The words “resale” and “second-hand” once conjured images of dusty thrift stores stacked with costume jewellery, cowboy boots and grandma’s knitted cardigans. But as fast-fashion’s throwaway culture comes under increasing scrutiny, “re-commerce” sites such as Vestiaire Collective are paving the way for a new generation of luxury retail.
In 2009, Fanny Moizant and her co-founders launched Vestiaire Collective from their apartments in Paris. They knew they were onto something, but could never have predicted its rapid success.
Over eight years Vestiaire has secured four rounds of investment valued at US$130 million, and established offices in New York, Berlin, London, Milan, Madrid, and most recently, Hong Kong. The platform itself has attracted a social network of six million active users across 48 countries, 600,000 items (all of which are physically authenticated by a team of counterfeiting experts), and an editorial arm that features style icons like Margaret Zhang and Amber Le Bon. Last month, it launched here in Australia.
The resale revolution is on the rise. According to a 2017 report by Thred Up, the sector is currently valued at US$18 billion. By 2021, that figure is set to double. The boom is reflective of a shift in attitude towards sustainability that can be traced back to the global recession of 2008.
“The recession had a huge impact on our attitudes to clothing,” Moizant tells Broadsheet. “Since then, we've definitely seen our customer, and society at large, become increasingly wary of fast fashion. There’s been a move towards buying things to last. People are more open to buying pre-loved pieces as they consider items as investments.”
While environmental and economic issues underscore the second-hand movement, for consumers, the primary pull is rooted in nostalgia. In an interview for Vestiaire Collective’s Le Journal, Chloe Sevigny welcomes the return of individuality in a world that has become “so much more homogenised”. For a fashion diehard living in the age of excess and sameness, finding a sold-out, new-season jacket or a rare vintage bag has the power to satisfy in a way no high-street fix could.
As vintage fashion’s unofficial poster girl, Sevigny was a perfect fit for the campaign. Here’s a woman who likens the process of thrifting to “the thrill of the hunt”. The only difference between a bricks-and-mortar store and Vestiaire Collective is that you’re sifting through 600,000 items instead of 600. It’s enough to fill you with existential dread. Only it doesn’t.
“It’s like a treasure hunt,” says Moizant, who grew up working in her mother’s clothing boutique in the South of France. “I love that each piece tells a story. You also have to really search – every time you go into a vintage store or log onto Vestiaire Collective, you never know what you’re going to find.”
Eighty per cent of Vestiaire’s offering is pre-loved new season items, from $25 Topshop knits to $134,000 Birkin bags. Australian shoppers have the opportunity to sell items on Vestiaire now, too.
Moizant and her team have bridged the trust gap between buyer and seller, prioritising user experience, meticulously curating product, and delivering it all within a glossy, high-end setting.
It’s for that reason that Moizant sees Vestiaire as so much more than a place to shop. “It’s somewhere you can go to read interesting articles and watch videos with inspiring women; you’ve then got the added bonus [of] shopping from a tightly curated collection edited by our team of curators, quality control and authenticity experts. None of our competitors have the global community and reach that we do.”
This article was updated on October 18, 2018.