It wasn’t long ago that a luxury house wouldn’t even comment on the secondhand, resale, or consignment trend. Some had concerns over authenticity and quality, while others disliked having zero control over price, seasonality, or presentation. Despite the market’s rapid growth, the general sense for years was that “firsthand” and “secondhand” fashion were separate entities, separate conversations, separate customers.
What a difference a few years—and a pandemic—can make. Last week, Kering, the owner of Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and other luxury houses, acquired a 5% stake in French consignment e-tailer Vestiaire Collective. In a year of shrinking revenues and closed businesses, Vestiaire grew by more than 100%, buoyed by our heightened climate change awareness, #WFH-inspired closet cleanses, and a growing Gen Z clientele. Kering’s $215 million infusion pushed Vestiaire’s valuation over $1 billion; the secondhand market itself is expected to reach $60 billion by 2025.
To many, it reads simply as a wise investment. It shouldn’t feel entirely surprising, either; many of Kering’s brands have already experimented with resale, from Gucci’s collaboration with The RealReal to Alexander McQueen’s new buy-back program in partnership with Vestiaire Collective. As part of Vestiaire’s new Brand Approved service, McQueen is gathering pre-owned items from customers in its stores (in exchange for store credit), then sending them to Vestiaire to be authenticated and sold online, with a special note that the pieces were approved by the house.
Now that Kering has an official seat on Vestiaire’s board, can we expect similar buy-back programs at Saint Laurent or Balenciaga? Will Bottega Veneta’s Instagram make a comeback with entirely secondhand products? Grégory Boutté, Kering’s chief client and digital officer, says neither is guaranteed nor off limits. The investment was made at the “brand level,” meaning Kering’s houses are under no obligation to partner with Vestiaire or engage with resale at all. However, it’s unlikely they’d ignore the movement.
“I’m very bullish about this,” Boutté says. “Given the energy around this topic and the creativity of our houses, I’m confident there will be tons of ideas. Some could be with partners [like Vestiaire Collective], some could be internal… McQueen is a really good example. The bet we are making is it’s creating a bit of a ‘flywheel’ effect. If you’re bringing your pieces to a McQueen store to sell secondhand, and you use the credits to shop the new collection, and other times you buy vintage… The more you do this, the more engaged you are with the house, and [the more inclined you are] to keep buying these high-quality pieces that can have several lives. More and more of our clients are thinking about circularity that way, and our younger clients are paying extra attention to sustainability. Both are going to shape the luxury industry for decades to come.”