beaches and enjoy the sunshine.”

Don’t rush, is the message from locals, but take a leisurely trip to the islands, soak up the scenery and embrace a uniquely multicultural air.

“You’ll feel weird when we get on the Marmaray line [a commuter rail line in Istanbul] after spending all day on the islands,” Acar warned, as the ferry departed. And she was right. The ferry disgorged us at rush hour, right into the chaos of Istanbul where we struggled onto the rail line that connects the Asian and European sides of the city. Already, I longed for another day of exile in Adalar.

Green Getaways is a BBC Travel series that helps travellers experience a greener, cleaner approach to getting out and seeing the world.


Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for The Essential List newsletter – a handpicked selection of features, videos and can’t-miss news delivered to your inbox every Friday.

What’s wrong with the second-hand clothing market?

Pre-owned clothing is a surging market with a cool reputation. Yet the economics don’t make sense, and most companies are struggling.

In the past decade, buying used fashion has become normalised and even glamorised, with celebrities getting in on the action through swaps and sales of their pre-owned designer clothing. Shoppers are paying TikTok stylists hundreds of dollars for “bundles” of thrifted clothing, and the fashion sponsor of the popular British reality show Love Island switched from a fast-fashion brand to eBay.

Sixty-seven percent of millennials in the UK shop second-hand, and according to a report commissioned by ThredUp, the online second-hand fashion retailer, two in five items in Gen Z’s closet are pre-owned. Every year since 2017, ThredUp has put out this report underlining the breakneck growth of the market. Its latest version of the report noted that by 2027, the value of the fashion resale market would double, to $3.5bn (£2.76bn).  

As large as the opportunity is, however, there’s a big problem. From local thrift shops to enormous online second-hand retailers, it’s hard to find pre-owned clothing businesses that actually turn a profit.

Supply > demand 

Online retailers have been packing up and shipping out second-hand clothes for years, focusing on growth over the bottom line, taking on large capital investments and, in some cases, going public. Despite this commitment, profits aren’t rolling in – even for the biggest players in the space.

The sheer volume of clothing that arrives at distribution centres for clothing resale companies, like ThredUp, can be overwhelming to process (Credit: Courtesy of ThredUp)

For instance, neither the American companies ThredUp nor its luxury cousin The RealReal are profitable, disappointing investors and dragging share prices below their IPOs. In 2022, fewer than two years after going public, the American peer-to-peer resale site Poshmark was acquired by a Korean tech company for $1.2bn (£950m), one-sixth of its IPO valuation. While the service is still available to American shoppers and sellers, the company no longer operates in the UK market.

The Lithuanian peer-to-peer fashion resale start-up Vinted has taken over in the UK, posting a pre-tax loss of €47.1m ($51m; £40.3m) in 2022. The British second-hand marketplace Depop posted a loss of £59m ($69m) in 2023. The bright spot is Vestiaire, which focuses on luxury resale. If its optimistic forecast is to be believed, it might be profitable by the end of the year.

This struggle affects every size, type and location of resellers. For-profit second-hand clothing sorters in the UK have been going out of business, citing high labour costs and the degrading quality of the clothing they receive. In New York City, Brooklyn residents bemoan standing in line for an hour to consign clothes at the famous store Beacon’s Closet, and getting paid just $18 (£14.20) for a full bag of old designer clothes. As early as 2016, market resellers in Ghana – one of the largest recipients of second-hand fashion from Europe – were also complaining about declining quality and profits, and it has only gotten worse since then. 

The problem is one of economics. With the rise of ultra-fast, ultra-cheap fashion brands, the volume of clothing produced and shipped globally continues to explode, and consumers are offloading more of it after just a few wears. 

According to a 2023 study, one large Swedish charity has to pay to have 70% of donated clothing incinerated because it is too low quality to sell in-store or export. Of the clothing that isexported to Ghana, 40% is trashed almost immediately.

“There’s an oversupply of clothes,” says Liz Ricketts, co-founder and executive director of The Or Foundation, a non-profit that researches Ghana’s Kantamanto market, one of the world’s largest clothing exchanges. “And it’s lowering the perceived value, and the real value, of everything.”

A significant amount of manual labour is involved in processing pre-owned clothing (Credit: Getty Images)

Hidden costs

Processing second-hand products is labour-intensive – and it’s costly for businesses. “We treat waste as if it is a free resource. Sure, you might give it away for free, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and labour and skill to try to re-commodify that thing that you gave away,” says Ricketts. “Reuse is based on the quality and the condition of the individual item, which means that it requires a human touch and a human eye to assess that.”

Second-hand clothing companies have realised the difficult economics of processing old clothes for resale. To shore up business, some are changing their models for acquiring pre-owned clothing. ThredUp is now charging consumers and brands alike to process their old clothing, whereas sending along a “Clean Out Kit” was previously free

“You’re doing effectively reverse, single-SKU fulfilment, which is incredibly difficult, incredibly expensive and incredibly inefficient,” says Dylan Carden, a US-based research analyst at the investment firm William Blair.

We treat waste as if it is a free resource. Sure, you might give it away for free, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and labour and skill to try to re-commodify that thing that you gave away – Liz Ricketts

Rising costs can mean rising price, a jarring realisation for consumers who come to the market expecting deals and steals. In some cases, labour costs can push the price of second-hand clothing over the price of new products of similar quality. A recent investigation by The Telegraph called thrift shopping in the UK a “right rip-off”, citing the example of a used Primark sweater that was priced higher than a new one.

The dirty secret of the resale industry is that despite its reputation as an eco-friendly alternative to fast fashion, second-hand fashion is often subsidised by the sale of new clothing. For example, 80% of products on eBay, long seen as a second-hand success story, are new. The Swedish resale site Sellpy’s expansion to new markets and investment in technology was made possible by its strategic partnership with H&M – and H&M’s profits come from selling large amounts of new fast fashion.

Thomas Bauwens, an economist and assistant professor in collective action and sustainability at Rotterdam School of Management, believes that we would have to completely rethink what we consider a “good” or “healthy” economy for second-hand retail to succeed. In a 2021 article in the Journal of Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Bauwens argued that, in a growth-based economy, companies trying to implement sustainable practices such as take-back, repair, resale and recycling are “quickly outpriced and driven out of the market by cheaper, non-circular competitors”.

A climate imperative

Some experts believe the key to making the pre-owned clothing market work is by not only treating it as a for-profit business – but also as an environmental imperative.

In the US, second-hand luxury retailers. such as The RealReal are making a splash with consumers, but have not performed for investors (Credit: Getty Images)

“The resale [industry] as we know it today – not the thrift shopping from when we grew up – is in its infancy,” says Rachel Kibbe, CEO of the trade group American Circular Textiles. She believes the second-hand clothing market should receive funding for capital-intensive sorting and recycling infrastructure to reduce labour costs, the same way other climate-focused initiatives are subsidised. 

William Blair’s Carden thinks ThredUp and its ilk could benefit from government regulation that requires companies use certain technology to reduce labour costs. For instance, scannable tags on garments can pull up information and photos on each item instantly, which would slash the amount of manual labour required to sort clothing.

These kinds of changes are not only eco-friendly, but may also lead some resellers to profitability as they introduce efficiencies and scale up business models with new, state-of-the-art fulfilment centres and technology. 

Reducing the oversupply of clothing could also be key. “I don’t see a world where second-hand and upcycled and recycled products are going to be competitive if we don’t reduce the production of new clothes,” says Ricketts. Her organisation is calling for a government policy that would include a reduction of the production of new clothes by 40%.

Whether the second-hand clothing market is a bubble ready to burst, or an industry with untapped potential, experts agree the current situation is untenable. “We need infrastructure, we need labour, we need capital,” says Kibbe. “Because how else are we going to solve this thing called the climate crisis?”