The future of fashion will be circular or it won’t be
By Morgane Nyfeler26 mars 2021
Online second-hand clothing is one of the hottest trends in fashion right now. Platforms such as Vestiaire Collective are being backed by luxury giants who want to be part of shaping this sustainable and innovative business model that combats fashion’s waste.
Second-hand items purchased per person in 2023
USD 60 B
The value of the second-hand luxury sector in 2025
The number of people who consider a second-hand purchase
The second-hand market has become increasingly popular in recent years yet luxury brands haven’t always been willing to jump on the bandwagon. This was before luxury group Kering and investment firm Tiger Global Management invested €178 million in the Paris-based resale company Vestiaire Collective earlier this month to accelerate its growth and drive conscious consumption.
The luxury players have realised that we’re not a competitor but we’re actually paying homage to luxury
Max Bittner, CEO of Vestiaire Collective
“The luxury players have realised that we’re not a competitor but we’re actually paying homage to luxury by having these wonderful products for sale at real value even after a couple of months or years of use,” said CEO of Vestiaire Collective Max Bittner on the BoF podcast. “We’re also really changing consumers’ behaviour by highlighting the fact that these brands are much more long-lasting, their value doesn’t go away, they’re much more durable and show real craftsmanship.”
A 60 billion dollars market
According to a Vestiaire Collective survey in partnership with advisory firm Boston Consulting Group, more people are engaging with circular fashion, whether it’s buying or selling second-hand items, as part of a more sustainable lifestyle. The amount of second-hand pieces in people’s closet is predicted to grow from 21% in 2021 to 27% in 2023 with the value of the second-hand sector forecasted to be worth over $60 billion by 2025.
The world is coming to the fact that there is too much product – you need to get people recirculating goods
Julie Wainwright, CEO of The RealReal
This is especially true for young consumers caring about the environment as nine in ten Gen Zers like the idea of buying pre-owned apparel. They are also walking away from fast fashion and its detrimental impact on the planet to turn to the pre-owned fashion sector that comes as an affordable and higher quality alternative expected to become almost twice the size of fast fashion by 2029. The pandemic has certainly boosted this growth as an increasing number of customers are adopting new ways of shopping more socially and digitally, which is likely to continue after the crisis. 62% of the survey’s respondents said they would buy more from online resale platforms as well as from luxury labels that partner with second-hand marketplaces. People sitting at home have been spending more time shopping online and looking for special items with an interesting story or for vintage trends that are different from the contemporary aesthetic.
Beware of counterfeiting
Thanks to second-hand, consumers are realising that by investing in quality items and taking better care of them, their wardrobes increase in value and they can make money selling worn clothes. The resale platform The RealReal now counts 20 million members and has partnered with brands such as Stella McCartney in 2017 and Gucci last autumn. “The world is coming to the fact that there is too much product – you need to get people recirculating goods,” explained The RealReal’s founder and CEO Julie Wainwright to Vogue.
However, The RealReal faced a backlash against fake items sold on the platform that slipped through the authentication process due to a lack of expertise. Resale platforms need to partner with brands not only on a marketing front but also to participate in authentication to prevent fraud. For example, Alexander McQueen recently announced a partnership with Vestiaire Collective to verify each item brought back by the seller and give a store credit in return so they can better control how they’re perceived and bring customers back to the first-hand market.
New and inventive platforms
In recent years, more second-hand platforms have been popping all over the internet. Loop Generation was founded by Ewa Kozieja and Piotr Krzymowski in London two years ago over a common interest for pre-loved clothing and a desire to contribute to circular fashion. They’ve been working with a network of private sellers, including influencers, around the capital to collect luxury items from their closets and sell them at pop-ups and on the online platform.
Compared to a peer-to-peer resale market, Loop Generation is carefully curated by the founders who take care of expertly verifying, repairing, photographing, merchandising and sending each item to its new owner in eco-friendly packaging. “We really want to have an amazing presentation on the website and show products as if they were new,” says Krzymowski. “We also take authentication very seriously and sometimes require proof of purchase for high-end products.” During Covid-19, sales grew from one or two items sold a week to two to three a day.
The platform also offers real competitive prices that are consistent throughout the website by comparing them to the market and advising the sellers instead of letting them decide by themselves. Recently, the founders have introduced second-hand beauty – in most cases items that have never been used before – and a capsule collection of rescued factory samples while at the same time looking to expand into menswear and offer a repair service to their customers. “All these different aspects are helping us become more planet-friendly and continue on our mission to educate people that, by selling old clothes or buying pre-owned, they can really save the environment,” adds Krzymowski.
Another business model that is gaining momentum amongst the younger generation is the idea of sharing and renting clothes from other people’s closet. By Rotation is a social fashion rental app that offers new ways of consuming by increasing the wearability of clothing whilst making luxury items more accessible to the average shopper. Instead of selling and buying clothes and accessories, renting is another way users can monetise their wardrobes or try something exciting for a special occasion. “Renting allows you to get that dopamine-hit of ordering something new, without the hefty price tag or guilt afterwards,” says the founder Eshita Kabra-Davies. “And you feel better for spending less and being less wasteful knowing you will only keep it for a short period of time.”
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