There was a time, when you complimented a women on her outfit and they replied: ‘What, this old thing?’ they were just being modest (or hiding it from their partner). However, today, this is more than a statement of the truth.
As both COS — the chic, grown-up member of the H&M Group — and Gucci launch dedicated resale platforms, is it time to embrace what fashion calls ‘pre-loved’, but what you and I really know as ‘second-hand’?
Fashion once thrived on newness: new season, new stock, the new must-have styles and women would fight to be the first to wear them out in public. But our obsession with new is waning – although I still love new, there is something about unwrapping a new item or the unravelling of a tied box.
But be it vintage, pre-owned or upcycled, we’re all embracing the old. We want clothes that stand the test of time, that aren’t frivolous, throwaway fads. We care about cost-per-wear, ethical production, and not adding to the billions of tonnes of clothes that end up in landfill every year.
So is old really good, is it better, old is now. The fashion industry knows this — and its current obsession is with extending the life cycle of our clothes.
While High Street sales have nose-dived this year, the ‘pre-loved’ market is thriving.
Sales of clothes and homeware on eBay went up 30 per cent during lockdown. And Instagram saw bloggers promoting second hand or pre loved sites more than new! Vestiaire Collective, the go-to destination for pre-loved designer styles, saw a 144 per cent spike in orders compared to last year.
Even before lockdown fuelled a million wardrobe clearouts, now you know I love a good wardrobe detox but wow! The economic toll of the pandemic rendered us all more money-conscious — the fashion resale market was booming.
High-end luxury labels have traditionally been wary of resale sites, being far more controlling of their brand image — which trades on the lure of the shiny and new — and relying on the exclusivity of their stock. Then there’s the fear of cannibalising sales of new products.
But how long can they ignore the luxury second-hand market, which is growing four times faster than the primary luxury market?
Last month, Gucci announced a game-changing partnership with The RealReal, a hugely popular U.S.-based resale platform, specialising in authenticated designer goods (it ships to the UK and you can shop the site in sterling).
The RealReal X Gucci e-shop encourages shoppers — with Gucci’s blessing — to resell their ‘gently worn’ Gucci items to help ‘reduce fashion’s carbon footprint’. The discounts are impressive but it’s still serious spending: a tweed mini dress from the 2017 collection — originally £1,400 — is available for £684.
What’s in it for Gucci, aside from promoting its green credentials? Well, the e-shop also sells stock provided by Gucci — presumably old or unsold products — and crucially the second-hand market can build brand loyalty with younger customers, who will eventually graduate to buying new.
So, when it comes to fashion we are no longer slaves to the new, and far from there being a stigma around buying something pre-owned for a discount, snagging a good deal is just smart shopping.
As second-hand becomes the new status symbol, expect to see plenty more of your favourite fashion brands jumping on the pre-loved and upcycled bandwagon, and when someone says where did you get that? You can confidently reply – “What this old thing”?