Co-founded by Fanny Moizant and Sophie Hersan in 2009, Vestiaire Collective has grown from a start-up conceived in a Paris apartment to a B Corp-certified leading global platform for pre-loved fashion.
SEE ALSO: How online marketplace Piktina is leading fashion recommerce in Vietnam
Vestiaire Collective’s success has uprooted Moizant and her family from Paris to London and Hong Kong as the partners set up offices and warehouses in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and across Europe and the United States, where Vestiaire last year acquired another fashion resale pioneer, Tradesy.
Today, the app sees about 25,000 secondhand fashion items added every day, with members trading in 80 countries. In 2021 French luxury group Kering, which owns fashion houses Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta, acquired a stake in Vestiaire, thrusting the platform to unicorn status and validating its position in the burgeoning resale sector.
The company credits much of its success to its digital and physical authentication process available with every purchase. Vestiaire maintains a team of over 80 authentication experts with backgrounds in luxury, gemology, streetwear, and even auction houses, utilising a mix of human expertise and machine learning-based algorithms to review some 40,000 pieces from over 10,000 brands yearly. Each authenticator must undergo a minimum of 750 hours of preliminary training and an additional 180 hours annually at its own training ground, the Vestiaire Academy.
Following Vestiaire Collective’s recent market expansion to Korea, Retail in Asia speaks with co-founder Fanny Moizant on promoting a circular economy in fashion and raising the bar for resale.
RiA: Can you share a bit about what made you decide to create Vestiaire Collective? What was going on in the world at the time?
Moizant: I decided to start Vestiaire because I couldn’t find the job of my dreams. I needed that job to have a positive impact on the world. I stepped back a bit and tried to look at the industry, and the first thing I saw was it has changed under the influence of fast fashion. My mom was very meticulous about taking care of the few curated pieces she owned. And I saw the opposite in my generation, with overconsumption and overproduction.
At the time we started Vestiaire, people were already becoming more conscious consumers, but when you looked at fashion we were doing the exact opposite – buying too much, and then not wearing what we bought.
We are still fashion lovers at Vestiaire, we love craftsmanship, we just want to slow things down, and recognise that our duty as consumers is to make these beautiful things last for a long time. So we thought, what if we bring fashion lovers together on the same platform? It’s fine not to love something forever, your bodies and tastes might change, but it’s about loving something enough to pass it on to someone else and giving it a longer life.
Secondhand has always existed but we wanted to inject inspiration, make it cool again, and bring trust [to the process]. Trust was the fundamental element for us, especially as we are positioning ourselves among designer luxury pieces.
RiA: What early challenges did you face while launching in Asia?
Moizant: In Hong Kong it was about educating consumers toward secondhand. In Europe and in the US, people were a bit more used to buying vintage. We came here [to Hong Kong] first because we saw organic demand – we saw traffic, a few people selling – which showed us that could be the beginning of a shift in consumers’ mindset here. I had to do a bit of convincing to let people embrace this mentality. But after that we saw a very fast shift, and Covid helped in shifting values to sustainability.
RiA: Is this how you envisioned the future of Vestiaire?
Moizant: To be transparent, if 15 years ago I would have seen in a crystal ball [what Vestiaire would become], I would have been so scared. When you launch a business, and this is my first company – you learn as you go, right? I felt deeply in my stomach that it was the right idea and the right time, but it’s another thing to think, you’re going to be a unicorn, you’re going to be a global company, you’re going to move your family three times all over the world… I never would have expected that, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Learning is an endless journey.
RiA: What were some key milestones?
Moizant: First was understanding early on that fashion has no boundaries. We did not stay local and we went above and beyond France very quickly to expand all over Europe. At the end of the day, our business is a supply business, so the more products you have on the platform, the more buyers you will attract. It’s about the quality and quantity of the supply. If you stay too local, at some point you are narrowing yourself down. The fact that we went to attract a global audience very early on was key for us.
The second thing for us was becoming a B Corp [company] in 2021. That was a very important turning point as then, we could really claim sustainability. Before that, we never talked about ourselves as being sustainable because we did not want to do any form of greenwashing. B Corp gave us a credible stamp.
The latest turning point was starting to work with luxury brands – we signed recently with Gucci, Chloe, McQueen, and this is enabling us also to help the industry shift towards circularity.
RiA: Can you share a bit on the thinking behind expanding to Korea as the next step?
Moizant: We had a long discussion about Korea versus Japan. Japan has a very mature resale market, they have been reselling for many years. [Japan] also has many brick and mortar resale spaces compared to online. On the other hand, Korea’s e-commerce market is bigger than Japan’s. They also have an appetite for fashion. We felt it was the right moment to penetrate Korea first.
RiA: How would you compare the consumption habits across markets? Is there a difference between what your users in Asia are buying compared to the Western markets? The app has a growing base in Hong Kong, where new members rose 208 percent in the last three years.
Moizant: I just returned from Seoul and the fan culture in Korea is through the roof. The fandom is next-level and it’s quite unique. In Hong Kong, what we see are consumers very attracted by high luxury. They are ordering the big guns in fashion, such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and so on, more than anyone else in the world.
In terms of style, the items [being bought in Hong Kong] are more feminine in their choices of colours, sizing. However the top luxury brands are the same across the world. In Korea, they love more local brands, also Lemaire. In Hong Kong, Sacai and Ferragamo were going very strong. The brands’ strengths also reflect the society and consumer base and how they dress up.
RiA: Did you ever consider going into brick and mortar?
Moizant: We’ve always done pop-ups as a way to bring the brand to life and connect with our community. In Hong Kong we have done a collaboration with Joyce and the Mandarin Hotel. In London we had a yearlong popup at Selfridges. Then, Covid hit. We are now going back to bringing Vestiaire in the real world, but we don’t plan on having a physical store long-term.
SEE ALSO: Resale on the rise globally, says new ThredUp report
RiA: What are you focusing on in 2023?
Moizant: There are two things: our international expansion and growing our Asia, especially Korea, markets, while also focusing on the US and maintaining our Europe business. The second thing is our customer service, and how we get better at serving our customers pre- and post-sale.
I am also looking at how we engage our community, and how we can transform the app and the experience so we can be as engaging as, say, Instagram. We want Vestiaire Collective to be simply your daily fashion fix.