She might be the co-founder of one of the biggest designer fashion resale platforms in the world, but Sophie Hersan isn’t much of a shopper herself. These days, the French entrepreneur rarely buys more than five fashion items per year — and when she does, it’s typically pre-owned items from her platform Vestiaire Collective.
In an interview with The Peak, Hersan, who is also the company’s fashion director, shares that it has taken her 14 years to get to this point. Prior to starting Vestiaire Collective in 2009, the industry veteran spent several years working as a studio manager with various luxury brands, during which she “accumulated a lot of items”. She says with a smile: “I had too many things I didn’t wear. That was probably one of the reasons I started Vestiaire.”
Today, founders Hersan and Fanny Moizant together with CEO Max Bittner have transformed Vestiaire Collective into a major player in luxury fashion resale, an industry estimated to be worth 43 billion euros ($63.3 billion) in 2022.
The C2C platform has an inventory of more than five million items and a staff strength of more than 800 in its offices in Europe, the US, and Asia. In 2021, the company hit unicorn status with major investors such as luxury conglomerate Kering coming onboard. Hersan shares more about the state of luxury resale, what’s worth investing in now, and selling six-digit handbags.
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1. When it was founded in 2009, Vestiaire Collective was one of the pioneers in curated luxury resale. When it comes to the way people shop, what are the biggest changes?
More people are looking for quality items that are also investment pieces. When they buy, they want that item to last and to have resale value. So, they are going towards more timeless pieces, rare collections, or sometimes collaborations. All the big luxury, international brands are probably the most searched for. Alternatively, sellers are looking for a place where they know they can sell items from their wardrobe in a safe and trusted environment.
2. Vestiaire Collective has partnered with several top designer brands, such as Gucci and Chloe. That’s an interesting shift from the days when brands were largely hesitant to embrace the second-hand market.
Digital transition has been a bit hard for the traditional luxury market. In the past, many did not have their own digital platforms, and when they started, they partnered with e-commerce retailers. Currently, brands are seeking to answer their customers’ demand for a more circular and sustainable form of consumption.
Today, designer brands come to us to help them enter this circularity. The second-hand market is so specific, you can’t enter it without knowledge of the market. We have that as well as the data and structures to help them. A lot of brands try to do it on their own, but they are limited to their own audience. We have a bigger community than, say, a brand like Gucci alone might have.
“Today, designer brands come to us to help them enter this circularity. The second-hand market is so specific, you can’t enter it without knowledge of the market.” – SOPHIE HERSAN, CO-FOUNDER OF VESTIAIRE COLLECTIVE
3. Vestiaire Collective launched in Singapore in 2017. How do luxury resale customers here differ from those in other territories?
Europe has many more mid-range fashion brands, and Seoul has a strong market for local designers. Hong Kong and Singapore buyers prefer international luxury brands, with bags being the most popular category, followed by classic accessories and jewellery.
4. What other items do you think are worthwhile fashion investments, besides the traditional resale top performers like handbags by Hermes and Chanel?
Sometimes, it pays to look at the designer. With the brand Celine, for instance, the demand for Phoebe Philo’s collections was super strong after she left. French label Jacquemus is another brand to consider now. Eventually, it will become more well-known — and once a brand like this becomes global, the demand will be big. We also see a huge potential in vintage pieces. Because they are rarer by nature, they also gain value over time.
5. Last year, an Hermes Birkin Faubourg bag sold on Vestiaire Collective for 158,000 euros, making it the platform’s biggest single transaction to date. What can you tell us about this sale?
I can’t share details about the seller and buyer, but this proves that Vestiaire is a trusted platform. It’s not the first item we have sold with a really high price. We’ve also sold Hermes Himalayan crocodile bags. We now also play the role of an auction house. In the past, such a product would have only been sold through traditional auction houses.