Sustainable Shopper

“You can buy fewer but better-quality items that will not only last longer but also maintain value over time”

Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Sophie Hersan – co-founder of pre-loved luxury fashion marketplace Vestiaire Collective – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about giving incredible, premium pieces a new lease of life. 

Always dreamt of owning a Chanel 2.55 bag or a Dior blazer? Or do you regularly find yourself with wish lists full of designer buys you consider taking out a loan for? If making the jump into investment items makes you hesitant to commit, pre-loved secondhand fashion is your answer. 

Sophie Hersan, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective, created the online marketplace to form a community that can buy and sell authentic designer items. Closing the fashion loop and giving amazing pre-loved and vintage finds a new lease of life, the site is a go-to for the pieces you may want, but at a lower price point.

Making a saving while also being more sustainable, Vestiaire Collective is the way to achieve sartorial perfection while also recycling. Housing brands including Chanel, Prada, Saint Laurent, Dior and Burberry (to name a few), the site is a treasure trove of gems waiting to be loved for longer. 

Here, the Sustainable Shopper talks to Sophie to see what Vestiaire Collective has up its fashionable sleeve when it comes to the world of secondhand luxury. 

Vestiaire Collective co-founder
Sophie Hersan, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective

What is your earliest memory of sustainability?

Sophie: At the end of 2007, I became aware of the need for sustainability in the fashion industry after seeing the over-consumption and the boom of the fast fashion crisis. 

In 2009, we founded Vestiaire Collective after noticing significant changes in the way that people were consuming fashion: buying more and wearing less.

The rise of social media and fast fashion has led us from an era of possession to an era of usage, where consumers are urgently in need of a sustainable solution to cope with this behaviour. This soon led to the creation of Vestiaire Collective, a company dedicated to providing an opportunity for people to extend the lifespan of their pre-loved items, therefore minimising waste in fashion. 

Vestiaire Collective
Discover hundreds of unique, amazing dresses at Vestiaire Collective

Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?   

There has been a real shift and awareness in the industry. Since the beginning of Vestiaire Collective, it has been a question about the lifespan products.

I would say that fast fashion brands with low prices are not joining the circular fashion movement. In the meantime; new young brands appeared, innovative from the start and they put their design and quality at the forefront. They want products to be made to last.

Buying secondhand clothes is also the best way to prolong the lifespan of an item and has always been sustainable and responsible. We have solid data confirming the benefits of secondhand. For example, according to studies by Gellert and Cooperative, we know that reselling an item prolongs its life by 2.2 years on average, which reduces its carbon, waste and water footprint by 73%. We also know that buying a bag on Vestiaire Collective reduces its environmental footprint by up to 91% in comparison to a new one (this includes the digital and transport footprint induced by our service). 

As a second hand platform, we empower our community to have a more direct, local and sustainable journey. There are also brands that are really committed to putting this mission at the heart of their development such as Aigle and Patagonia.

We recently announced a pioneering collaboration with Alexander McQueen, which aimed at empowering a move towards circular practices. Supported by innovative technology, the collaboration marks the launch of Vestiaire Collective’s new ‘Brand Approved’ programme and reinforces Alexander McQueen’s growing commitment to the durability of luxury fashion. This collaboration represents an exciting merging of compatible values and emphasises the importance of offering a more considered buying philosophy.

Why is vintage fashion so important when it comes to being more sustainable?

The vintage category in particular has been one of our fastest categories for the last few years, currently growing at 120% year-on-year. The numerous exhibitions and re-editions from major luxury maisons have also helped drive a growing interest in vintage pieces. At Vestiaire Collective we define a vintage piece as something which is more than 20 years old. Its quality lasts, it keeps its value, it is an investment piece. We see this in sustainable fashion because we wear and care for these pieces for the emotional and timeless aspect.

Vintage is the best way to enjoy the fashion you love in a more sustainable way, it’s a win win for people and the planet.  

Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get customers to care?   

We definitely educate and drive awareness on the topic to our community by creating strong campaigns as we did in October 2020 by launching our brand film, where we take a stand against fast fashion and embrace circularity. We also prioritise campaigns around Earth Week, for example. Transparency and trust are key pillars of our brand and platform.

What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?

We trigger systemic change. Sustainability is about a global, larger consumption shift that can be summed up by buying less, buying better. So it’s not about spending more for the same piece of clothing, but rather how we progressively move away from a wasteful fast fashion model in which quantity surpasses quality: it’s about showing people, through our business model, that with the same amount of money, you can buy fewer but better-quality items that will not only last longer but also maintain value overtime. Even better, you can also choose to sell your valuable items, thereby keeping existing clothes in circulation, in a new virtuous wave of circular fashion – eventually slowing down the pace of (over)production.

In September 2020, we launched a collaboration with Paris Good Fashion a consultation citoyenne. The main idea was to work together with brands, institutions, associations and citizens for a more sustainable fashion.

We received more than 107,000 responses from french citizens, it highlights the issue in the industry. People want more transparency around topics such as recycling and secondhand, relocation, raw materials and process, packaging, consumer information and working conditions in Europe.

Three sustainable shopping hacks   

  1. Shop secondhand.
  2. Promote and encourage local-to-local consumption.
  3. Be committed to sustainable and transparent brands – check the labels and traceability.

Sustainable Shopper edit by Sophie:

Images: courtesy of  Sophie Hersan/ Vestiaire Collective


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