Today, as general awareness for sustainability grows, a change in consumer attitudes towards wearing and utilizing secondhand goods is notably impacting the fashion industry as a whole. In fact, the buying, reselling and renting of worn, vintage fashion might be the industry’s most potent chance to keep its sustainable promises. Mainly because it is a reflection of customer behavior — and thus not yet another marketing trick dictated by luxury brands.
“Amongst other factors, the current economic climate appears to have contributed to the trend of acquiring and reusing vintage clothing, accessories, and home-ware products, particularly with young consumers,” explained Tracy Diane Cassidy, a UK-based lecturer in trend forecasting and fashion marketing at the University of Huddersfield, who regularly publishes articles and theses about this specific field. Cassidy further underlined that the popularity of vintage has also been linked to a general change in values, the inclusion of vintage inspirations used in current designs by fashion designers, and in a myriad of trends marketed by the forecasting sector, eco-sustainability, the media, and technology.
“Also vintage consumers and vintage retailers appear to share the viewpoint of the movement towards vintage fashion that has been assisted by a reaction against mass-produced fast fashion, as consumers strive for more individuality in their styling and garments,” Cassidy continued. “Eco-fashion and sustainable fashion ideals have emerged as solutions to the environmental issues that are currently inherent in the industry’s manufacturing processes, which have government and pressure group support. This ideal and practice complement the vintage trend phenomenon,” she concluded.
In other words, the consumers’ ever-growing concern for environmental causes has prompted the fashion industry to find sustainable solutions as soon as possible. In this context, however, the sustainability projections made by major luxury conglomerates are still too distant and abstract to be considered real and actual by today’s fashion consumers. These goals have potential, yes, and are absolutely necessary steps to a more sustainable fashion industry, but the instant power of the circular economy is already at hand’s reach — and therefore a powerful asset for making real impacts.
According to ThredUp’s 2019 Fashion Resale Market Report, the secondhand market will reach US$ 64 billion in 2028, with the resale Sector driving the growth. In fact, secondhand is projected to grow to nearly 1.5x the Size of fast fashion by 2028. More importantly, the report states that 56 million women bought secondhand products in 2018, up from 44 million in 2017. Besides, the thrill of the vintage hunt seems to transcend age and income by attracting all generations and wallets — even if Millennials and Boomers seem to buy secondhand clothing and vintage the most. Interestingly, the vintage trend is not limited to resale: rental will increase as consumers regularly update looks for social media and as their attitudes toward ownership and sustainability change.
Needless to say, these trends are promising, especially for professionals who have established their businesses in the vintage sector. Axelle Bonamy is one of them. She founded mabonneamie in 2010, a physical and online platform dedicated to the rental and resale of past season and vintage designer clothes and accessories for women. On her website, as well as in her showroom close to Palais Royal in Paris, customers can select and book their outfits — from luxury designer brands such as Chanel, Sonia Rykiel, Pierre Balmain, and Elie Saab, only to name a few — for at least 4 days or more, for highly competitive prices, dry-cleaning and delivery included.
“When I started my company in 2009, my first clients didn’t know that they could rent a dress instead of buying one for each new event. On average, a dress bought for an event is only used 1,5 times,” Axelle Bonamy explained. “As soon as they tested our rental service, they realized that they can swap outfits as often as they want, without having to store their dresses in their wardrobe — and this ignited a true addiction for rental. I definitely think that we contributed to raising sustainable awareness in a customer’s mindset, as rental services don’t just give a second but multiple chances to old stocks.” And these multiple chances are precisely what the fashion industry needs to become a more sustainable place.