Saving dimes on designer threads is like a sport for me: the adrenalin, the adventure, the trophies. To become a master at this type of treasure hunting requires goal-setting, a strategic plan, in-depth market intelligence and plenty of practice.
You need to be able to weed through physical and digital outlets, vintage boutiques, auction houses and consignment stores. Then there are marketplaces and peer-to-peer selling – and reselling – on social media platforms, as well as avenues to borrow or rent goods, which in the age of environmentally harmful fast fashion can be very appealing as well as thrifty.
Earlier this year, a report published by Globaldata in partnership with Thredup (the world’s largest fashion reseller) calculated the fashion resale industry to be a US$24 billion market (that’s AUD$35 billion), projected to double to $51 billion by 2023. Researchers also found that 56 million women bought second-hand products in 2018, up from 44 million the previous year.
Buying second-hand is no longer a niche thing, so it’s time to upskill in navigating this parallel ecosystem – and land some bargains and help perpetuate circular fashion along the way. Doubling the average number of times a garment is worn (through resale, for example) extends the useful life of the garment and helps reduce landfill. This is not insignificant, given that the textile waste crisis is accelerating at a rate on track to account for 25 per cent of the global carbon budget by 2050.
Here’s a quick ode to the resale market, and some helpful tips to start you off if you’re unacquainted.
I’m a junkie when it comes to purchasing second-hand designer threads from consignment boutiques. I don’t even tell my friends about my favourites for fear of increasing the competition. There are only so many discounted Celine pants or Prada shirts in my size out there, and the last thing I need is having my lunch cut. Sorry pals, you’re on your own.
Key online players that aren’t so secret include TheRealReal, Vestiaire Collective, Poshmark and Thredup – though the latter two peddle some high-street brands as well as luxe labels. These resellers employ expert authenticators, so you can be confident you’re buying genuine articles.
While eBay vendors have been reselling designer apparel and accessories for many years, the visibility of celebrities and influencers on social media (particularly Instagram) has significantly impacted the way we consume. Luxury is omnipresent and consumers want to be able to “shop the look” directly from the platform.
A slew of rental and reseller accounts have materialised as a result, and Sydney-based Hock Your Frocks (founded by ex-fashion buyer Nikki Veale) is leading the way in Australia. Offering authenticated luxury consignment for new and preloved merch, the business has exploded in the last 12 months and there’s now a dedicated website in the works.
In terms of where I draw the line on Instagram purchases, among Veale’s currently listed treasures is a yellow-gold Cartier watch. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there should be a certain romance and memory attached to the experience of purchasing high-value, heirloom-y things such as watches and fine jewellery, which an Instagram-led sale can’t provide. But reduced Chanel bags, Hermes scarves, Gucci glasses? I’m less orthodox. And they’re in abundance on Hock Your Frocks.
Peer-to-peer reselling on social media is comparatively unregulated, so be more cautious here. Request extra images, information and proof-of-purchase details. Also note that sellers on some of the popular Facebook Groups, such as High End and Hang'r, write their own product descriptions. A garment might be described as an “amazing Dion Lee dress, size 8, worn once, $450!!!” Do we really believe that Shannon from Sandringham only wore that dress once? There’s no way to tell. But then again, does it matter?
A great feature of Hang'r is that you can easily rent items too, which is ideal for black tie and occasion wear.
Both economical and eco-friendly, renting designer goods is the next frontier in sustainable luxury retail. Style Theory, Your Closet, Glam Corner, Her Wardrobe and The Volte are just some of the burgeoning local enterprises with borrowing and subscription services. You can rent a $2000 dress for a weekend for around $150, which makes designer apparel much more accessible – and provides a welcome threat to the fast-fashion market.
Michaela Davis has worked for global brands including Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy for over 10 years, and is the founder of Recommendle. She's also mum to a couple of high-octane ankle biters.