Leave it to the fashion world to take a concept such as sustainability, and twist and turn it till you no longer know what you are doing or how you are impacting the environment; which often times leaves you frozen in your tracks, unable to decipher the relatively basic principle of recycle, reduce, reuse. I prefer to call it, ‘do no harm’ to Mother Earth. Which boils down to using Mother Earth’s resources as sparsely as possible, and when we do need to use them, to do so respectfully.
In terms of fashion though what does that actually translate to? Either purchasing garments that have the lowest carbon footprint, so ideally items that are local and are created using respectful practices, be it to nature or to the human race. Alternatively purchasing items that have been preloved and the third option is to continue to use items for longer periods of time, which means they have to be made well.
The topic of our conversation today is that of pre-loved items. With the rise and rise of sustainability the world of pre-loved items has taken on a life it its own, growing exponentially in the past decade or so. With this growth, we have become exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly! This is what you need to know.
1 || It’s All Good
The world of reducing and reusing, ie. preloved goods is vast, and contains many levels. There are inexpensive items from fast fashion stores such as Zara and Massimo Dutti. It’s actually great if these items get a second life, effectively reducing their impacting on the environment, simply because we are assuming that for every second-hand Zara item you purchase, you are not buying a new one! There is also the world of luxury goods, beautifully made bags and shoes worn a handful of times, and resold to make room for new items in the wardrobe. Then there is of course the world of vintage, which is a world unto itself.
2 || The Terminology Counts
When it comes to wording, it matters.. As mentioned above, any form of recycling or reusing is honorable, but it’s worth knowing what is what. There are three basic categories: Preloved, Luxury Preloved and Vintage stores. As with regular boutiques that house garments and accessories, it is normal to expect that similar items be housed in the same boutique. If your store is selling preloved Zara items at $15 a pop, it would be wise to not purchase a Chanel item from there. Simply because specialization is a good thing, and when people attempt to be everything to everyone, something is always compromised.
3 || The PreLoved Store
When we say store we mean both e-commerce and brick and mortar obviously. As established above, a preloved store houses mid-range clothing, accessories, watches, sunglasses etc. From Zara and Karen Millen to MK by Michael Kors, if these items are in good condition you may be able to benefit greatly from the pieces purchased as their resale value is generally very affordable, this is because they are not valuable. For something to be valuable, it needs to be either a luxury item or a rare item that is hard to find. The Zara top you pick up from the pre-loved store doesn’t fall into either category so it’s conveniently affordable. If you eye a limited edition H&M x Lanvin piece, you will certainly be expected to pay top dollar for it, because although it is not a luxury item, it is certainly hard to come by.
Like with many things in life, it’s the little things that tell the greatest secrets. Make sure that the store you visit is tidy, the items all clean and pressed and displayed professionally, and that the items are not stained or damaged in anyway. The quality of the items on display say a lot about the store, so keep an eye out for any tell-tale signs.
I also believe in specialization, if your store is housing both Zara and Chanel then that may raise eyebrows, not because it’s wrong just confusing.. When considering a luxury item most people would rather purchase them from a luxury preloved store.
4 || The Luxury Pre-loved Store
The luxury resale market has become so important that the luxury brands themselves have decided to get involved. Top-notch luxury resale site TheRealReal https://www.therealreal.com/ now houses in-store collaborations with Gucci and Stella McCartney amongst others, which means that the mega brands provide product for the resale site. Initially, the resale site procured items from individuals now they have access to the luxury brands themselves which ups the game tremendously!
Luxury pre-loved stores, selling brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel etc understand the importance of presentability, spending top dollar on the store itself if brick and mortar, and on the effectiveness of the site if virtual. Stepping into The Real Real’s Soho pop up and it is hard to believe that the items are actually pre-loved. The same is true of a fabulous store in Beirut Souks called Chic Beirut . A tiny store filled to the brim with the highest quality luxury items you could ever find. Their credibility is so pristine that they are able to sell handbags worth thousands of dollars to overseas customers through Instagram. The customer not seeing the item till after they have paid and the item shipped.
So how do you know it’s real? Well it has a lot to do with the store’s credibility and reputation. The counterfeit world has become so good that a Chanel bag with a serial number does not make for an authentic bag, it needs to smell right and it needs to be the right weight and only an expert can tell. I had a personal experience at the beginning of the year, while vacationing in Prague (a distant memory) I came across the most divine pre-loved store. Sitting on a shelf was a black Goyard Saint Louis tote, and I swear my first question was, ‘why is this still here?’ The store manager convinced me that it has come in only a few days earlier and than the woman that sent it in was a great customer, so I bought it at market value, as I would at the Goyard store, as this bag, if in good condition hardly depreciates. Once I got back to the hotel I started to compare it to my Goyard purchased from the Goyard boutique a year or two ago. There were differences but I put it down to changes made by the company to confuse the counterfeit industry. Once in Amman, I finally came to terms with the act that it was indeed FAKE!! When I checked their IG account I realized that the bag had been sitting at the store for 3 months not three days! Thankful the store owner happily gave me back my money in return for the bag which I shipped back. I should have listened to my instinct when it asked, ‘why is it still here’? The moral of the story is, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Excellent condition Goyards are almost impossible to come by..
5 || Vintage Stores
Vintage items are those that are over 20 years old, or are simply very hard to find.. These stores have a very different feel to the above because people actually go to these stores in search of an old treasure, so in this case old is a good thing.. You know the kind, you walk into a heavily cluttered store, with bad lighting. You turn the corner and you find the most fabulous ostrich leather Hermes Kelly that you probably can’t afford in a glass case, ‘only 40 in the world’ the store keeper tells you.
What is important to note is that in these cases, authenticity is important and no matter how sweet the shop owner is, is there is no documentation backing his or her claim, it is not a good idea.