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New Report Shows Demand for Luxury Vintage is Not Created Equal

Luxury shoppers are shifting their sights to vintage—but not just any old item.

A new report from fashion search engine Tagwalk and “contemporary vintage” retailer Byronesque shows the luxury secondhand market is estimated to grow 12 percent by 2021, compared to the overall luxury market at 3 percent. And looking even further ahead, by 2024, the secondhand market size is expected to spike 61 percent to a value of $50 billion.

While high, this estimate closely follows the industry’s vintage takeover that’s been snowballing over the past few years as sustainability shifts to the forefront. Tommy Hilfiger teamed with vintage retailer Procell last year to offer vintage pieces from its archives. Levi’s and Guess also announced their own vintage resale offerings earlier this year. Resale success, even during pandemic times, indicates a fruitful future for the category.

However, according to the report, not all vintage items are created equal.

“It’s a disrespectful misconception that just because it’s old means it’s good,” Byronesque stated in the report. “The contemporary vintage category we defined in 2013 is part of the growing resale market, but critically addresses the matter of taste and longevity in a way that the category as a whole doesn’t.”

When it comes to vintage denim, consumers aren’t looking for classic closet staples. According to Byronesque, they’re specifically looking for creative pieces, such as Vivienne Westwood’s iconic slashed denim suit from the S/S 1991 show, Alexander McQueen’s bum-baring “bumsters” look from F/W 2000, Margiela’s oversized jeans from F/W 2000 and Helmut Lang’s paint-splattered splash jeans from S/S 1998—jeans that made a statement when they debuted more than 20 years ago, and that will continue to do so for decades to come.

Tagwalk and Byronesque data identifies the top contemporary vintage items from luxury brands, including Maison Margiela, Vivienne Westwood.
Alexander McQueen’s “Bumster” Masato Onoda/WWD

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And the demand directly correlates to top searches in recent collections. The most viewed denim look on Tagwalk is denim suiting from the Celine S/S 2020 runway, mirroring popular denim suiting from decades’ past. Denim fur, a finishing effect recently formulated by Turkish denim mill Isko, also nods to contemporary vintage, closely resembling the iconic slashed denim and frayed edges of the ’90s.

Maison Margiela is the top requested contemporary vintage brand among Byronesque shoppers, who are mostly made up of women in the U.S. between the ages of 30 and 45. Of the brand, oversized denim pieces dating back to 2001 remain most popular, with high demand from consumers in France, Japan, China and Hong Kong.

Balenciaga by Nicholas Ghesquiere’s patchwork collection and green cargo pants from S/S 2002 are also some of the most-requested items.

But the biggest names in luxury resale vary depending on the source. According to past reports from luxury resale platform The RealReal, Louis Vuitton is the master of resale, with its iconic Neverfull monogrammed shoulder bag topping the charts as the most sought-after item on the site, followed by Gucci’s horsebit loafers. Lyst, on the other hand, named Chanel the most coveted designer brand, with searches for the label climbing 67 percent in September.

There’s also value in being able to identify current runway looks that will serve as contemporary vintage pieces of the future. Tagwalk and Byronesque noted dystopian-inspired looks from Rick Owens’ “Armour for Dystopian Times” S/S 2021 runway show and gender-fluid ensembles from Thom Browne’s “The Purest ‘They’ Fashion” S/S 2021 catwalk are bound to make it to the fashion archives.