It's becoming clearer that the future of fashion is prelove. And why not? It allows consumers to save money and the planet. Sustainability has always come at a cost. But now prelove items allow consumers to access better products at better prices. As a result, prelove democratises fashion.
At the moment, fashion produces more carbon dioxide than aviation and shipping combined. It's responsible for 20% of global wastewater, 35% of microplastics in the ocean, and 85% of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated. However, a shift in the consumer mindset, growing knowledge of the global climate crisis and emergence of resale platforms are helping buck the trend.
In July, Business of Fashion estimated the global resale market to be worth $130 billion. Thredup has predicted the resale sector to be double the size of fast fashion by 2030. Vestiaire Collective (10 million users), Depop (30 million users) and Vinted (45 million users) have won over consumers in Europe over the last decade, each garnering valuations of over $1 billion. Similarly, the US has been dominated by unicorns like The RealReal and Poshmark. However, Asia has been a largely untapped market. Vestiaire Collective has raised financing last year specifically to tap Korea and Japan, and Saritoria launched in June in India to tap the $18 billion opportunity for South Asian resale for local Indians and the diaspora.
South Asia has its own designers and needs that cannot be easily plugged into a western model. If the culture is different and the clothes are different, a platform addressing the market needs to cater to those specific needs. In addition, South Asia is going to be disproportionately affected by climate change so consumer education will be a key factor in highlighting the need for sustainability.
Inherently, there is a strong culture of preserving and handing on heritage pieces from generation to generation or sharing heavy lehengas and saris between cousins and friends. Taking the next step of buying quality controlled and curated items that are carefully filtered should be an easier step for the South Asian consumer. Given the ubiquity of low-cost clothing in Asia it seems natural that a successful prelove market should focus on accessing luxury and quality at lower prices rather than the resale of fast fashion.
Kering’s recent investment into Vestiaire Collective is proof that prelove is part of the same ecosystem as luxury brands. It allows their customers to monetise their collections and enables new consumers to get a taste for the quality of the products. Collaborations between The RealReal and Gucci or Vestiaire and Alexander McQueen have proved that luxury houses recognise the value add of an established prelove market for their brands.
More importantly, brands recognise that promoting an authentic preloved market provides a better alternative to fakes. Fakes and copies are a big issue for luxury houses that do not want the quality of their brand and craftsmanship to be diluted by knock-offs. As a result, the importance of brand-specific authentication is key. Successful collaborations in the West such as Vestiaire Collective's ‘brand-approved’ sections will enable consumers to access prelove luxury with confidence.
There is no question that the future of fashion is prelove, it’s just a question of time.
Shehlina Soomro is the founder of Saritoria, a global platform for preloved South Asian luxury couture.
Also read: Why fashion needs a ‘maturityquake’