We were thrilled to speak with Fashion Quarterly for their New Beginnings Spring 2022 issue! If you didn't get a chance to pick one up, below is our featured piece below...we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did contributing...
The Old New Thing
Aotearoa’s burgeoning luxury resale market is not only looking good for our wardrobes but also for our world.
Written by HARRIET COWIE
In my early 20s, I took op shopping seriously. My weekends were spent trawling the aisles of Savemarts and St Vinnies across Auckland. Powered by Red Bull, I would shoulder fellow treasure hunters out of my way, risking carpal tunnel syndrome as I flicked through the racks at unnerving speed. I was chasing the high of a designer label, anything NWT, or — the Holy Grail — a pair of Sass & Bide Rats leggings.
Many years later, I thought I’d kicked my second-hand habit, but, with the meteoric rise of pre-loved designer shopping, the itch is back. It’s an evolution of the thrift-shopping days — but everything has levelled up. In luxury resale, the designers are better, the quality higher, and the selection impeccable. Until now, international resale juggernauts like Vestiaire Collective, Depop, Rebag, and The RealReal have been our go-tos for pre-loved pieces, but change is afoot. As demand for second-hand designer clothing surges here, a new wave of luxury resale has begun to gain ground — one that doesn’t require us to fork out for international shipping.
Laura-Jean Fitzweijers’ website Not New is among these. The online boutique harbours a curated cross-section of designer labels such as Gucci, Prada, Stella McCartney, and The Row. Operating mainly through consignment — it sells on your behalf — Not New only launched in May this year, but Fitzweijers has found a captive audience ready and waiting. “As a start-up business, it’s been really encouraging to have people enjoy the process and come back more … and more and more,” she says.
So, what’s driving the uptake of premium designer resale? For one thing, Aotearoa’s luxury offering is significantly smaller than that of other countries, so the second-hand market gives us added opportunity to shop high end. Secondly, resold items are more affordable than their catwalk counterparts. There are the exceptions — hello, Hermes — but buying the big brands via resale makes sense to our wardrobes and wallets. It also allows us a second chance at the ‘ones that got away’ — those pieces that escaped our grasp, or budget, a few seasons back. There’s also a greater intention behind the movement. The rise of luxury resale signifies a paradigm shift towards more conscious consumption in general; a collective effort to buy less and buy better.
We all now know the environmental impact of the fashion industry: too much textile waste — about 92 million tonnes annually. Pair this with the knowledge that it can take chemically treated clothing up to 200 years to biodegrade and it’s a bleak outlook. By shopping second-hand, we keep clothes in circulation and out of landfill. This striving for sustainability was the catalyst for Not New’s inception. “I’d had my children and was ready to start buying things for my ‘new normal’ body,” explains Fitzweijers, “but I didn’t want to actively participate in the fast fashion movement, nor did I want to compromise on quality and style. I asked myself: How can I access high-quality clothing more sustainably?” Not New was the answer.
This intersection of style and sustainability is resonating with many of us. According to a report from the world’s largest fashion resale platform, thredUP, the second-hand market is growing three times faster than the market for new apparel. It’s estimated it’ll be worth $134 billion by 2030 — more than double that of fast fashion. This shift has a direct impact on our environment, with nearly 1 billion new-clothing purchases displaced by second-hand shoppers last year. As Fitzweijers says, “The most environmentally friendly piece of clothing is the one that already exists.”
As circular fashion gains momentum, the high-end houses reign supreme — think Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and Prada. One local business heeding the call for these luxury pre-loved pieces is Bagaholic Co. Founded by Sarah Zeng, the premium handbag resale site was born amid a lockdown-induced clear-out. “I couldn’t find anywhere to source or sell my designer handbags at a reasonable price,” Zeng tells me, “so I decided to do it myself.” Fitted in alongside Zeng’s full-time job and the imminent arrival of her first child, Bagaholic Co grew fast. Soon, Zeng was sourcing bags internationally and through consignment for her 7000-plus followers, releasing them in regular drops on her website — and the pieces sell within minutes. The demand is so high that followers have begun sending through specific bag requests.
Gabriel Waller — Gab, to most — has fast become an expert in the realm. Founding her eponymous luxury-sourcing business in 2018, the Australian-born, Los Angeles–based entrepreneur hunts down elusive designer items for thousands of international customers, working via Instagram. You simply DM Waller a picture and the size of your desired designer piece and her team will respond with a price — usually within 24 hours. “I love how personal it is on Instagram,” Waller tells me over the phone from her Los Angeles base. “It helps build the relationship quicker and stronger.” Fielding up to 100 requests per day, Waller sources pieces from current collections and seasons past, naming Chanel and footwear as her top sellers. The entrepreneur has successfully rehomed thousands of designer pieces, but her most memorable acquisition happened just last year. “I started working with Khloé Kardashian in December,” she tells me. “It was her daughter True’s birthday, and they were to have matching Dior outfits. I sourced True’s Dior dress by reusing fabric from a vintage robe, and for Khloé we found a matching corset and pants in the same material.” Waller pauses for a moment then continues, smiling, “That was very, very special for me.” It’s ultra-glam, to be sure, but the market isn’t without its challenges. Waller struggles with quantity, particularly when dozens of clients request the same piece. Zeng finds it difficult to keep up with demand.
For Fitzweijers, the biggest issue is size inclusivity. “We’ve found it really hard to find equity in sizing with the international designers we want to represent,” she explains, saying anything above a size 12 is proving to be disappointingly rare. For all three women, authenticity can also be tricky. The knock-on effect of a flourishing luxury resale market is the rise of knock-offs. Demand for this counterfeit couture has soared, muddying the water between fashion and fraud.
Fortunately, a growing authentication industry has seen a rise in third parties dedicated to proving product legitimacy. “We know that our customers aren't interested in faking it,” says Fitzweijers, “so we never will.” With 62 per cent of Generation Z and Millennials saying they now look to shop second-hand before purchasing new, luxury resale is gaining momentum in Aotearoa. It offers us more opportunities to shop those coveted designer collections and lighten our environmental footprint. Of course, I’m not naive enough to think buying second-hand designer clothes will restore balance between the fashion industry and the environment. However, keeping clothing in circulation can help. Luxury resale is a viable tool to have in our belt as we strive for sustainability — so we might as well make that belt a 2015 Gucci re-edition leather one.
Above: Laura-Jean Fitzweijers (R) and Freya Alexander (L) from online boutique Not New.
Thank you to @fashionquartely for the chat and talking about sustainable fashion!