Luxury fashion platform, Vestiaire Collective, has developed an online retail space that is trying to meet and grow consumer demand for high-endpre-owned – by selling items with the same convenience and experience as purchasing new. Second-hand and rental platforms offering luxury garments for a fraction of the retail price are growing in popularity.
From workers’ rights and conditions to long supply chains, fashion is under increasing scrutiny for its impact on the environment and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods. While the exact figure is hard to pin down, with around 100 billion garments made by the fashion industry every year, the scale of the challenge is enormous.
But, consumers and communities across the world are demanding more sustainable and fairer fashion, and the industry is beginning to respond. One route for lowering the impact of fashion is to buy pre-loved.
Second-hand fashion allows consumers to find affordable, well-crafted, high-quality garments and, accessories, which Moizant believes allows anyone to create a functional and stylish wardrobe.
“I have a really tiny wardrobe. Less is more is my motto,” says president and co-founder of Vestiaire Collective, Fanny Moizant says. “I practice the “one item in, one item out” rule which means I never buy something before I’ve sold something to make space for it. People are often very surprised at how edited and petite my wardrobe is considering my role in the industry.”
Moizant grew up with an appreciation for nature and beauty which underpins the ethos of her company. “My mother and I might be walking in the forest or looking at a garment and she would always ask me to stop and appreciate the beauty in it,” Moizant says. “I think over the years she trained my eye and I’m grateful because today that’s really something I value in life still.”
Moizant’s mother owned her own clothing shops, where she was always helping out, Moizant recalls. “I learned to be an entrepreneur and manage everything from the shop window, the accounting, handling the clients, it was really a learning curve.”
For Moizant, pre-loved is one way to have a sustainable, eco-conscious and fashion-forward style. “It makes me feel empowered, confident and strong,” she says of her wardrobe. “I think craftsmanship, timelessness and durability are the key elements that we should all consider and go back to because that’s how it started in the industry a long time ago.”
The pre-owned market is now worth over $100bn (£81bn) and is predicted to double in size and value worldwide, The difference with Vestiaire Collective is that they are offering a place of inspiration, not just education.
With this in mind, Vestiaire Collective has evolved from a reseller to a platform shoppers flock to for inspiration and advice on how to make their timeless, pre-owned items work for them. With a thorough authentication and identification process, the pieces sold on the site can be trusted as genuine and authentic. The company poured time, resources, and know-how into developing a uniquely accurate physical and digital authentication process that includes in-depth, in-person vetting of potential listings by a team of more than 90 experts around the globe, in the UK, France, the US and Hong Kong. Each authenticator requires two to three months of preliminary training followed by more than 750 hours of training on average and physically inspects over 40,000 items every year.
In 2017, the launch of the Vestiaire Academy, the platform’s very own training school, allowed experts to develop unique techniques and expertise to ensure they have the best authentication team in the world.
Community is at the heart of what Vestiaire does. “Behind every item we sell, we want a story to be told. Over the years we’ve leaned into activism, banning fast fashion from our site, fighting waste and overconsumption, and educating our users on how to make secondhand work for them long-term.”
The Vestiaire Collective team is heavy on the data collection, too. Better understanding their audience and users is, they say, the key to long-term success and trust. Dounia Wone, the company’s Chief Impact Officer, is mindful of the ongoing challenges the industry is facing.
“We have the uniqueness of being in two very big industries; the worlds of both tech and fashion,” she says. “Within those two sectors, there are different challenges, but you don’t need to be a sustainability expert to see how much we are overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis.”
Wone shares Moizant’s passion for the platform to be built on trust and community. “People really trust the experience we provide in choosing secondhand purchasing as the right thing to do,” she says. “There is a significant lack of trust within the fashion industry. At some point, you believe in something and everyone is telling you that it’s ‘sustainable’, but at the end of the day, you discover from time to time that there is so much behind the scenes of what they’re selling to you that makes those claims false.”
Vestiaire Collective’s decision to ban fast fashion from the platform last year has, according to Wone, been a success they hope to continue building on. “We didn’t know what would happen, but our data shows that 70% of our users stayed with us and continued to invest in higher quality garments in the last eight months,” Wone says. “We’re not telling them to go from one brand to another, but we’re educating them on the alternatives and showing them that buying less is one thing, but buying differently is the key to sustainable shopping.”
Vestiaire Collective’s impact report is just one example of how the platform is turning its sustainable actions into concrete evidence, taking on the sector and making something everyone can benefit from. “There were no impact reports in the secondhand sector when we started out, no data or information we could use to benefit the market,” Wone recalls. “If you’re not able to show people how and why your model works, how can you expect them to really change their habits? We wanted to change the way people consume fashion, so we needed to show them why it works for the planet.”
Outside the office, Wone’s fashion choices stem from an ideal of circularity. “I can’t go into a store without thinking, ‘I can find something just like that secondhand’,” she says. “What’s exceptional is that I witnessed my 14-year-old son have the exact same attitude. He and his peers don’t crave the newest, mainstream thing. It’s inspiring to see that while we still have a long way to go, we’re on the right track.”
This article contains sponsored content part of the Fashion Redressed Series.