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Is Resale’s Rise the Beginning of the End for Fast Fashion?

As shoppers get serious about sustainability and more critical of the facts behind fast fashion, they’re increasingly embracing one option for acquiring clothing: resale.

More specifically, many are turning to luxury resale, as the option of buying previously owned, high-end goods has given more consumers access to a designer brand market that otherwise priced them out. And on top of that, shopping resale means they’re contributing to the circular economy, continuing the use of resources (i.e. clothing) that are already out there.

Based on findings from its Luxury Resale Report 2019, resale platform The RealReal said the option is making more consumers turn their backs on fast fashion, where companies like Zara have long captured younger shoppers’ mindshare.

“As sustainability becomes a greater motivator, nearly one-third of our community is shopping The RealReal as a replacement for fast fashion,” said The RealReal COO Rati Levesque.

Brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are capturing the most interest among consumers, coming in as the top two most-searched brands on The RealReal platform.

“Gucci and Louis Vuitton have successfully adapted to the shifting demographics of luxury shoppers with relevant collections from creative directors with fresh points of view,” Levesque explained. “From Gucci’s bold maximalism to Louis Vuitton’s streetwear-influenced designs, both brands feel unique among a crowded field of luxury labels vying to win with millennials.”

Gucci widened its gap in search growth over Chanel by 334 percent, and Louis Vuitton by 227 percent. Among the remaining top 10 most-searched brands, Chanel, Prada, Hermès, Fendi, Christian Dior, Valentino, Christian Louboutin and Balenciaga made the list.

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Millennials, according to the report, are largely fueling resale success for brands like Balenciaga, Dior and Fendi, which saw the greatest increases in demand among the conscious cohort.

But could resale’s rise really bring fast fashion’s popularity to an end?

According to The RealReal, resale already has had a significant impact on the way people shop.

While 93 percent of The RealReal shoppers surveyed for the report still regularly shop department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, 32 percent said they shop The Real Real as a replacement for fast fashion.

Aside from faltering alongside resale, fast fashion has also suffered under sustainability’s rising relevance. As news increasingly emerges about the amount of clothing consumers discard each year and how much of that ends up in landfills, shoppers are giving a second thought to what and how they buy.

As many as 82 percent of customers in the Luxury Resale report ranked sustainability as an important reason why they shop The RealReal. And 56 percent pointed to sustainability as a motivation to consign.

“We’re seeing resale shift people’s shopping habits in the primary market,” The RealReal director of strategic initiatives, Allison Sommer, said. “As shoppers get savvier about how they invest and the impact what they’re buying has on the planet, they’re turning to luxury resale as both a replacement for fast fashion and a barometer of value.”

The trend toward greater individuality and personalized style isn’t hurting resale’s cause either. And that trend has forced brands to design more seasonless looks and encouraged shoppers to dress similarly.

Micro trends, according to The RealReal, have become the new macro trends. Searches for mini bags have surged 544 percent year over year, tie-dye has increased 364 percent, and searches for neon looks are up 358 percent over 2018.

“People are embracing brands and trends from every era to create looks that are uniquely theirs,” the report said. “As trends come back, the women’s resale market reflects the surge in demand as a source for both archival pieces from heritage brands and current collection interpretations from emerging designers.”

In ThredUp’s 2019 Resale Report released in March, the fashion resale site said pre-owned goods are permeating all corners of the market.

“The resale customer is no longer somebody else’s customer, they are everybody’s customer,” ThredUp co-founder and CEO James Reinhart said. “Mass market or luxury, if people can find high-quality product for much less, they’ll choose used. As the line between new and used apparel blurs for consumers, a powerful transformation in retail will unfold.”

With resale growing 21 times faster than the retail apparel market over the past three years, according to ThredUp, the company expects the secondhand apparel market will double in five years, reaching $51 billion in value.