In a recent survey by Vestiaire Collective involving 18,000 people on 10 of the luxury re-sale giant’s markets, two thirds of the respondents said they thought sustainability in fashion was important. One third knew about the term circular fashion – which is actually quite a few considering how short time the term has been around. Make it last asks Vestiaire Collective co-founder Sophie Hersan about her hopes for change – will producers and consumers really radically rethink the way they participate in the fashion industry, and what role does Vestiaire Collective play?
– I believe in change. The industry must reinvent itself. Over the last ten years at Vestiaire Collective, we have observed changes in consumption, customers and demand. And while the industry has had to respond to these ever increasing demands, we have proposed a more responsible way of consuming, which is consuming less but better.
We broke the codes 10 years ago, as the consumer become interested in new ways of consuming. Accessibility was the first demand and digital technology was the natural response. Then came the quality purchase – a quality product naturally retains value over time.
– The term circular fashion was only created in 2014 so it’s still very young. I think that when you love and consume fashion, the first criteria is dream and desire. It is necessary to educate the consumer on this term, as they have not yet fully associated second-hand fashion and luxury purchasing with a responsible act. Not every country has reached the same level of knowledge surrounding circular fashion, China for example is more interested now than Europe and the Northern countries, areas of which have already had a high interest.
– There’s an undeniable awareness but we will expect action, transparency and trust rather than well-functioning communication. Brands will have to offer an alternative that is environmentally and socially responsible. We know from experience that the changes will be gradual, and I believe platforms, retail, e-commerce, media and brands have a role to play – and this will require education.
Introducing The Ultimate Consumer Guide to Circular Fashion, you refer to a complex relationship between values and behavior. Why does it matter if people buying pre-owned fashion consider it an act of sustainability or not?
– I think we need to explain how to act. In our lifestyle it is natural to sort and recycle; we take care not to waste, not to pollute, to protect animals and to consume organically. Buying second hand is extending the life of an item; which meets the same values mentioned above, but this connection is not as common when it comes to fashion. Buying a vintage item, knowing how to maintain and repair it and favoring environmentally friendly recirculation are all responsible acts. I believe that values are naturally more present in the younger generations (Millennials, Gen Z) but actions are still poorly associated.
What changes in attitude can you spot among your customers when it comes to realizing the re-sell value of the things they invest in?
– The ethical aspect comes with the economic aspect. Since the creation of Vestiaire Collective, we have focused on a more considered approach to buying and thinking about the resale value at purchase. We chose to do curation/selection, to offer quality products that have value and could be resold once, twice and more. We’ve seen the market grow and evolve in recent years, with young consumers being increasingly attentive to their purchases in anticipation of resale and even consuming second-hand items directly.
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