Sustainability is the challenge each company is facing today especially in the fashion industry, being the latter one of the most polluting worldwide. Luxury brands are in principle better equipped to address this challenge as they have always aimed at offering durable pieces, whose superior price is justified by superior quality that guarantees their value in time, making them literally timeless. However, to keep up with the needs of current customers, who require continuous innovation to share into the social landscape, some luxury brands have started to speed up their business models, by shortening their cycles and dropping more often new collections.
Still, considering the increasing awareness towards sustainability of environmental conscious consumers, it is no surprise that some trends and patterns have started to develop so as to satisfy customers’ sense of novelty without compromising companies’ sustainability. Such trends are linked to the idea of circular economy or as I like to call it, circular creativity, which allows for a greater use of existing products and a decrease in waste, with the aim of slowing down the production and consumption pace.
In their continuous search for distinction through unique products, responsible customers have begun to rediscover the exclusive value of vintage products. Such products in fact are characterised by the scarcity of availability in the market, and such uniqueness has definitely contributed to increase their attraction power. Thanks, also to the development of fashion marketplaces and luxury second-hand selling and buying platforms, pre-owned – also often labelled as pre-loved – items are flourishing and finding new legitimization within the luxury world alimenting a business which according to BCG is expected to count between 10 and 20% on the overall luxury market by 2030. Buying a vintage piece is no longer just a way to save money but also a more socially accepted mean to avoid unnecessary waste while enhancing the potential for a recognised product differentiation. This spontaneous consumer trend has pushed some luxury companies to invest in and even acquire independent second-hand platforms in order to systematically monitor the phenomenon and have a full picture of their own customers. Currently one of the most – if not the most – popular and used app for luxury second-hand clothing and accessories is with no doubt Vestiarie Collective. Founded in France in 2009, the vintage app has recently communicated to have raised 178 million euros, becoming the 11th French “unicorn”.
A second interesting answer to environmental overexploitation, comes from applying the “pay-per-use” concept – which is widely spread and characterised our daily consumption – to the luxury fashion world thanks to rentals. Satisfaction especially for millennials and Gen Z consumers more and more often comes from a real time posting on social medias to show their life to their followers. This translates into always having something new to share, which in turn has changed the approach that such customers have towards luxury clothing and accessories: they do not necessarily need to own them, they just want to access and use them when desired. For this reason, rental has become a new viable business model also for luxury companies. Moreover, through rental, luxury brands are able to expand their audience, by making it more accessible, and allowing also people who would generally not be a customer of luxury brands, to experience and familiarize with the products. Studies have shown that such an effect has allowed in the long run the creation of a stronger brand loyalty. Furthermore, renting luxury items does not affect the perception of status that each customer feels when displaying them, especially when consumers already own some similarly positioned items. For this reason, environmentally conscious consumers have started to buy luxury iconic timeless pieces while opting for rental for short-term trends.
Instagram influencers and content creators such as Valentina Ferragni, have openly supported luxury rental and have shown their personally rented items for “big events”. In particular, “Revest” and “ Rent the Runaway” are two of the most well-known and most used luxury rental websites.
If on the one hand, it is true that younger generations are intrigued by the idea of experience luxury goods, on the other hand it is also true that permanently owning them will never not be attractive. So, what can be done when our luxury items are old and damaged? What is the alternative to leaving them at the bottom of our wardrobes? In one word, repair (the last of the “3Rs triad”), an action aimed at increasing the life of an existing item. A growing number of luxury brands that are committed to ensuring the longevity of their items, have in fact opened up a “repair” department within their facilities, allowing customers to bring their ruined goods that need to be brought back to life. The idea behind it is the old expression that a well repaired item can be as “good as new” and, considering that a luxury item by definition is supposed to be timeless, this initiative can be seen as a sort of lifetime guarantee for the clients. Among the repair pioneers, a notable mention must be given to Brunello Cucinelli who, through the years, has performed such services for free. Evident is also the effort of Hermès whose repair policy is to examine every product, no matter the size, the age or the level of damage.