Recently, I’ve been noticing a lot of new boutiques opening in my area. Within my small but fashion savvy neighbourhood, these stores are all promoting one type of fashion: Secondhand Luxury. Just like a charity shop, these boutiques select products donated or sold by their previous owners and re-present them to their customers. The only difference is the fancy brand names and the price point.
I haven’t come across anyone in the fashion industry who doesn’t like vintage luxury. Whether the product has had an ownership history does not matter in comparison to its value. Secondhand luxury is not a fad that is going in and out of fashion, but rather a necessity within the industry that is continuously increasing in importance. Although fast fashion opened the door of modern global fashion trading, it also resulted in a market decline in quality and pushed the emergence of a ‘disposable society’. Unfortunately, this has been extended towards the luxury market. With less definition between seasons and a faster rotating calendar, many designer houses are operating with little difference compared to a fast fashion brand. The growth of modern consumers’ buying power also encourages them to purchase and discard, even if it is luxury. Seemingly the idea of nowadays’ luxury is diluted down and just doesn’t feel as special as back in the ‘good old days’.
Secondhand fashion provides a unique opportunity while achieving a paradox, it is also associated as a form of individual expression. As luxury brands become more ubiquitous, many fashionistas fail to fulfil their needs of being unique. In search of a new outlet for their luxury identity, many naturally turned to pre-owned items. The consumers satisfy the need for exclusivity and rarity of their products, which cannot be found on the catwalk or in-store, without losing the product’s luxury identity.
The past decades have witnessed a growing trend of pre-owned luxury consumption globally in both developed and emerging markets. Representing 10% of the personal luxury goods market with a total worth of £13 billion. The pre-owned luxury fashion market is the world 7th largest economy since 2015. However, the potential of this market is estimated to be 30 times higher at £450 billion, thanks to the development of secondhand online business with the help of social media and influencers.
Today, the core reasons for combustion although varying in many patterns can mostly be described as social, emotional and financial. The consumption of luxury could be the perfect example of ‘fitting in while standing out’, this is more apparent in the pre-owned market. However, the early precaution on purchasing secondhand items was often attached to a negative image. It was almost ‘embarrassing’ to be found shopping or wearing used products. The instant association to a lower financial and social status stopped consumers, as the individual might be viewed as ‘too poor’ to afford brand new luxury items.
Luckily, with a growing interest in sustainability and the visibility of fast fashion’s backlashes, secondhand fashion was given a change of view. The growing popularity of e-commerce with leading retailers like Shop-Hers, Fashionphile and Luxury Exchange joining in to influence the younger generation, reimagining recycled fashion as ‘chic’. Influences from social media and celebrities made an important contribution too. Many including Kate Moss and Alexa Chung styled pre-owned luxury by mixing it with their modern wardrobe, educating and encouraging the growth of this market further.
People sell luxury items when they find them no longer befitting with their lifestyle, or to simply make some money. The thrill of the hunt encourages many to shop for pre-owned luxury, while the ever-rising price of new products pushes the hype even more. The idea of purchasing a labelled product at an affordable price cuts the spending guilt and attracts a large motivation towards consumption. Even in some cases, secondhand might not lead to a lower price. This process of secondhand luxury shopping fulfils a basic need of rising self-esteem and worth through the consumption of luxury, without stretching too much out of the bank.
Vintage has the connotations of a time era we were unable to experience. Nostalgia and the faster paste of fashion today also drive the seek of olds. The fast global coverage can make a new design feel instantly out of season. However with vintage, existing outside of this cycle, the value and exclusivity of the products were somehow preserved by the minimum media exposure. We as consumers can have the feeling of complete control over our buying decision. While contributing to a unique personal style. This perhaps is the reason for Secondhand luxury’s rising popularity.