As sustainability becomes more in demand for luxury shoppers, recommerce is heating up. And it’s not just in the aisles of your local thrift store or at your favorite online resale sites, like The Real Real or Fashionphile, but also directly with legacy fashion brands and big name retailers. According to Thredup, the global resale market is expected to hit $64 million by 2024, which means recommerce will only continue to grow. Think of recommerce as the secondhand market that propels both gently used, or even brand new, never-worn vintage designer fashion into being as desirable as must-have pieces from the current season.
In early 2020, Nordstrom announced that it would begin selling used clothing, and as of January 2021, the retailer has been dropping vintage clothing every month in a new partnership with thrift e-tailer Goodfair. For a national department store, that’s huge news, and the fact that the first drop completely sold out proves there’s a definite demand for luxury, secondhand fashion.
But what happens when designers themselves want to sell their vintage or secondhand pieces? Depop, the mobile app marketplace has been working directly with a range of brands to bring back archived, vintage pieces. So far, the app has collaborated with Rodarte, Christopher Raeburn, Richard Quinn, and Anna Sui, who was approached by the app after a spike in searches for vintage pieces.
Likewise, the recommerce platform Vestiaire Collective has also been working directly with designers. So far, the platform has collaborated firsthand with By Far, Rejina Pyo, Joseph, and Pomellato. Most recently, they've launched a collaboration with Alexander McQueen—which launched February 16—as part of their new "Brand Approved" program, with more to come in 2021. “The boom of resale shows there is a demand for systemic change, especially in regards to sustainability,” said Vestiaire Collective's fashion director and co-founder Sophie Hersan. “Vestiaire Collective's relationship with brands has evolved considerably over the last few years. After initial reservations, many forward-thinking brands have realized the potential value of the resale market for their business amidst the growing demand from consumers.”
Along with the brands Vestiaire Collective has worked with directly, the platform also reports that their top five most-searched brands globally over the last year have been Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Dior, and Celine, primarily for ready-to-wear pieces and accessories.
On Farfetch, the global e-commerce marketplace, you can find vintage Fendi baguette bags alongside Chanel bangles, Prada nylon bags, and Gucci sunglasses. In fact, Farfetch has featured secondhand luxury fashion since the platform’s inception, but has slowly been ramping up the program to include more items across more brands. They also launched Farfetch Second Life in 2019 in Europe, which allows customers to swap their pre-owned designer fashion in exchange for credit to shop the website. “The business model invented by our founder was to reduce waste,” said Giorgio Belloli, Farfetch’s chief commercial and sustainability officer. “We've been selling vintage and pre-owned since 2010. I think now, people are more aware of the fact that pre-owned doesn't mean used. People are realizing that there's very beautiful products in the pre-owned market.”
Some brands are finding other creative ways to reinvent the wheel when it comes to recommerce, too. Take Miu Miu, for example. Instead of selling its vintage pieces as is, the brand released a collection dubbed Upcycled by Miu Miu, which includes 80 dresses that have been reworked and mishmashed together from the archives. Then there’s Ganni, which frequently sells its archive styles from past seasons (new, not used) in its own special edition sales called Ganni Postmodern Pop-up Archive online. Acne Studios too takes a similar approach with its Acne Archive sales, which happen online and offers up new pieces from past seasons.
Given that many fashion trends are cyclical, it makes total sense that recommerce has finally gone mainstream. “Brands have always consulted their archives when designing their collections but over the last few seasons, in particular, we've seen that the demand for vintage has heavily influenced the firsthand market,” added Hersan. “The most striking example of this was the 2017 release of the Dior Saddle bag, followed by the Triomphe de Celine last year and the Louis Vuitton Pochette, Fendi Baguette, Gucci Marmont, and Gucci Jackie. The turn to archival models and re-editions has shown brands their value in terms of both trendiness and sales. Consumer enthusiasm for secondhand and vintage is useful for brands, giving them real-time feedback about what is desirable, what sells and [at] what price.”
While shopping secondhand from a luxury brand doesn’t preclude shoppers from buying new pieces (quite the opposite, what pairs better with vintage Prada than new Prada?), it allows them to hone in on long-coveted vintage pieces while buying sustainably. And as Hersan mentioned, it offers significant benefit to the brands as well. “There is clearly value for brands, with younger consumers searching for unique pieces that are of high-quality and priced accessibly,” said Hersan. That makes recommerce a victory for the brands and the consumers, and most notably, the planet.