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Rise in Resale: Why Luxury Fashion Should Embrace the Secondhand Market

Photographs by Thibault Cartier Photography

Following French conglomerate Kering’s five-percent investment in the luxury secondhand platform Vestiaire Collective and Gucci’s online shop launch with US-based consignment site TheRealReal, Prada has publicly announced its interest in the secondhand fashion market and is contemplating a partnership with a resale platform. Regarding this news, Lorenzo Bertelli, son of Prada heir and fashion designer Miuccia Prada, spoke out that “second hand is a strategy [the brand has] been investigating for more than a year,” and Prada “will take it as an opportunity.”

Luxury fashion brands’ current efforts in entering the resale market indicate a large shift in outlook considering that many brands had previously worried that their adoption of resale would hurt the profits of full-priced products and damage their luxury reputation. This negative stigma behind resale has resulted in opposition and hostility from some luxury fashion brands towards online resale platforms. For example, in 2018, Chanel – a brand that has adamantly resisted involving itself in the secondhand market – filed a lawsuit against TheRealReal with claims of the latter company selling counterfeit Chanel products and the case is still ongoing. It is worth noting that similar negative perceptions were once associated with selling luxury products at outlet stores. However, nowadays, the management of outlet stores effectively attracts new customers, increases revenue for excess inventory, and serves as another avenue of selling products, all without harming these brands’ luxury reputations.

Regardless of possible apprehension from some luxury brands, fashion resale is undoubtedly here to stay as the sophistication of online secondhand fashion platforms allows more consumers to easily participate. In the past, secondhand fashion was often exclusive to thrift and vintage stores, but the recent rise of online resale platforms has revolutionized how pre-owned products can be bought and sold as well as broadened their accessibility to a wider pool of consumers. As a result, BoF Insights also reported that the global fashion resale market was worth $130 billion in July 2021 and iResearch projected that China’s luxury secondhand fashion market will reach $33 billion by 2025. The reasons behind the fast-growing popularity of resale can also be attributed to the mainstream sustainability movement, which has caused more consumer interest in environmentally-conscious shopping. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has provoked many consumers to reflect on the fashion industry’s environmental impact and, thus, seek different avenues of sustainable fashion, resulting in reduced stigma behind pre-owned fashion.

Despite Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky’s claims that “partnerships in the secondhand market” would be a loss of “control in distribution”, luxury brands ultimately do not have jurisdiction over what happens to their products after the initial sale. Therefore, if brands continue to ignore and oppose the popularity of resale, they will risk losing control over the distribution and profits of their merchandise regardless. It would be in luxury fashion brands’ best interest to expand into the booming resale market, as they would have more ownership on the circulation and marketing of their pre-owned products, create a new retail channel for the brand, and cater to a wider pool of customers.

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