How resale is reshaping the future of fashion in Asia

Image: Adam Peter Johnson

Over the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a fundamental change in the way people shop. As the economy began to see the onset of a global recession, consumers became more attentive to their shopping habits and bought less. Now, more than ever, people are more likely to make conscious purchases, develop higher expectations for companies that tout sustainability, and support brands that align with their values.

As the fashion industry is just beginning to tackle the environmental ramifications of its ever-accelerating production model, second-hand shopping has become a forerunner in the race for sustainable fashion. While many brands are reporting lost sales and dwindling consumer traffic, the pandemic has unwittingly accelerated the growth of the nascent resale industry.

In 2020, when retailers around the world were crippled by the pandemic, fashion resale soared to a US$40 billion (S$54 billion) industry. This growth can be attributed to a surge in demand in Asia: Vestiaire Collective, a global second-hand fashion platform, reported an increase in the number of orders in Asia of 121%, with a 98% increase in the number of second-hand sellers compared to the pre-COVID period.

Historically, resale sites have struggled to thrive in the Asian market due to the ingrained cultural preference for new items and the superstitious belief that wearing other people’s second-hand clothes is bad luck. However, while buying first-hand luxury goods has long been the preferred choice, consumers have begun to move away from using brands as markers of social class. In Singapore in particular, where there has been a stratospheric increase in economic development in a generation and the demand for luxury goods is commensurately high, consumers are increasingly price-conscious and open to resale as a form of investment. It helps that most clothes found on reputable re-commerce platforms are often brand new and of high quality.

According to a survey by BCG and Vestiaire Collective, young luxury consumers are the biggest players in the second-hand market, with 54% of Gen Z and 48% of millennial luxury shoppers buying second-hand goods. ‘occasion. Participating in the resale economy also provides customers with greater buying power due to its lower price and the opportunity it offers them to monetize their wardrobes and increase their disposable income. “The amount of products stuck in Asian wardrobes is enormous,” Vestiaire Collective co-founder Fanny Moizant says in an interview with Bloomberg. Consumers have spent years building up collections of clothes and handbags — largely unworn thanks to the pandemic — making them prime for resale.

This tendency to sell and buy second-hand goods is further amplified by the revival of vintage clothing, archived it-bags and obscure luxury brands from the past, on social media. Fueling demand, celebrities regularly turn to pre-loved fashion, either wearing vintage items or selling their own: Bella Hadid admits to selling and shopping on Depop, Blackpink’s Jennie frequently wears vintage Chanel pieces. TikTok, Gen Z’s favorite social media platform, has also seen a new breed of influencers spawn a new thrifty and individualized fashion subculture while translating their newfound fame into sales on peer-to-peer resale platforms. to-peer such as Carousell.

This is a sea change in consumer mindset, especially for Asian consumers. This change can be attributed to a growing nonconformist attitude, coupled with a desire to practice responsible consumption. Resale fashion promotes a circular economy that provides a more sustainable alternative for consumers who want to shop consciously.

Gucci and the real real

“The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated long overdue trends in the fashion industry and refocused attitudes on what we truly value and why,” Moizant explains. “Consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, want to develop their own sense of style and consumer habits in new ways, breaking traditions like fast fashion and establishing new ways of thinking about buying and shopping. selling their clothes.

Buying second-hand no longer means rummaging through flea markets and charity shops, the growth of online retail sites offering a host of streamlined services has made it easier than ever to buy second-hand clothing. Key resale players such as Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal even offer a personalized concierge service that handles everything from cataloging and listing items to a guaranteed authentication process. Singapore-based retailers such as The Fashion Pulpit and A Vintage Tale are also committed to providing their customers with a wider range of opportunities to purchase second-hand goods and vintage pieces through exchange services. clothes and at affordable prices.

Image: Laura Chouette/Unsplash

At the end of 2021, various luxury brands entered the resale arena: Balenciaga entered into a partnership with Reflaunt; Gucci and Burberry with The RealReal; and Mulberry launched The Mulberry Exchange, an internal resale program. The second-hand market should reach nearly 1.5 times the size of fast fashion by 2028. And the Asian market is leading the way: at Vestiaire Collective, the average number of orders from Asia is now the double that of Europe, which previously was the most purchase-oriented market. “We’re only at the beginning of what we call the Asian expansion,” says Moizant.

As brands and consumers reevaluate how fashion can and needs to be consumed, the resale market continues to challenge biases and champion more sustainable ways to buy, one pre-loved piece at a time. Perhaps the future of fashion may not be so bleak after all.

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