Luxury

Crazy for Consignment: The Rise of Recycled Luxury

The explosion of the luxury consignment market is starting much-needed conversations about sustainability, circular fashion systems and the possible longevity of the fanny pack.

By Angela Ledgerwood

Luxury

The explosion of the luxury consignment market is starting much-needed conversations about sustainability, circular fashion systems and the possible longevity of the fanny pack.

By Angela Ledgerwood

We know that online technology has radically changed the way we shop. Soon drones will drop off our Net-a-Porter packages like those friendly white storks delivering babies in imaginary times past. There’s already a drone service in China, zooming products—not people—to remote villages. It’s also likely that fashion behemoths like Gucci and Louis Vuitton will eventually collaborate with luxury car companies to offer Uber-like autonomous vehicles for the ultimate transported branding experiences. But before we dream of a particular dramatic party entrance (rocking up astride a self-driving Chanel-upholstered Harley Davidson) there’s a far more unassuming trend gathering momentum. It’s making highly-coveted luxury items a little more accessible for a much larger portion of eager shoppers. Along the way the explosion of the luxury consignment market, worth an estimated $1.5 trillion dollars, is prompting much-needed conversations around sustainability, circular fashion systems and the possible longevity of the fanny pack.

“We are unlocking a supply of $230 billion worth of luxury goods in people’s homes and we’ve only just scratched the surface,” says Rati Levesque, chief merchant at TheRealReal, the e-commerce platform that’s sold over 8 million items since its 2011 inception by CEO Julie Wainwright, and boasts 9 million shoppers to date. Rival online consignment destination, Vestiaire, with over 7 million shoppers is booming at much the same rate. Both platforms embrace creative styling and thoughtful curation to reinforce their core message that pre-owned goods are just as precious, sometimes more so, than new ones—second hand is no longer second best.

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The Real Real wants to drive conversation about sustainability in fashion, encouraging people to extend the life of luxury items so that we can keep them out of landfills and put them in the hands of new owners. “We championed this message with Stella McCartney recently in an unprecedented partnership, which promotes a circular economy. The RealReal shoppers who consign Stella McCartney will receive $100 to shop at Stella McCartney in the primary market,” says Levesque. Brands are realizing the benefits of the secondary market – not just in helping extend the reach of their brands, but also the sustainability benefits. Levesque hopes this partnership and campaign will give rise to more like it – whether that involves them or others.

It’s both savvy and smart for brands like Stella McCartney to enter the conversation around sustainability. No one quite does this like Patagonia, committed to making high-quality products that last for years and can be repaired, so you reduce the need to buy more. Perhaps luxury brands are finally taking their lead. Ultimately though, decreasing consumption, reusing clothes and keeping them out of landfill is far more sustainable than buying new sustainably-made clothes. And now that platforms like TheRealReal and Vestiaire make it so enjoyable to enliven and liberate our closets, it could become increasingly difficult to justify buying things that are brand spanking new. Even if you don’t buy into the doing-good, more-sustainable-world mission, perhaps it’s a start to buy in for the vintage bejeweled fanny pack, you had no idea you “needed”.

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