What you need to know about investment pieces and pre-loved shopping, according to fashion resale platform Vestiaire Collective

What you need to know about investment pieces and pre-loved shopping, according to fashion resale platform Vestiaire Collective

Circular fashion

Text: Joan Kong

Image: @vestiaireco
Image: @zaloramy
Image: @fannymoizant

Have questions about secondhand shopping? We’ve got the answers

Thanks to the increase of sustainability-driven and bargain-hunting shoppers in this day and age, the fashion resale market is booming like no other, and it’ll continue to thrive for years to come. According to the 2020 Resale Report by the world’s largest online consignment and thrift store ThredUp and GlobalData Retail, the secondhand apparel market is valued at about US$28 billion today and is expected to reach US$64 billion in the next five years. The COVID-19 pandemic has, undoubtedly, lend a hand in propelling the industry too.

A quick search on Google will lead you to a long list of resellers, but Paris-based Vestiaire Collective has been one of the leading platforms in recent years with almost nine million members in 50 countries worldwide. Founded in 2009, the brand has also set its sights in the Asia, having set up an office in Hong Kong two years back, and partnering up with online fashion retailer Zalora in recent months for its expansion.

To get more insight into the pre-loved industry and fashion investments as a whole, we spoke to Vestiaire Collective’s co-founder Fanny Moizant, and Head of Australia and Southeast Asia Duncan White to get more insight into the resale market; as well as Zalora’s Head of Sustainability and General Counsel, Louise Pender on some of its sustainability plans moving forward.

Bring us back to the start. How did Vestiaire Collective come about?

Fanny Moizant: After having my two daughters, I was inspired to start my own company. I came up with the idea to launch Vestiaire Collective after noticing significant changes in the way that people were consuming fashion: buying more and wearing less.

The rise of social media and fast fashion has led us from an era of possession to an era of usage, where consumers are urgently in need of a sustainable solution to cope with this behaviour. This soon led to the creation of Vestiaire Collective, a company dedicated to providing an opportunity for people to extend the lifespan of their pre-loved items, therefore minimising waste in fashion.

How has the pandemic affected the resale market?

FM: Clearly this period has encouraged everyone to focus on what’s really important to them—a time to re-evaluate what’s essential, and also their consumption habits and values. I believe consumers will focus on buying less but better, thus adopting a more sustainable conscious lifestyle moving forward.

On the selling side, we’ve seen a huge uplift in deposits at +88 per cent YoY in May which is in part due to the lockdown where people have more time to clear their closets. Consumers are also becoming more resourceful in the economic crisis and starting to sell as an extra form of income.

Vestiaire Collective was founded during the global recession in 2009, by offering customers affordable luxury and the opportunity to transform closets into an extra source of income. Our resilient business model as an online resale platform has played an important role for people who want to raise funds from their wardrobe during this difficult period.

Why do you think the fashion resale market has grown so much in recent years?

FM: There’s a combination of factors driving the rapid growth of the resale market. Firstly, there’s increased consumer awareness and interest in sustainability, leading consumers to look to resale as a smart investment and an eco-conscious alternative to throw away fashion. The clear departure from “ownership” answers the need for newness, as more people prioritise usage over possession and consider products in terms of usage and resale.

We recently partnered with BCG to release a report which found that 71 per cent of consumers today choose to shop secondhand as it's a way for them to access quality products at affordable prices. Of the buyers surveyed, 62 per cent find the resale market attractive because they are looking for sold out or limited edition items. These factors combined are driving a fundamental shift in our consumption habits which has created a perfect storm for the resale market to grow.

Do you think the growth of the resale market is directly linked to sustainability?

FM: Absolutely. Sustainability is one of the main concerns for the fashion industry and consumer today, and circular fashion is a large part of this movement. The idea is that the industry needs to eradicate waste from all elements of production, right through to encouraging consumers to extend the lifespan of their pieces for as long as possible. The linear fashion model is no longer sustainable, I believe circular fashion is the future for the industry and the consumer.

Allowing fashion lovers to extend the lifespan of their beloved products and encouraging participation in the circular economy were, and remain, core foundations of Vestiaire Collective. Sustainability has always been at the heart of who we are and what we do. We encourage people to buy good quality items and resell them when they no longer need them instead of succumbing to the idea that fashion can be throw-away. Resale platforms such as Vestiaire Collective have disrupted the industry by offering an easily accessible platform for consumers to practice circular fashion.

What sets Vestiaire Collective apart from a sea of fashion resellers?

FM: Part of our appeal is that we cater for a large mix of circular fashion lovers by offering a wide array of brands including but not limited to luxury pieces. Aside from that, there are a few factors that set Vestiaire Collective apart from other resale sites such as;

  • Authentication and quality control: We have a dedicated team of specialists in our main locations around the world to ensure that all products are properly authenticated. This is key to guarantee trust with our customers.
  • Global community: There are currently over nine million users engaging with the site daily and this number continues to grow. Customers like the fact that they can interact with each other through the platform, and they’re shopping amongst like-minded individuals.
  • Fashion DNA: Our curation experts curate our catalogue which now features over 1.8 million products. The site is updated daily with over 8,500 new products to ensure newness, often reflecting the latest trends and in-demand items.
  • Sustainability: This is a mindset that more customers are embracing–being more mindful about consumption, and being aware that we all have individual responsibility towards our consumption habits. I operate the “one in, one out rule” for my own wardrobe, and I encourage others to do so. It’s all about buying less, but buying better.

What do you have to say to those who are hesitant about the luxury resale model?

FM: For those who have always wanted to buy premium fashion but could not afford: Resale market gives you access to premium fashion at affordable prices. According to our BCG x Vestiaire Collective 2019 report, 62 per cent said that they bought a brand they like for the first time secondhand on Vestiaire Collective.

For those who only buy first-hand premium fashion: The resale market offers you the opportunity to fund your next purchase. Secondhand sellers typically use resale to recoup some of their money back on firsthand purchases, often so they can reinvest in new, full-priced luxury products. Of those sellers surveyed in our BCG x VC report, 32 per cent said they were primarily selling because they wanted to purchase new firsthand goods.

What do you think constitutes an investment piece?

FM: The best investments tend to be timeless pieces that will never go out of fashion. When investing in a special piece, it’s important to consider its future resale value, the desirability factor and its shelf life. Iconic designers and classic styles are always a safe bet, as they either hold or increase in value. Rare, limited edition pieces are also something to consider. Look for pieces that use high-quality materials and are well-constructed to ensure that they will maintain condition and value.

Why do you think bags such as the Hermès Birkin and Chanel 2.55 are always an investment no matter how much time has passed?

FM: It’s often easy to be seduced by seasonal must-haves, however with classic shapes and styles, there's a limited risk of them feeling dated when new season pieces hit the shops. Hermès Birkin and Chanel 2.55 are the definitions of forever pieces. Iconic pieces from designers that have shaped the history of fashion e.g. Hermès, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Dior, retain value over the years through quality design and craftsmanship. Hermès is still widely considered as a good investment and continues to be one of our top-selling brands on given its rarity and exclusive accessibility of its products. Several styles are highly coveted, the history of the company also adds to the exclusivity and there is a mystery around the bags which make them even more sought after.

Walk us through the process of buying and selling an item on your site.

FM: Listing an item on the Vestiaire Collective app only takes a few minutes. Fill in the requested product details such as the brand, model, material, colour, sizing, and a full description of the product. Choose the product condition best suits your item and set a price. After submission, our curation team will review the listing before it goes live on our platform. Once an order is placed by our buyer, the seller will have five days to ship the product to one of our three logistics hubs in Paris, New York, and Hong Kong, whichever is closest to the seller. Upon receiving the item, our in-house specialists will do a physical check of the product making sure that it matches the description provided by the seller. If the item passes quality control, it will then be shipped to the buyer which completes the process.

What are some important tips to know before selling or making a purchase on the site?

FM: When listing products for sale, do ensure that you take photographs with good lighting and really go into detail with the descriptions, be upfront about any marks or defects as our teams will notice them at Quality Control and potentially re-negotiate the price. It is also equally important to find the right price for your items. We offer a suggested price that reflects the market price of similar products in our catalogue. Once the product is up for sale, do stay active and answer any questions that potential buyers ask to ensure a quicker sale.

For buyers, I would encourage them to interact with sellers by asking questions or requesting additional images under the comments section of each item to which sellers can directly respond to. Buyers are also encouraged to use the “make me an offer” feature which allows buyers to negotiate a good price with the seller. There is also the “Follow price reduction” function which allows buyers to keep track of products on their wishlist.

What are some of the most popular designs on your site as of late?

FM: Balenciaga and Gucci have really peaked in popularity on Vestiaire Collective over the last year. Vintage Prada has also become increasingly popular since the announcement of Raf Simons joining as co-creative director of Prada. Our community loves inspirational brands that tell a strong story with the right message. They also like to mix luxury designer brands with more unique or accessible contemporary brands such as Jacquemus, Off-White, Ganni, Rejina Pyo, Staud, and Rouje.

What are some of the biggest challenges faced by the luxury resale businesses?

FM: Many luxury players have previously perceived the pre-owned market as a threat. One of the biggest challenges is to encourage luxury players to work together with resale players. The work lies within building a mutual understanding that we all play a part in the overall ecosystem and exploring ways to combine our efforts to help make the industry more sustainable.

Our goal is to help brands educate consumers on investing in high quality, high-longevity products by helping them to understand what happens to the product after the primary sale, and what the consumers do with the product. It’s about giving them transparency to participate in the circular movement. We are actively speaking to brands that are very conscious of their role in the movement for potential partnerships.

We will continue to forge a series of brand partnerships aimed at driving circularity in the fashion ecosystem, following the success of our Circularity Collabs with Sandro, Maje, and Pomellato, as well as our pop-up stores in Selfridges London and Le Bon Marché in Paris.

What’s next for Vestiaire Collective?

FM: The next stop for us is to further develop our app to allow our community to engage more with one another. Vestiaire Collective is many things at once, a tech company, a fashion company and an answer to a more circular economy. We continue to focus on our global expansion, especially in Asia, as we look to extend into more key markets such as Japan and South Korea in the region.

Following the success of Direct Shipping in Europe and the US, the model will be further rolled out in Asia before the end of 2020. This allows Vestiaire Collective to have a unique position in the resale space since we provide our fashion community with a diverse product curation from different sellers and buyers from all over the world. Tech innovation, customer engagement, personalization, and discoverability are also priorities as we move toward becoming an app-first platform.

How different are the consumer behaviour between Southeast Asia and Australia?

Duncan White: The resale market is relatively mature in Australia where consumers generally place a higher value on sustainability and thus have much wider acceptance and adoption of secondhand fashion. They also have a strong contingent of local designers that resonate with the market, especially when these brands have a strong stance in sustainability. Meanwhile, cultural stigmas towards secondhand still exist within the Southeast Asia region, but we definitely see a strong shift happening, especially amongst millennials and the Gen Z population with sustainability catching on. We are therefore focusing our marketing efforts to educate the younger population on the benefits of both buying and selling second hand via social media channels.

Zalora x Vestiaire Collective 

Following its announcement of a partnership with Zalora Hong Kong in May, Vestiaire Collective is now available on the Malaysia site. Zalora Malaysia customers will now have access to over 5,000 of the brand’s pre-loved items across its women’s and men’s categories. The online fashion retailer has previously pledged to create a sustainable fashion ecosystem in Southeast Asia.

Below, our Q&A with Louise Pender, Zalora’s Head of Sustainability and General Counsel:

How did the partnership with Vestiaire Collective come about?

Louise Pender: In designing Zalora’s Sustainability Strategy, we actively set out to inspire our customers with a range of sustainable fashion choices and to drive a circular fashion movement in our region. A big part of this initiative is about introducing customers to a fresh perspective on sustainable fashion and how we consume it. Zalora’s pre-loved category is a central part of our strategy, and partnerships like the one we recently launched with Vestiaire Collective are an exciting way we can collaborate to help drive a sustainable fashion ecosystem. We also recently added to our pre-loved assortment by launching other sustainability-conscious categories, such as: Sustainable Materials, Eco Production, Fair Production, Animal Friendly and Community Engagement.

What are the most popular luxury pre-loved items on the site so far?

LP: We are noticing that the demand for pre-loved luxury brands seems to align with customer demand for new luxury products. So, iconic labels such as Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Tod’s, and Prada are always very popular. Other brands such as Burberry, Tory Burch, and Kate Spade New York are also always in demand. However, we are trying to cater to customers who want to shop at Pre-Loved across the spectrum of pre-loved luxury.

Zalora has announced that it’s committing to a sustainability strategy for the coming few years. Tell us more about that.

LP: Developing our Strategy was very important as part of our evolution as a young company. We have always been very conscious of our ability to impact the environment and our community. Fashion has always had a special role to play in reflecting the changing values of our times, particularly in the fast-growing and extremely diverse region in which we operate. So, our strategy had to encompass all parts of the fashion ecosystem in Southeast Asia–including customers, brands, suppliers, and our employees. We recognise that as a leading fashion e-commerce player in the region, we are uniquely positioned to influence and address all aspects of the fashion supply chain holistically. But, one of the core principles of our Strategy is to start with focusing on our own immediate ability to make a positive impact.

Once we identified our core Sustainability Principles, formulating our Strategy happened quite naturally and quickly. We established concrete targets and actionable commitments across four key Sustainability Pillars that directly relate to our business operations and greatest areas of impact. These are: Environmental Footprint (our Operations), Sustainable Consumption (our Brands and Customers), Ethical Sourcing (our Supply Chain), and Responsible Workplace and Community Engagement (People).

We are proud of the steps we have already taken, but we acknowledge that our commitment to sustainability is a continuous and evolving process, and we are only at the beginning of the journey. We will continue to review our targets regularly to ensure that we are constantly challenging ourselves to make a positive difference.

Seeing how Zalora has partnered up with Singapore-based pre-loved luxury platform Style Tribute end of last year and Vestiaire Collective now, will the site be expanding the luxury pre-loved category on your site?

We hope so! Our aim is to offer our customers a wide array of pre-loved fashion to inspire those customers who are new to buying second-hand to join the circular fashion move

Check out Vestiaire Collective here, and Zalora's pre-loved section here.