Vestiaire Collective has long been leading the way in sustainability across the fashion industry. Now, it’s bringing household names into the arena, thanks to a circularity-embracing collaboration with Alexander McQueen, and has found itself firmly part of the luxury stable, having this month secured a significant round of investment backed by luxury conglomerate Kering.
Alexander McQueen is the first label to sign up to Vestiarie Collective’s new Brand Approved venture, encouraging customers to extend the lifespan of their purchases. Longstanding McQueen customers are invited to return items they no longer wear in exchange for store credit. These pieces will then be sold under the Brand Approved label on Vestiaire.
The project also has an emphasis on traceability, which is increasingly important to building a more sustainable industry. Each piece is accompanied by a special hangtag that uses contactless technology, which when scanned will confirm the details and authentication of the item.
The collaboration marks the first time a resale site and luxury house have come together to use such tech to give customers visibility on the history and authenticity of an item they're wearing. It's an exciting step towards using tech to support circularity in fashion between the resale market and luxury brands, helping the industry to move towards a greener future.
We caught up with Vestiaire Collective co-founder Fanny Moizant to find out why it’s so important, now more than ever before, that luxury brands embrace the resale market.
Why is it so important for sustainability that we embrace circularity in fashion?
“The fashion industry can no longer function on a purely linear model; the thirst for constant newness has led to incredibly high levels of consumption which has pushed up mass over-production, making the fashion industry one of the most polluting. According to Greenpeace, clothing consumption is set to rise by 63 per cent by 2030, but at the same time we wear our clothes 40 per cent less than we did 10 years ago.
"The combination of these trends is no longer sustainable, so we really need to focus on extending the lifespan of pieces already in circulation as a solution to our need for newness. Extending the lifespan of a piece by just nine months can reduce its environmental footprint by up to 30 per cent, says WRAP [a charity which encourages sustainability through re-use and recycling]. There are so many beautiful pieces already in our wardrobes; we need to keep these pieces in circulation to reduce the current rate of production."
What’s the best way to make our own wardrobe circular?
“I’m a big believer in keeping an edited wardrobe - less is always more. I would advise that you start by going through your wardrobe and clearing out any pieces you no longer wear. You can put them back into circulation by reselling them or donating them to charity shops. Always try to keep an edited capsule wardrobe by buying fewer pieces, but when you buy, always buy quality pieces that are durable and made to stand the test of time.
"If you buy wisely, they will retain their resale value allowing you to sell when you no longer wear them. I always try to buy sustainable options, so I look at pre-owned or brands that are producing sustainable, recycled or upcycled edited collections. I have always believed in having a strict one-in, one-out policy, I would advise you to always sell something in your wardrobe before you buy another piece, it’s also a great way to avoid impulse purchases."
Why is transparency so important?
“A lack of transparency in the production of our clothing has meant that we have become very detached from the conditions our clothes are made in. This has led to unsafe working conditions and unfair pay for many garment workers; the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 really brought this into public awareness, demonstrating how important transparency in the production supply chain is. There are many great organisations such as Fashion Revolution and Labour Behind the Label that are campaigning for safe working conditions and fair pay for garment workers. It's vital that the industry comes together to act on this now."
Why is it so vital that luxury brands/conglomerates embrace the resale market?
“It's clear that the fashion industry can no longer continue with a take, make, waste approach - brands need to disrupt their linear model by embedding circular thinking across all aspects of their business. We need to start to decouple economic profit from the use of natural resources. Circularity is really a key solution to building a more sustainable fashion industry, as it allows people to access fashion without the production of new pieces, supporting the industry in moving away from reliance on vital natural resources such as land and water.
“We believe that circularity is a key solution to building a more sustainable fashion industry for the future, which is why we launched the Brand Approved service to support and help brands embed resale into their model. This demonstrates the value of pieces that are made to stand the test of time and encourages consumers to buy less, but better, pieces, ensuring they can be kept in circulation for a long period of time. Innovation is key to building sustainable solutions - all companies should be looking at what options are available to support their sustainability journey."
What hurdles have been overcome since Vestiaire's launch in the efforts to embrace designer resale?
“There was some resistance towards second-hand when we first launched in 2009; there was still a bit of stigma around second-hand in some markets and the brands were not really sure about the implications of this new sector for them. But this quickly changed with the public's growing awareness of the climate crisis and the rise of millennial and Gen-Z shoppers who have really adopted resale as a way to develop their own sense of style and access fashion in a sustainable way. Ultimately, the circular economy is beneficial for everyone and the planet. In 2019, we released a report with BCG exploring why luxury brands should embrace the success of the resale market. It revealed that many younger customers use resale as an entry point to trade up and try luxury brands for the first time, showing that resale can be a powerful way for luxury brands to engage potential younger customers."
How might the growing popularity of resale change the way designers put out collections?
“We hope that the presence of the resale sector and the fact that it clearly gives value to pieces that have been made to stand the test of time will encourage designers to focus on collections that are made to be durable, both in terms of style and craftsmanship. The last few years have also seen a lot of designers looking back to their archives for inspiration, so I’d love to see more brands integrating their heritage pieces with curated collections."
Have the changes in consumer behaviour regarding the high street led to more people shopping designer resale?
“The boom in the resale market is predominantly being driven by environmentally conscious millennial and Gen-Z customers, who make up Vestiaire Collective’s largest age demographic. We collaborated with BCG again in 2020 to explore the different customer segments driving the resale boom. The survey revealed that 85 per cent of people participate in the resale market to trade-up for less but better-quality pieces."
Have you seen any particular change in the last year in what their customers are shopping for?
“We’ve seen some trends that have been driven specifically by the impact of the pandemic, such as an increase in more casual and sportswear. Overall the main trends we saw prior to the pandemic have further escalated, such as the growing popularity of sustainable brands, vintage, streetwear and leading designer brands such as Gucci, Dior and Prada."
What makes an item perform at resale?
“It's really a combination of factors that will help ensure a quick sale. Knowing when to sell your piece is important; items will sell quickly when there is a buzz around them and demand is still high - generally selling ‘hot’ items within the first three seasons is most effective. Timeless pieces will always perform well but, as with all pieces, it's important to set the right price. Vestiaire Collective has a pricing algorithm that will advise members on the best price for their item. Finally, it's important to build up your community on the platform, this will ensure that members who share the same sense of style will see your pieces when you list them."
What are the trends of tomorrow in sustainable fashion?
“I believe we’ll see a continued move towards conscious consumption and production. Circularity is a big part of this as brands embed circular thinking across all aspects of the process - from recycled fabric, upcycled pieces and designs that are crafted with circularity in mind, whether for longevity or to enable more recycling. There’s also a lot of fabric innovation going on at the moment in the search for more environmentally friendly substitutes for cotton and leather for example. I think the trend for vintage will also continue to grow; it's still one of the fastest-growing categories on Vestiaire Collective.”
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