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Why you should embrace the second-hand market in this age of luxury fashion

Seasons change and fashion remains. But beyond the ever-changing nature of fashion trends, one big shift is dominating the fashion world: the rise of the luxury resale market.

It’s not a concept foreign to the industry. Consignment platforms like Vestiaire Collective and Reebonz have been stakeholders in the secondary market since 2009, paving the way for a resurgence of pre-owned merchandise. However, with an increased focus on ethical consumption combined with the ballooning demand for limited edition “drops” over the past few years, the luxury resale market has really started to take off. By 2021, the second-hand industry is set to be worth an estimated US$36 billion (S$49 billion) according to a report from the Boston Consulting Group.

fashion obsessions
Photo: Vestiaire Collective

To take advantage of this growing market, many other established players have been dipping their hands into creating their own resale destinations. The online retail platform Farfetch announced their Second Life initiative earlier this year, where owners of designer bags can exchange them for credit to spend on the site. Think of it like trading in your phone, except you’re doing it with a Hermès Birkin that you no longer want.

Locally, there is also Style Tribute and The Fifth Collection, two resale platforms that cater to a broader categorisation of merchandise including clothes, watches, jewellery. The former even has a whole section dedicated to designerwear for kids. Yes, they have their individual authentication methods, and yes, this level of commitment should have eBay and Carousell quaking in their boots.

With all that said and done, why should you consider adding resale platforms to your frequently-visited online shopping sites?

Support sustainability in fashion

Fanny Moizant, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective, is an avid user of her own resale destination, most recently snagging a pair of sold-out Sacai x Nike sneakers. (Photo: Vestiaire Collective)

Sustainability in the fashion industry is no longer just a buzzword. Many companies have taken concrete steps to ensure that their merchandise aren’t negatively impacting our environment. Kering has been leading the ideal of sustainability within fashion itself, most notably starting the Fashion Pact with 32 global style leaders. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s vision for the Dior Spring/Summer 2020 show is also rooted in sustainability, with much of the set design going back into the environment or slated to be reused in other practical ways.

In the same vein, buying second-hand luxury goods is also a way to support sustainability in fashion. Stella McCartney, dubbed the “Queen of Sustainability” by fashion commentators, has long been a fan of the consignment and rental industry. She told Vogue earlier in February that “if every single second there’s a truckload of fast fashion being incinerated or landfilled, then [she is] a big, big believer in reusing that and [participating in] the circular economy.”

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McCartney isn’t just speaking in hypotheticals. When a report revealed that Burberry had been burning its unsold stock to an amount of S$50 million in a single year, the outcry and furor that it sparked caused the British fashion house to immediately cease this practice (they also announced that they would stop using fur in their clothes).

“We see more young people participating and becoming advocates – doing proper research before buying a product, so they know exactly where the products come from and how they’re made,” Fanny Moizant, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective told us over email. But despite the enthusiasm for sustainability, Moizant noted that majority of millennials are still unaware about the circular future of fashion. The concept in its essence means that the life of every garment is cyclical. From its design to its production to its use, nothing is ever tossed out the gutter. When its lifespan in a closet is up, the piece is then sold to someone else, given away, or in some cases upcycled to create something new. Buying pre-owned merchandise is just one part of this cyclical process, ensuring that less goes into our landfills.

Indulge in Old Celine

When Phoebe Philo stepped down from Celine last year, resale sites like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective saw searches for her classic pieces skyrocket, with the latter platform experiencing an increase of 43% of Celine products sold after Hedi Slimane’s debut in October 2018. No shade to Slimane here, but Philo’s iconic Luggage and Classic bags are in the same league as the aforementioned Baguettes and Birkins. Only the fact that new pieces aren’t going to be made (at least not in the near future), and what’s left in the world is all there is to them.

The only way then for lovers of “Old Celine” to get their hands on a coveted bag from the reign of Philo is to turn to resale platforms. But it’s not only leather goods that are a hot commodity on the market. An old Celine coat from 2017 caught the eye of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley last year, setting the English model on a quest to find that said coat. With the help of personal shopper Gabriel Waller, Huntington-Whiteley managed to snag the piece in mint condition from a seller in Denmark.


View this post on Instagram


Coat of my dreams 🖤 @oldceline tracked down by the amazing @gabwallerdotcom. Thank you @gabwaller for your service!

A post shared by Rosie HW (@rosiehw) on Jan 17, 2019 at 10:21am PST

But the secondary market is not just limited to products from Old Celine. Resale platforms are also a way for those without the needed access to purchase more exclusive products, like a Birkin for instance. Your regular Hermès boutique isn’t going to be stocking an alligator skin Birkin with palladium hardware, and obtaining one is going to be a task of high order. An easier route you could go instead of ordering one and waiting six months is to approach a reselling site that have plenty in stock. Say goodbye to long waiting times, and hello to your new orange box.

Accessibility in affordability

Besides the ultra-luxurious products like your Hermès Kellys and Louis Vuitton x Supreme items, resale destinations offer consumers an easier way into the world of luxury fashion. A study done by Vestiaire Collective showed that 97% of their customers buy second-hand partly because of the value for money.

This is in no doubt partially because of the millennial need to chase “the next big drop.” Gucci sneakers and Balenciaga sweaters are all the rage today, appearing as casually on Instagram feeds as a overly-filtered photo of a Balinese sunset. But not everyone can afford a pair of $840 sneakers on a whim, and those who want to join in turn to the secondary market for their ticket to the world of clout.

Make no mistake: some luxury pieces are considered investments – a Birkin appreciates in value up to 125 per cent on average according to Reebonz. Not everyone is attempting to rival Victoria Beckham’s collection of Birkins, though, and are content to join their streetwear crowd with their logomanic accessories. Even so, the secondary market is a stepping stone into the realms of high-luxury for those who previously did not have the access. Sneaker resellers still in their teens are making up to six figures a year.

There’s never been a better time to enter the resale market. Whether they’re pre-owned or pre-loved, the secondary market is finally stepping out of the shadows of the primary, first-hand market, and out into the arms of a more conscious consumer. The best part? Everyone can be a part of it. All you have to do is click “Add to cart.”

Why you should embrace the second-hand market in this age of luxury fashion

Josiah Neo


Josiah Neo is a tech writer who contributes occasionally to the fashion, travel, and culture beats. When he’s not busy keeping up with the keynotes, he’s probably stuffing his face with the best Melbournian donuts (at Shortstop, BTW) or watching his favourite esports team, the Los Angeles Valiant, pummel their opponents into oblivion.

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