Nearly every fashion editor I know has a story (or several) on unearthing a vintage gem. Mine is sourcing a classic Burberry trench coat for just over £100, a jacket I’m convinced managed to land me my job at Who What Wear. One colleague managed to snap up a gorgeous Valentino blouse for £30, and another found a checked Aquascutum jacket that fitted perfectly for a mere 15 quid. I’ve spent many years trawling vintage fashion shops, and it never fails to give me joy. Even now, when shops remain shut, I enjoy looking through online sites to find hidden second-hand pieces.
But vintage shopping is no longer the pastime for those of us who have the patience to go through hundreds of pre-loved garments. Resale fashion is having a resurgence, and 2020 was unlike any year we’ve seen before. According to the Business of Fashion, "Before the pandemic hit, the resale market was on track to double from $24 billion in 2019 to $51 billion by 2024… This growth may very well accelerate."
What this tangibly means is that we're all shopping second-hand more than ever. I spoke to a host of resale, luxury vintage, and second-hand sites that have all experienced growth over the last 12 months, especially so since March 2020. Depop CEO Maria Raga said that the business has doubled its turnover since lockdown began and that there are over 25 million users on the platform, spanning 147 countries. It’s a similar story over on Vestiaire Collective. Sophie Hersan, the brand's fashion director and co-founder, told me that by June the luxury resale site saw a 144% YoY growth in sales. And Katie McNaughton at Open for Vintage revealed it’s been the site’s biggest year to date. This isn’t just an accident, so what’s driving such big popularity in resale fashion? Why now?
"Vintage offers a chance to find unique, on-trend pieces without the negative impact on the environment or bank balance."
The biggest and most obvious driver is, of course, COVID-19. It has, perhaps unsurprisingly, transformed the way we shop. While the pandemic negatively hit high-street and luxury retailers selling new clothing, resale went the opposite way. Thanks to budgets being stretched, vintage and pre-loved sites saw, and continue to see, incredible growth. Those of us in fashion aren't particularly surprised by this trend, as the resale market already looked set to boom—just last year Burberry teamed up with RealReal to tap into the second-hand area.
And it's easy to see why resale fashion is getting bigger. It is a great leveller, available to everyone and at every budget. It essentially democratises the industry, allowing everyone access to brands and trends that might have seemed too expensive before. Unlike fast fashion, however, it doesn't cause as much damage to the environment and on the whole is considered to be a great sustainable fashion option.
When I spoke to Kate Peters, global managing director of Beyond Retro, she said the reason people love it is that "vintage offers a chance to find unique, on-trend pieces without the negative impact on the environment or bank balance."
"They are extremely conscious of reducing their impact on the planet and have a passion and innate desire for change, transparency, and challenging the status quo."
Similarly at Depop, Raga says that its users, whose average age is under 26 "are extremely conscious of reducing their impact on the planet and have a passion and innate desire for change, transparency, and challenging the status quo."
When you combine the pandemic and its effects with a shift in consumer behaviour towards more sustainable options in a way that affords you the chance to show your creativity, you have yourself the perfect fashion storm. But I wanted to know more than the above. Now that I knew why and how, I wanted to know what everyone is buying. Pulling together all the information I gathered from Beyond Retro, Depop, Vestiaire Collective, and Open for Vintage, as well as global fashion search platform Lyst, I found out just what everyone is shopping for right now—from the brands customers want to the products and the eras we can't seem to stop shopping. Keep scrolling for the ultimate resale report.
Photo:Getty Images, Depop
Everyone I spoke to confirmed that the big fashion houses are still very much sought after. Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and Hermès are brands that are the most searched for and the ones everyone wants to invest in. But there are other labels that are gaining traction that might surprise you.
Depop seller ramona_ramona said, "This year, there has been a soaring interest in Gaultier, '90s D&G, and early Westwood. We also have a focus (or obsession) with garments that are luxurious in either the extravagance of their design or quality."
That said, it's not just the classic luxury labels that people are looking for. The North Face and Nike are both highly sought after—perhaps no surprise considering the pandemic has driven us all to seek out more comfortable and functional items of clothing.
Photo:Getty Images, @asos_lotte
To put it simply, it's all about It bags, It bags, and more It bags—plus the occasional Chanel earring thrown in for good measure. Everyone I spoke to, from Lyst to sellers over at Depop, told me that people were after vintage bags from the major designers.
Depop seller basementsix revealed they'd sold three vintage nova check Burberry bags in the last two weeks. But vintage nylon Prada shoulder bags were still proving popular. This was a similar theme elsewhere, with Lyst and Vestiaire Collective also finding that searches were spiking for the classic Prada '90s tote.
Another extremely popular bag with increasing demand is Louis Vuitton's Pochette Monogram Bag, which is seeing purchases across Vestiaire Collective, Open for Vintage, and Depop. Classic bags from Gucci (the Jackie), Dior (the Saddle Bag), and Hermès (the Birkin) are becoming more popular, too. And if It bags aren't your thing, then Open for Vintage revealed that Chanel earrings were also being snapped up by buyers.
Away from luxury, Beyond Retro also told me that its customers are looking for more comfortable items, noting a soaring interest in fleeces and knits, with comfort being key for many of its shoppers. Shop key pieces below.
No era, quite frankly, is left untouched right now. Although, there are clear trends, with the '90s and '00s remaining real favourites. Depop is where this trend is seen so obviously, with buyers looking for original Westwoods, '90s Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana. However, there's an indication that the '60s is also about to have a real revival, with the popularity of Gucci's Jackie bag soaring (in part helped by the brand's reissuing of the classic). See the pieces I'd shop right now below.
Next up, the biggest spring/summer 2021 fashion trends to know.
This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.