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Make it last travels to Paris to visit the Vestiaire Community headquarters–and chat with co-founder Fanny Moizant about the role of luxury consignment in this new fashion scenery.

The fashion industry is changing, some even talk about a crashing system. It seems we’ve reached a point where neither producers nor consumers can keep up with the pace of six seasons a year and all that it implies. All involved parties tremble to find ways of catching up with contemporaneity; brands updating their offers; consumers changing their consumption patterns. Will we remember these years in time as the beginning of a new era? Which are the major players on the future industry? 
Make it last travels to Paris to visit the Vestiaire Community headquarters–and chat with co-founder Fanny Moizant about the role of luxury consignment in this new fashion scenery.

Fashion media are talking about a system collapse, an industry moving so fast it has lost control. During the past seasons, some major brands have reconsidered their hectic show schedules, drops of six or so collections a year and habits of previewing collections long before they actually hit the stores, instead opting for “see now buy now” models. Some prominent creative directors have quit their jobs at the luxury houses as a result of having too many commitments and too little time to be creative. Some independent labels leave traditional ideas of fashion structures entirely, testing out new ways to reach new consumers.

What boils underneath is much bigger than a few power players making small adjustments (that are sometimes just ways of adjusting their business models to boost the bottom line).
It has a lot to do with the power of the new consumer–aware, awake and demanding real value for their commitment. It is about brands trying to broaden their offer from merely selling new clothes to establishing a set of social, environmental, emotional values that the consumers not only consider legit but also want to make their own. There’s no more hiding under a blanket–instead there’s an increased transparency, more dialogue and added values. Consumers are more savvy than ever and they won’t just buy anything because it’s cheap or chic. We want to feel it, believe it.

Vestiaire Collective launched in Paris in 2009 and is already Europe’s leading social site for trusted resale of designer fashion. The community of people reselling buying premium fashion via Vestiaire is one of 5 million based in 47 countries, and the expansion is far from over.
The Vestiaire team meticulously curates everything that’s added to their catalogue and offers a middleman-ship between the private individuals doing the selling and buying: all items go through their quality control before they are sent off to the buyers. This brings quality guarantees and trust to the re-sell community and enables Vestiaire to play in the same league as Net-a-Porter.

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What is the role of luxury consignment in the context of a changing fashion system?

– We exist because of this situation. If you think of how our mothers and grandmothers used to consume fashion, it was with a completely different take. I remember my mother buying a coat if not for a lifetime at least 10 years. It was just completely opposite, about buying only a few items every season. Now we’re no longer looking for possession, we’re looking for usage, and then we get rid of things as soon as they are out of our minds. That’s why we need a solution like Vestiaire, to be able to re-sell but also to create opportunities to buy very desirable items for lower prices.

– So yes, we’re in the middle of this change. At the same time, whereas there is an overall tendency in this industry towards “see now buy now”, our own research shows that what the consumer really wants is rather “need now buy now”. The consumer is willing to buy summer stuff in May or June, but not at all in December or January. So there are two things: what the consumer wants and where the industry moves towards. And we’re somewhere in the middle.

Do you think the consumer’s view of buying second-hand is changing?
– Completely. I think that we’ve disrupted the second-hand market by bringing two things: First, inspiration. I don’t know about Sweden, but in France six or seven years ago you would find second-hand in these dusty shops and it didn’t feel cool–and at the opposite side was Ebay where you had to spend hours and deal with counterfeiting issues. With Vestiaire we wanted to bring luxury codes to second-hand, quite literally. An inspirational site with a cool look and feel, showing you can be on-trend and have nice looks buying second-hand. It’s in the details, like we were the first ones to crop pictures, showing them like say Net-a-Porter or Matches would do. It is a tiny thing but an example of taking codes of one sector and applying them to another.

And now you’re playing in the same league as say Net-a-Porter. That’s something new.
– Yes. That was the first disruption of the second-hand market, bringing that luxury touch. The second was trust. When you’re trying to appeal to a customer instead of a brand you have to make sure, especially if you’re buying luxury goods, that the product is authentic and in the condition that the seller says it is. That’s why we’ve developed a two step-process: the curation comes first; as a part of the inspirational process, you want only interesting products to go through; and it is followed by the quality control. We authentify and control every single product before repackaging them and send them off to the buyers. It’s that extra physical check that gives confidence to both buyers and sellers, because you know no-one is going to mess up with your product or your payment. Too we’ve moved from a C2C (consumer-to-cosnsumer) business to a C2B2C (consumer-to-business-to-consumer) operation, and that middlemen-ship brings confidence.

Vestiaire is a lot about technology, offering a modern e-commerce service. But at the same time, your business is a lot about manpower and administration. Is this a balancing act?
– Every single product is unique. In the quality and curation side of things we need to be dedicated to each one of them. At the same time we need to scale–we’re selling to 40 something countries right now and need to speak to a community of almost 5 million people. So we need to look to the very individual focus on every product and the global reach at the same time.

Is it hard to combine? I think it’s interesting that such a lot of the innovative tech startups these days still require a lot of manpower. It says something that a person (or thousands) is still needed in the process.
– We’re lucky enough to have started our business with six people as founders. Each of us own one department, one territory, so we have very different focuses. Someone deals with business development only and someone focuses on the product, the craftsmanship and the quality control and so on. We’ve been able to give attention to all these departments simultaneously and push them all at the same time.

Now when you’ve really entered a global market, do you see a lot of differences in what is popular in different regions? What are the Scandinavians interested in comparison to say the French?
– There is visible global and local behaviour. Global ones are interest in say Hermès and Chanel.

Are those two always the most popular? 

– Pretty much. With some local nuances. France is all about Hermès, Scandinavians are all about Chanel. I have the ranking for each region actually. Acne Studios is obviously strong for you guys. But Rick Owens is also in the top 10. Then there is Louis Vuitton, Céline, Gucci, Louboutin for shoes, Comme des Garçons, Isabel Marant… Chanel is strong in the jewellery section as well.

What about expanding beyond clothes and accessories? Are you going to venture into new categories like interior?
– Well, the story behind it is that we always try to follow what the community needs. It’s not like one day we’ll wake up and say “now we’re going to move into furniture”. We’ve been quite organic since day one, even with the launch of the regional offices. We were a French company from the beginning, then we saw growth in the UK and then Germany. And so on. With every move we think about how we can follow the consumers and update our offer. Same thing with the category we call lifestyle. Our community introduced small accessories little by little, like a candle or the Hermès plates or a book. We started adding these little things to the catalogue. Eventually we decided to properly address this and launched a lifestyle category, and it’s performing very well. It is not the heart of our business but we’re enabling for people to do it without pushing it massively.

– It’s the same with the men’s section—we noticed an increase in demand and now have a team dedicated to men.


Where do you want to be in the long-term perspective?
– We want to be the global leader within the re-sell market. We moved towards a global shift in the early days of Vestiaire and we’re already the biggest player in Europe. We want to grow in the US and then tackle other regions, like the Middle east, Asia and eventually Russia.

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Is second-hand luxury goods an untapped market? Your community submit some 4,000 products every day.
– I think it’s pretty unlimited. I always compare it with the car industry. When you buy a car you know that you have two options—you can buy a new one or you can buy second-hand. And it’s just normal and you know what to expect from each thing. For me it’s going to be a very normal way of buying fashion.

Where is Vestiaire in terms of sustainability?
– The business model is sustainable by essence. Buying second-hand is normal behaviour already in our generation, and so we try to step away from sustainability as a marketing argument. We see it more as a normal way of dealing with your fashion behaviour. In the same way you deal with your food waste, you take care of your clothes. Some things make sense to re-sell, some things make sense to give away, some things make sense to buy new. The more savvy you become, the more you understand the value of things.
– A few months ago we did a survey among second-hand buyers. Almost five percent of the girls said that already when they buy something new they have the re-sell value in mind. So when they invest in something they know they can recoup part of it. It’s already in their system.

And people go to stores to decide what they want and then go online to see if it’s available second-hand.
– In the UK we have a two famous chefs, the Hemsley sisters, they are fans of Vestiaire and buy and re-sell here. Last year they were telling me how that instead of saying what brand they are wearing they’re saying “it’s Vestiaire Collective”. What they mean to say is kind of like “I’m a smart shopper, I have super cool pieces and they’re second-hand, who cares”. They say “I had a good deal instead of buying at full price”. Who wants to buy at full prices anymore? This is what the shift is about: being a smart shopper.

Visit Vestiaire Collective here.

Lisa’s own pictures from the visit to the Vestiaire Collective offices in Paris:

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The Vestiaire headquarters in Paris is more than an office, it’s a factory. There are people everywhere, working on everything from marketing to cropping every picture that is added to the catalogue. On the right is one of the more expensive Hermès bags at the premises right now, kept in a vault with other treasures. Hermès is one of the most popular brands at Vestiaire, no matter the season. Lesson: you can actually invest in a Kelly and get your money back!

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All items that are sold by a private seller are sent to Vestiaire for authenticity and quality control. Experts check all the items with experienced eyes, spotting even the sophisticated counterfeits. The Hermès bag to the left is authentic. the Louboutin heels, Chanel flats and Louis Vuitton bags to the right and below are part of a workshop: half of them are real whilst half are fake. Can you spot the real ones? 


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