The second-hand market is booming and offers an often cheaper and circular alternative for consumers, especially with the current price increases. Sophie Hersan also knows that the market – in the age of the Internet with drops and exclusive limits – is no longer just in demand among bargain hunters who rummage through grab tables at the flea market, but also offers real treasures and investments.

    As a co-founder of Vestiaire Collective, she also uses the French resale platform to invest in collectibles. In addition to her investments, the fashion director also talks about how consumer behavior for used clothing has changed, in which markets business is booming and which trends are influencing second-hand fashion.

    Which brands are most searched for on Vestiaire Collective?

    We follow the firsthand market and they are very close in terms of trends. Gucci was a very hot brand last year and the platform followed the same push for them. This year Prada was very popular and we followed suit. But in general, Gucci, Prada,
    [Louis] Vuitton, Hermès and Chanel global evergreen brands that always work. But then there are also hip brands like Jacquemus and other designers.

    What influences these trends?

    We have noticed that after events like Cannes or the Met Gala where we could see Gucci, Versace or Jean Paul Gaultier, the research increases. People see a lot on social media, which influences today’s trends. But it’s not the brand itself that’s hot or not.

    In the past, it was more the designers like Phoebe Philo who made the brand hip. Today a brand can be transparent and valuable, then people stick with it. Fashion still has an emotional component. Influencers, stars or music and films have a stronger influence on people than the brands themselves. If you look at the film Carrie [Bradshaw,
    fiktive Rolle beim HBO-Franchise Sex and the City] sees her suddenly carrying a vintage bag, they research Vestiaire.

    Which products are selling well?

    Bags are still our strongest category. But after that there are also many other accessories. Maybe the size and the value of the item make it easier. It’s sometimes harder with clothes because they’re depreciating. For some brands you can pay a lot in the store, but then the value drops very sharply. Bags and accessories retain their value. We also have more potential in shoes, jewelery and watches – this is a good place to start, especially for men.

    Bags are among the most popular items on Vestiaire Collective | Photo: Vestiaire Collective

    Has the pandemic changed the way people think about clothing as an investment?

    Post-Covid brought with me this feeling that I have to buy something of lasting value, but it must not be too expensive and it will then increase in value. Of course, there is also the drop phenomenon that drives up the price.
    [Anm.d.Red.: Bei einem ‘Drop’ wird eine Kollektion/ein Produkt in meist
    geringer Anzahl angeboten, wodurch der (Wieder-)Verkaufspreis durch die
    Seltenheit höher ausfallen kann] But there are also good pieces with which you can earn more money over time. People don’t want to put the money in anything anymore because they want it now, they think differently…

    Is it more about the product than the purchase price?

    And what the story behind the product is. There’s also a bit of pride involved. If you’ve bought something second hand, you’ve hunted it down – you’ve seen it, you want to find it and you know who’s selling it. And when you find it, it’s a treasure. It’s not the same as buying something new, it doesn’t fit and returning it – a lot of people are paying that much to return it these days. Stop this consumption without conscience!

    Do you have a personal sweetheart?

    First of all, I sell a lot. Before I started Vestiaire, I had a hard time selling because I couldn’t find the right platform to do it. I want to sell here because my product is important to me and I know the story behind it. And being a ‘fashion connoisseur’ I know the value and the physical part of the item. He also has a personal story, so I don’t want to give the product away for free. I had a lot – 20 years of fashion history before Vestiaire. So before I add something to my wardrobe, I sort out a lot.

    I’m not the super trendy person. I like timeless pieces. When something is super popular, my emotions are very strong and my happiness is very high at the beginning. Then when I buy it and it ends up in my closet, it wears off. So if I want something, I wait for the trend to end and control my emotions, and then when I really know I want it – I let a few months go by – I can buy it. That was the case with a vintage Chanel bag. At Vestiaire I invest a lot in vintage watches and other timeless pieces.

    On which markets is second-hand fashion particularly in demand?

    It moves a lot. We start in one market after another. We were born in France, so we are really strong in France – both in terms of sellers and buyers. The UK is very strong. Then we introduced Germany, Italy and Spain. Europe is very strong, but on different levels.

    Italy – now one of the top markets – was initially more of a selling market where not much was bought. That was a question of education, because the countries are different. Now buyers and sellers overlap.

    Was it like that in Germany too?

    Initially, they sold products that were not searched for by our community. Now we are super strong in Germany thanks to the inflow from e-commerce – Zalando, Mytheresa. The more e-commerce grows in Germany, the more influx there is. Partnerships with Mytheresa also work very well because they have the certification and sell super good pieces.

    We need to enlighten the countries a bit, and it’s funny to see how we turned the sellers into buyers of used goods. Because that did not correspond to the customs and mentality of the countries.

    Of course, the USA is also strong – they are very well informed about second-hand. So it was much easier, but we also had more competition. Now we’re on the west coast.

    Which markets are more difficult to attract for used clothing?

    In Asia, second-hand was a little further from the culture. They don’t wear their clothes often and didn’t know what to sell. Resale was super new. So we had to educate them about resale.

    So you were able to convince there. Are there markets that are not so easy to break into?

    We don’t sell in South America – it just doesn’t fit. We always wait for the countries to really fit, and even if they do, we need to convey Vestiaire’s DNA.

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    Photo : Vestiaire Collective

    Are new collaborations planned?

    Our goal is to expand the loop with as many brands as possible. We started the first partnership with Alexander McQueen, then Burberry, then the two platforms Mytheresa and LuisaViaRoma. We also have other partnerships coming throughout the year that are just getting started.

    We want to get more and more involved. We had pop-up partnerships, had a corner at Selfridges. We’re not a retailer, we’re a digital player, and we really want more brands to come to us because it’s not easy for retail brands either to move to circular economy – it’s a lot of logistics and technology they don’t understand. So it takes time for them too.

    Who is part of the Vestiaire community?

    Today we have 23 million members. We focus more on attitudes, consumption, habits and so on than on age. In the beginning, we were really stronger with millennials and those in their 30s and 50s. They like to sell timeless pieces, luxury and designer shoes. Now Gen Z is coming to us more and more. Mainly for economic reasons. Because they can’t afford the pieces first hand. They know Gucci is trending and they want the Gucci pieces. Maybe later they will buy them first hand too, but their entry point is buying second hand.

    Is the Gen Z approach different?

    So it’s natural for them to buy second hand first and know the influence they have on fashion. My generation – I’m 50 – consumed very differently than I was 20. I haven’t thought about whether I need it, what personal value it has, or what impact it has on me. But it’s in their blood. They buy vintage pieces, have a unique style, and explore and express their own personality with their clothing rather than following the trend because it’s the trend.

    Has the younger generation also influenced the older generation to buy more second-hand?

    The younger generation is educating their parents and their generation to shop differently and think differently. It is completely normal for them to buy second-hand. When they’re broke, they find the good stuff on a smaller budget and move away from fast fashion.

    The older generation has already thought about investment objects: I buy something that will last a long time, that I can pass on. We have passed on this mindset, and perhaps the younger generation has adopted this mindset less. It’s less obvious [für
    Familien], to pass pieces on to the younger generation. They are more enlightened – than we were – and have a lot of information. They may not have the filter to select the information, but they know they have to make choices, which is more difficult for a young person than for an older person who knows how to filter. So the older generation can educate them to make the right choice.