Making it happen since 1988

Old is the new new

By Emma Chaplin on Feb 02, 2018

It seems at odds that two of biggest zeitgeists of retail right now are ostensibly fast fashion and a growing awareness and embrace of sustainability. They exist uncomfortably side by side; one feeding into the ‘here today gone tomorrow’ compulsion exacerbated by always-on channels like Instagram and the other more mindful approach, which emerged into the mainstream around the same time as Veganism and feminist slogan t-shirts. What is interesting, is that, to a certain extent they exist in a kind of lifecycle, feeding into each other at different points.

Reports show ASOS is at the top of its game. Reporting 30% growth year on year generating a whopping £790.4m over the four-month run up to Christmas and the new year.  Anyone who has reached the dizzying heights of ASOS point scheme royalty knows what a thrill ride it can be. Horror at the accumulative spending is drowned out by the other more reckless voice, whispering ‘Only 50 more quid till you get that sweet £5 voucher, boy what a saving that will be!’. Vouchers and perks are offered to those who pass through spending thresholds, via a rather friendly looking points barometer. This, coupled with their offering of next or even same day delivery and up to speed stock refreshes has proved a winning combination for ASOS; fast fashion is flourishing.

Meanwhile, Instagram influencers and trend setters alike are updating profiles (and wardrobes) daily. Directly linking purchase-ready ensembles to sites such as ASOS whips up a voracious and trigger-happy need to buy now. Fear of outfit repeat and trends flitting in and out of favour is encouraging a ‘one in one out’ mentality, with tangible effects. According to WGSN ‘The resale market is one of online retail’s fastest-growing sectors’. App savvy Gen Z and young Millennials are looking to make an extra buck selling clothes they’ve consequently fallen out of love with.

Peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Depop, Poshmark, Vestaire Collective and Grailed have seen a huge revival in the resale market; a shinier, techier face of the charity shop jumble. And it’s not just an indication of sellers wanting to ditch their old stuff; the by-product is a generation of buyers who are mindful of where their clothes are coming from. Sustainability within fashion is fast becoming a mainstream concept, which suits the growing desire to live sustainably, and even more pertinent, a need to live more economically.

The lifecycle is complicated by a growing trend of what Trendwatching dub ‘Sellsumers’. They are most notably tech and social savvy early millennials and Gen Z-ers finely tuned to truffle out the exclusive drops and collaborations guaranteed to fetch the highest prices on the re-sale market. They tap into the distinctive thrill of exclusivity a limited edition drop or collaboration generates, a push back against the tide of cut copy high street garments flooding the likes of De-pop.

n 2018 expressing a unique sense of style is incongruously en vogue and the resale market offers a glittering treasure-trove of possibility. Coupled with a reverence for clothes of eras gone by, some brands have cottoned on to this consumer demand happening on the side-lines. French ready-to-wear brand A.P.C. offer customers the opportunity to trade in jeans for a new pair (which could, wait for it….be someone else’s old pair) and Levi’s have partnered with brands like Vetements to hawk their own vintage denim, in the more popular straight leg styles. Regaining some ownership over their stock under the ‘Authorized Vintage’ guise, Levi’s cash in by doubling the original RRP- who said it’s just wine that grows finer with age?

Elsewhere, brands are answering consumers’ wish for product longevity in other ways with a rise in what The Drum have dubbed ‘care-commerce’. While brands offering a bit of shoe polish and a suede brush is nothing new, recent examples like Nike, who installed sneaker dry-cleaning and engraving services in its Moscow flagship are upping their game.

So, what does this mean for retailers? Brands should take the lead from their consumer base; facilitating their own product re-sale hub, or even just life-span preserving services would meet the demand, while keeping consumers from straying elsewhere. Whether it is an effort to live more sustainably, or pandering to more eclectic tastes, old is becoming the new new.