Reselling Expensive Taste
An unlikely friendship between luxury and secondhand thrifting has emerged.
Research Within the Industry
Before the e-commerce boom, brick-and-mortar stores have always followed this trend like Clothes Mentor, who buy and sell better brands of ladies clothing (think Ann Taylor, Chicos, and Talbots). They also offer secondhand high-end handbags and other designer items such as shoes and belts. Although each store is different, they promote continuous and consistent in-person relationships between store and consumer, which attracts a wide clientele.
Then, in 2011, Julie Wainwright started online marketplace The Real Real while working out of her kitchen and visiting clients with a U-Haul truck. Three years ago, Stella McCartney broke ground when they partnered with them and gave $100 in store credit to anyone who consigned Stella items. Currently, they are a thriving enterprise with 25 million shoppers, 23 million products have sold, and 2.5 billion dollars were made in commission, and over 80 brands are partners with them. A 2019 report by BCG implored this type of alliance and the benefits it could come with.
Flash-forward a few years later and partnerships are happening between brands and online resale platforms everywhere. For example, Alexander McQueen and Vestiaire Collective launched Brand Approved in February (as a side note, the conversation between CEO Max Bittner and The Business of Fashion podcast is worth a listen); shortly after, Kering (who owns the likes of Gucci, Balenciaga, and Bottega Veneta) acquired a 5% stake in the online marketplace. In an article with Fashionista, Oscar De La Renta CEO Alex Bolen spoke about Encore, which was jointly launched with resale platform Archive (founded to help brands take ownership in secondhand public relations).
“We look at [Encore] as a way to attract both new customers and also, very importantly, retain existing customers,” said Bolen.
Despite their popularity, however, it is uncertain whether these partnerships will continue or not. As with many third-party purchases, concerns over counterfeits is still a big drawback. For now, resale must depend on outsourcing products, experienced employees, and reviews of both sellers and buyers to establish credibility, which either works or fails miserably.
That being said, solutions are being studied and tested. Another online resale platform, Rebag, provided instructions on how to read date codes on Chanel, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton handbags; they also launched Clair AI, the first resale-driven image recognition app. Backed by years of Clair codes (in other words, their product database), a seller can scan their item and receive different quotes. The World Economic Forum also mentioned how 90% of consumers were worried about authentication and proposed another solution to stop counterfeits: a digital authentication platform involving brands installing trackers in products so their information can be shared. For retailers, this would improve control and expansion in secondary markets; for resellers, it would build trustworthiness and grow their audience.
In a ThredUp report from last year, it was predicted there would over $77 billion dollars in used clothing revenue by 2025, up from their original $36 billion figure (33 million people bought previously owned fashion pieces for the first time in 2020 and 76% of them will continue to buy thrift for the next five years.) During the holiday season last year, Mercari reported 49.4% of consumers planned to buy secondhand items for themselves, while 38.1% said their purchases were gifts.
Needless to say, supply chain issues, rising inflation and gas costs are creating opportunities for resale to grow, especially among the younger millennial and Gen-Z populations. The Real Real is gaining both customers and social media through advertisements on streaming sites like the former’s Winter 2022 commercial on YouTube, which feature young models in trendy clothing talking about how they love shopping their favorite brands for less. In addition, shows like “Spill It” by Refinery29 and “In The Bag” by British Vogue, Rebag and other sites like Tradesy are mentioned while celebrities show their items, which further demonstrates the “you don’t have to shop like [insert famous name here] to look like them” mentality.
On almost every luxury resale platform, this is a word that comes up frequently. Although we are still monitoring environmental impacts from COVID-19, we do know that the fashion industry is a major pollutant. And brands know this all too well.
But there is also a changing social consciousness. Younger generations are continuously finding ways to save our natural resources and circular wardrobe habits are contributing to reducing carbon emissions from making new clothes and throwing leftover fabric in landfills. In the same report from ThredUp, secondhand fashion will grow two times bigger than fast fashion by 2030, as almost 45% of millennials and Gen-Z will not buy anything non-sustainable. If these behaviors continue, we could see almost 300B lbs of GHG emissions gone by then (which contributes positively on track with the Paris Climate Change Agreement).
Luxurious exchanges are happening more often and in new ways; Although this relationship between brand-name and slightly worn is still taking baby steps, there is something exciting, even fun, about this plan that it may just work.