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Alexander McQueen and Vestiaire Collective: fashion players defining retail-tainment

Fashion is not a race: slow the pace, reduce waste: The partnership might inspire more Buy-back programs through resale platforms

The second-hand market

The second-hand market is set to hit 64 billion dollars over the next five years with resale to overtake the traditional thrift and donation segment by 2024, figures predict from a research conducted by thredUP. The buy-back program which sees as protagonists the Kering-owned brand Alexander McQueen and Europe’s biggest second-hand group Vestiaire Collective, could serve as a leading example to other fashion players, aiming to bring circularity in their business. «Both McQueen and Vestiaire Collective are committed to facilitating a move towards sustainability in the fashion industry and in consumer behaviour more broadly», reads a statement released by the British fashion house.

Vestiaire collective tackling overconsumption

Lampoon spoke to Dounia Wone, Chief Sustainability and Inclusion Officer at Vestiaire Collective on this matter, who is confident that circular partnerships will be key in 2021 to tackling overconsumption: «it’s not possible for the industry to continue functioning according to the current linear take, make, waste model. Embedding circular practices in the heart of the fashion industry and consumer behaviour is a key part of the solution», Wone explained. «Vestiaire Collective launched the ‘Brand Approved’ programme in answer to this challenge. The new service empowers brands to disrupt their linear model, encourages their clients to invest in quality pieces that are made to stand the test of time and helps bring pieces back into circulation. It will help decouple economic profit from the use of natural resources», she added in regards to the circular partnership. With the fashion industry constantly held accountable for the harm it causes to the planet, with its sector alone accounting for 20 to 35 % of microplastics flows into the ocean, Kering has also recently launched a monetary fund, aimed at transforming conventional material sourcing to mitigate the effects of climate change. The group is working with non-profit organization Conservation International to establish its Regenerative Fund for Nature. This aid will provide grants to farmers, NGOs and stakeholders who are pioneering sustainable agricultural practices in the fashion industry. Following the announcement of the ‘Brand Approved’ partnership, recent news also see the company that owns Alexander McQueen acquiring a five percent stake in Vestiaire Collective, as a means of tapping into the more environmentally-conscious consumers, a market that has notably expanded during the COVID-19 crisis. 

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Still from Sustainable fashion industry Film by Vestiaire Collective

Vestiaire Collective Alexander Mcqueen partnership

«Vestiaire Collective has experienced a strong uplift in activity during the pandemic. Overall we had a +96% YoY uplift in deposits and +100% YoY increase in orders. We felt the initial impact of the lockdown in March but community activity bounced back quickly in April», Wone discloses in the interview. Although Vestiaire Collective has always existed online, retail-tainment as a whole has also boomed as a way to keep shoppers engaged online when they have not been able to access stores during lockdowns. As the pandemic plunges the economy, resale sites are the ones rapidly growing, as technology has also made online thrift experiences more user-friendly and accessible. With many consumers stuck in the confines of their homes, clearing out closets and hunting for bargains online is something that has gained momentum. It comes as no surprise, then, that luxury groups are now turning to high-end resale companies, whether that be through partnerships or stakeholding. «Clothing consumption is set to rise sixty-three percent by 2030, but today we wear our items forty percent less than ten years ago. Fashion is not a race: slow the pace, reduce waste», Vestiaire says in its introduction to Brand Approved, quoting Greenpeace and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, respectively. As McKinsey notes in its annual report on the State of Fashion, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic ‘getting woke’, radical transparency and sustainability were increasingly shifting values in the consumer mindset. While the crisis has devastated businesses and jobs, it may also have accelerated responses that can lead to positive outcomes. Indeed, many fashion companies, just like Vestiaire Collective and Alexander McQueen have taken time during the crisis to reshape their business models, streamline their operations, and sharpen their customer propositions.

Environmental impact of second-hand clothing

Giving a dress a second life reduces its CO2 impact by seventy-nine percent. This partnership has been designed to be transparent and made to last; prolonging the lifespan of clothes has been at the forefront of Vestiaire Collective, ever since its foundation in 2009. «By giving people a way to extend the lifespan of their pieces through resale, and showing that they can continue to have value we are encouraging people to buy less but more durable pieces, and also take better care of their clothing and accessories», Wone from Vestiaire Collective says. The leading global app for pre-loved fashion has currently an inventory of over two million pre-owned items that includes 120,000 new listings every week and now the ‘Brand Approved’ tag is its novelty. According to the Chief Sustainability and Inclusion Officer at Vestiaire Collective, The NFC tags also «brings a level of transparency to the product as the buyer is able to view an product’s history and confirm that it has been authenticated by both Vestiaire Collective and the brand itself». So far, the coronavirus pandemic has presented fashion with a chance to reset an industry’s value chain completely and an opportunity to reassess its values. Finding themselves with a surplus of inventory, luxury brands are reconsidering production in a world where consumers are demanding higher accountability on sustainable concerns. We asked Wone, how did Vestiaire Collective overcome consignment disruptions during the pandemic, and in what ways is its consignment, too, environmentally conscious? «We extended our Direct Shipping service to a wider selection of inventory and also launched the service in US and APAC, which allowed sellers to send pieces directly to buyers if they opted out of the authentication service, which reduced pressure on the logistics hubs. Over 50% of orders are now completed through Direct Shipping, the service has already saved over 1,150 tons of CO2 since launching», she says in response. 

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 Mckinsey report fashion collaboration

The McKinsey report sees this crisis as a unique time for collaboration within the industry—even among competing organizations: «No company will get through the pandemic alone, and fashion players need to share data, strategies, and insights on how to navigate the storm. Brands, suppliers, contractors, and property owners should also find ways to share the burden», reports Imran Amed from McKinsey. A circular alliance like the one we have witnessed between Vestiaire Collective and Alexander McQueen, is becoming more urgent and relevant than ever: «We are confident that our customers will be excited to take part in an initiative that challenges a linear economy and sets a new and more sustainable standard for the future. We hope many houses will follow because to have impact-at-scale, we need to act collectively», Emmanuel Gintzburger, CEO of Alexander McQueen comments. The introduction to the ‘Brand Approved’ program, paired with the authentication process and traceability technologies is also likely to create even more trust among the sellers and buyers at Vestiaire Collective. Firstly, a select group of clients will be contacted by a McQueen sales representative, asking if they wish to sell any owned pieces. Following the authentication process, and if eligible, a buy-back price will be assigned. In return, the client will receive a credit note which can be invested in new items from the maison.   

Vestiaire collective Brand Approved program

Fanny Moizant, Vestiaire Collective Co-founder and President comments: «There is a need to address the way we produce and consume fashion. Vestiaire Collective’s ‘Brand Approved’ program is reinforcing the value of durability, whilst empowering first-hand fashion players to disrupt their linear business models». This collaboration represents a merging of compatible values and emphasizes the importance of offering a more considered buying philosophy. Themes of digital acceleration, discounting, industry consolidation, and corporate innovation will be prioritized once the immediate crisis subsides, according to McKinsey: «Even after witnessing waves of insolvencies, it is predicted that industry leaders will need to get comfortable with uncertainty and ramp up future-proofing efforts as the potential for further outbreaks and lockdowns loom». The report argues that following the ‘quarantine of consumption’, there could be an acceleration on some of these consumer shifts, such as a growing antipathy toward waste-producing business models and heightened expectations for purpose-driven, sustainable action. Meanwhile, some of the shifts we will witness in the fashion system, such as the digital step change, in-season retail, seasonless design, and the decline of wholesale, are an acceleration of the inevitable: «Things that would have happened further down the road if the pandemic had not helped them gain speed and urgency now». Wone also discloses to Lampoon figures from a recent survey that Vestiaire Collective carried out, which demonstrates how consumer behavior might have changed for the better during the crisis: «We conducted a survey with BCG in 2020 that demonstrates this behavior. The results revealed that 70% of fashion consumers say that the existence of a secondhand market encourages them to take care of their pieces, whilst 85% of pre-owned buyers participate in the pre-owned market to reduce overconsumption by trading up fast fashion to fewer, higher-quality, longer-lasting items». So far, there could still be a silver lining among the clouds.  

IMAGE GALLERY

Vestiaire Collective is a global app for pre-loved fashion. It is dedicated to transforming the fashion industry for a more sustainable future by promoting circular fashion as an alternative to overconsumption and the wasteful practices of the fast fashion industry. The resale platform has an inventory of over two-million items that includes 120,000 new listings every week. Launched in Paris in 2009, Vestiaire Collective has offices in Paris, New York and Hong Kong and a tech hub in Berlin.

Alexander McQueen is a British luxury fashion house founded by the eponymous late designer in 1992 .The house joined the Kering Group in 2001. In 2000, Sarah Burton was appointed Head of Design for womenswear and she also became Creative Director  in 2010. 

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