In May 2023, Chloë Sevigny hosted what was rightfully named The Sale of the Century. The actor, who is arguably more renowned for her personal style than her acting career, sold her wardrobe to hysteric effect. Hundreds lined the streets of New York to get their hands on her much-loved pieces ranging from her own Opening Ceremony collections and Miu Miu dresses, to items from Supreme to Hermés. And, in what was certainly the icing on the cake, Sevigny was also on hand to advise in the process.
Celebrities have long sold their clothes, of course. Diana, Princess of Wales, shortly before her death, sold most of her wardrobe for charity, raising more than $5 million (£3,946,400), while stars like Olivia Rodrigo and Charli XCX openly list on Depop while the Kardashians sell their pre-loved pieces on one of their most controversial enterprises, Kardashian Kloset.
But Sevigny was different with her open-door event, which priced clothes nearer their recommended retail price. She clearly wanted her pieces to be given another lifecycle, rather than being conserved in archives or museums.
These sorts of sales are becoming increasingly popular for those working in fashion, with invitations coming in frequent cadence in recent months. Stylist Francesca Burns has been running Resale Therapy with her friends Pixie Geldof and Claudia Sinclair since 2021, but often held sales before. After her most recent, in December 2023, she donated a percentage of the profit to the charity, Choose Love.
‘It felt incredible to see beloved pieces that didn’t work for us anymore get a whole new lease of life with someone else,’ Burns tells UK. ‘ We are all too acutely aware of the impact mass consumption has on our environment and anything that anyone can do to encourage shopping sustainably is a great thing. Our last event was a real collective effort with many of our industry friends selling beautiful pieces too. It was fantastic.’
Sales such as Resale Therapy also encourage an ‘in real life’ experience that are so often missed in the more contemporary virtual ways of shopping second hand. ‘Ever since we started, people have loved the sales,’ Burns continues. ‘I think it’s fun to do things in real life and have the experience of rummaging through rails and discovering things you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.’
While the understanding that shopping second hand has less impact on the planet, Burns also speaks of the sartorial benefit of shopping events like Resale Therapy. ‘If you’re buying something second hand, you are buying something more special and unique. You can find great designer pieces at really good prices so you’re saving money too.’
As so often has been Sevigny’s directive, consider her to be an early adopter of a growing trend and expect this sort of sale to become commonplace as celebrities and influencers understand their potential; to alleviate themselves of wares, while making money and the ability to engage with their communities in a way that gives back too. Camille Charrière hosted one not long ago and so did revered hairdresser Charlotte Mensah.
In 2024, these sales have the potential to go mainstream. Whilst a glitzy host and the promise of designer labels feels additionally exciting, they can succeed without either. Rally your girlfriends to organise your own. Host it on your doorstep or at your office. There’s a sense of community at these events that doesn’t exist on Depop. Yet, what they do have in common with their digital counterparts is the price-saving element.
It’s perhaps this narrative that has ensured second hand shopping has hit the big time in our cost of living crisis. In 2023, 15 years after its launch, it was Vinted that broke through in the UK as the place to sell unwanted pieces. Less stylised than its peers, Vinted sees Prada sold alongside Primark, Marks & Spencer alongside Marni and, like others, has an authenticity service for pieces over £100, charged to the buyer for £10. This is more about ushering in the feel-good factor that any bargain hunter can attest to, as even if you’re negotiating a difference of just several pounds it can feel like you’re more in control of your spending when doing so. It also shares that more than four in 10 (43%) users use money earned selling items to simply fund everyday household expenses.
Vinted also understands green. Its first Climate Change Impact Report found that shopping for a second-hand item on Vinted instead of buying new demonstrated an average emissions saving of 1.8 kg CO₂e (equivalent to the CO₂ emissions created by having 219 smartphones charged). It’s an impressive statistic that aligns with Vestiaire Collective’s finding that buying a product on its site has a 90% lower environmental impact compared to buying a new product, as per its Impact Report 2023.
Fanny Moizant, the founder and president of Vestiaire Collective understands the second-hand market and how it can do better better than most. In 2023, Moizant and her team narrowed down the brands you’re able to list for sale on Vestiaire to remove even more fast fashion labels including Zara and H&M (and yes, that does include its cult collabs). At the time of the change, it meant that approximately 107,000 items were removed.
The decision, Moizant tells UK, is to encourage customers to invest in better quality pieces that can be worn for longer periods going forward. ‘Following 2022’s initial announcement, we saw 70% of members impacted by the ban come back to the platform to shop for better quality items and invest in secondhand, which shows we can positively impact the way people consume.
‘Furthering our commitment to create a more circular economy, we worked with a committee of nine fashion and sustainability experts to create a clear definition of fast fashion and leverage this framework to ban industry giants from the website. With the climate crisis accelerating and ninety-two million tons of textile waste thrown away every year, it is a necessary step to reduce fashion’s environmental and social impact.’
Though Vestiaire Collective might champion pieces from the past, its outlook is forever fixed on the future. It hopes to encourage other brands to enter the resale market to join in its mission and recent findings on brand awareness are all encouraging. ‘60% of global resale consumers have either discovered a brand or bought it for the first time secondhand, underlining the strong opportunity for brands to increase their reach to new customers by participating in the resale market,’ Moizant shares in encouragement.
Moizant isn’t alone in her mission. More and more luxury brands and aligned retailers are making secondhand a central tenet of their offerings, whether that’s Mulberry’s self-explaining Exchange programme or Farfetch’s Second Life initiative. Nowhere is this truer than at Selfridges, across its four bricks-and-mortar stores and online. ‘The concept of pre-owned at Selfridges has become a central element of our Reselfridges proposition,’ explains Jack Cassidy, its director of accessories. ‘Buying into the circular economy is a significant part of our business, making for a richer and more responsible way to shop. We’re excited to expand our in store resale offer further as we head into the new year, with new Reselfridges destinations launching in our London and Manchester Exchange stores in January.’
While 2023 might have been a big year for shopping preloved, 2024 promises to be the year where it hits the mainstream with the potential to outshine our obsession with the new now. Could it be that our first port of call shifts to the secondhand? If retailers, online and physical, make it simpler and more streamlined, then all roads point to ‘yes’.
As Moizant looks to the rest of the year, she says: ‘We anticipate seeing the following aspects stay top-of-mind for consumers in 2024: subtlety and understatement, quality and craftsmanship, sustainability and ethics, discretion. Many consumers are moving away from flashy displays towards more understated styles. There is a growing appreciation for craftsmanship, materials and the overall quality of the pieces that you can find second hand.’