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Gen Z’s Shopping The RealReal to Nail Y2K Style

What keeps consumers interested in luxury resale? “The joy of nonstop newness,” according to The RealReal‘s (TRR) new Luxury Resale report.

The thrill of stumbling on a previously undiscovered find just might be the icing on a cake built on circularity and sustainability, the latter of which was cited as the reason why 43 percent of the company’s survey takers decided to purchase.

In the past year, TRR signed up 5.3 million new members for a total base of more than 28 million and sold 44 percent more items than the prior year. The company added about 20,000 items daily, with Gen Z‘s per-user visits up 35 percent, an encouraging trend among the demographic growing most quickly at the luxury consignor.

“The benefit of luxury resale is that luxury items are created with craftsmanship and higher quality materials, giving these items a longer life span,” TRR director of sustainability James Rogers said. “Not only are more shoppers recognizing that, but they’re increasingly reselling, which demonstrates the longevity and is key to circulating these items more than once.”

Resale allows consumers to update their wardrobes while participating in the circular economy—minimizing the guilt of consuming new fashion. Since the pandemic started, more than twice as many items originally purchased through TRR were sold there a second time. Between 2021 and 2022 alone, the number of TRR-purchased items re-sold through the platform increased by 43 percent.

Gen Z and millennials form 41 percent of TRR’s consumer base, though the former bought more items over the past year. Millennials still represent the the company’s No. 1 cohort, however, accounting for the largest number of buyers and sellers on the platform.

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European luxury dominates

Though marquee European luxury labels continue to draw customers, certain brands are rising and falling in favor. Gucci climbed to the top of the chart this year with year-on-year demand rising 24 percent and its ’70s-era-logoed Blondie bag driving interest. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Dior, Saint Laurent, Hermes, Fendi, Burberry and Balenciaga round out the top 10.

“It’s no surprise to see Christian Dior and Balenciaga are our most notable list shifters this year,” Sasha Skoda, senior director of women’s and fine jewelry, said. Gen Z powered the popularity of Balenciaga, which saw the largest growth in demand (41 percent) of all top 10 brands.

“Balenciaga brought on Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian as ambassadors, creating widespread appeal and bringing the brand back into the top 10 list,” Skoda said. Kardashian has recently worn the brand to a number of high-profile events, from her head-to-toe hot-pink ensemble at her opening monologue for Saturday Night Live in October 2021, to a caution tape-themed look at Paris Fashion Week in March.

Kim Kardashian departing the Balenciaga Fall Winter 2022 fashion show in Paris in July.
Kim Kardashian departing the Balenciaga Fall Winter 2022 fashion show in Paris in July 2022. The RealReal credits the celebrity’s ambassadorship for the luxury label’s skyrocketing sales. Sipa via AP Images

Tapping into the rise of Y2K-era fashion, shoppers are grappling for the logo-free motorcycle handbag that was “the It-Bag of the early 2000s,” Skoda said. Balenciaga handbag sales more than doubled since last year, while sunglasses grew by 42 percent, women’s leather jackets jumped 37 percent, and men’s leather jackets surged 186 percent, she added.

Since making the top 10 list for the first time in 2019, Dior has unseated Hermes and Celine and settled among the top five. Dior’s Lady Dior bag, made popular by Princess Diana in the ‘90s, has surged in demand among all age groups, Skoda said. Collaborations with streetwear labels like Kaws and Stussy helped men’s sales grow 46 percent. “Celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Cardi B have been spotted in John Galliano’s quintessential early aughts designs for Dior, driving the brand to the top 5 spot in just two years,” she added, noting that multiple eras of Dior vintage are seeing strong sell-through.

“Both brands have two common themes: the resurgence of their iconic bags and celebrity appeal,” she said of Dior and Balenciaga.

Shoppers are also driving up interest in homegrown, American designers, from Queens, New York’s Aime Leon Dore (up 116 percent year over year) to Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens’ Telfar brand (up 141 percent). California’s Eli Russell Linnetz’ ERL line of retro-inspired menswear saw 358 percent more sales than last year, while LaQuan Smith (up 203 percent), Gypsy Sport (up 292 percent) and New York’s handcrafted clothier, Bode (up 131 percent) all performed well on TRR.

Consumers buy beyond gender

Meanwhile, gender lines continue to blur. “We’ve seen gender fluid dressing pervade our TRR community more and more,” Alex Tudela, men’s fashion and category expansion lead, said. “With Gen Z-ers and celebrities alike sporting handbags and jewelry regardless of intended gender, their style has influenced men’s customer behavior in these categories.” Male shoppers purchased 33 percent more unbranded necklaces like gold chains and while their brooch purchases rose 15 percent. Bottega Veneta handbags, like the woven leather Cassette crossbody, have seen 12 percent growth among men shopping TRR. Men’s demand for these items has even outpaced women’s, Tudela said.

“This shift not only lends itself to this notion of personal style, but it’s a nod to the collective effort of eradicating gender norms,” he added.