One man’s trash is another man’s treasure - inside the multi-billion euro men’s resale market

If you visit Grailed, the secondhand online men’s fashion marketplace, for $50,000, you can own a Raf Simons MA-1 camouflage bomber jacket, a reversible style with a highlighter orange interior.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure - inside the multi-billion euro men’s resale market
Vestaire Collective is a leading online marketplace for second hand fashion.
Vestaire Collective is a leading online marketplace for second hand fashion.

If you visit Grailed, the secondhand online men’s fashion marketplace, for $50,000, you can own a Raf Simons MA-1 camouflage bomber jacket, a reversible style with a highlighter orange interior.

It’s printed with images of David Bowie, Richy Edwards, a Bauhaus poster, and an article for the missing Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers.

The jacket, from the Belgian designer’s autumn/winter 2001 menswear collection, Riot Riot Riot!, is a cult collectors’ item (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have them).

If you can find one on the internet, it can be sold in excess of €10,000. It’s a testament to the chutzpah and scale of the resale fashion industry.

The resale market is on track to more than double from $24 billion (€22.2bn) in 2019 to $51 billion (€47.2bn) in 2023, according to thredUP and retail analytics firm GlobalData.

It’s a market made up of businesses like Grailed, Vestiaire Collective, Depop, Poshmark, StockX, to name a few. The resale market is different to charity shopping, donating, and thrifting, in that it takes place online, and it consists of a curated selection of well-merchandised or high-end products.

Re-commerce websites offer a directory of hundreds of brands selling products for as low as €50. There are cult brands: Raf Simons, Comme des Garcons, Rick Owens.

But equally, one can find anything from old Zara to Nike and Polo Ralph Lauren.

“The resale market has democratized the luxury market in terms of accessibility of its products,” said Christopher Morency, Editor-at-Large at Highsnobiety, a fashion publication that primarily covers streetwear and youth culture.

On the other side of the coin, resale is a lucrative industry for potential sellers.

Luca Solca, Senior Research Analyst, Global Luxury Goods, at Bernstein compares consumer sentiment to that of buyers in the car market.

“Consumers can buy new products, in the knowledge that they will be able to monetise the residual value of what they have bought and used for some time.” Daniel Walters, 24, started his Depop enterprise in secondary school in Donegal, buying cheap clothes in charity shops (he shares the generational sentiment of “fast fashion is uncool”) and selling them online for a higher price.

Depop is a peer-to-peer social shopping app with a community focus, and an emphasis on vintage over luxury, though luxury goods are still flogged on the site.

Others can sell items they designed themselves or other knick-knacks one could find around the house.

For him, “Depop feels new, wholesome, future-thinking. It’s like when you join Facebook - it’s like ‘wow, this is the future.’”

Walters’ is one of the platform's top-sellers in Ireland. He boasts 18k followers.

Walters sells vintage reconstructions under his own line Sad Sac which emblazons patches of classic superheroes, villains and the occasional Simpsons character on shirts, jackets and jeans. (Last year, Depop facilitated a collaboration between Walters and CAT Footwear as part of their ongoing commitment to supporting entrepreneurship.)

According to a brand representative, the app’s global traffic was up 90% in the first months of the pandemic.

Daniel Walters, 24, started his Depop enterprise in secondary school in Donegal, buying cheap clothes in charity shops and selling them online for a higher price
Daniel Walters, 24, started his Depop enterprise in secondary school in Donegal, buying cheap clothes in charity shops and selling them online for a higher price

In the UK, they have seen consecutive weeks of record-breaking growth in the business, with a 100% increase in items sold year-on-year, a surge in items being listed for sale – 140% increase year-on-year.

Grailed, co-founded in 2013 by Arun Gupta and Jacob Metzger, is a beacon of men’s pre-owned streetwear and luxury avant-garde fashion with brands from Helmut Lang to Raf Simons available to scroll on its pages.

Throughout the years, it carved a place for itself within the fashion and business worlds as a men’s fashion destination.

In 2018, the site closed an investment round of $15 million, led by Index Ventures. In early 2019, it counted 3.7 million users.

Vestiaire Collective, launched in Paris in 2009, operates differently to Grailed in that the products sold there are centrally authenticated by the brand before being shipped and packaged. (Some trusted sellers can opt to complete this step themselves.)

Vestiaire takes commissions ranging from 20 to 40 percent.

With over 9 million members across 90 countries worldwide, the platform sees 60,000 new items submitted by its community of sellers every week. At the heart of this secondhand marketplace that encourages participation in the circular economy is luxury.

Despite the pandemic, resale continued to perform.

“The menswear product category followed a similar pattern to the other categories on the platform, in that we saw the impact of the crisis in the first couple of weeks of the lockdown but then the category rebounded quickly,” said a spokesperson for Vestiaire Collective. Men’s volumes were strong on the year while overall orders in early May was +52% on the February average.

A pair of secondhand Balenciaga trainers can go for a fraction of the price on vestairecollection.com
A pair of secondhand Balenciaga trainers can go for a fraction of the price on vestairecollection.com

However, while some might be sceptical about buying from an upstart, kitchen-table seller, sites like Grailed, Vestiaire Collective verify top sellers. For them, the service is as luxurious as walking into a department store pre-pandemic.

“The notion of consumers not trusting the resale market no longer exists,” said Morency.

“The result of a newly gained trust in the secondary market is that it's now directly competing with the primary luxury goods market.”

Secondhand marketplaces are the new department stores. To younger generations, they are more accessible and attractive.

The offering of vintage is enticing, especially for the sustainably-minded, in the face of the glut of new products pumped onto shop floors each week.

However, according to the thredUP and Global Data report, the resale market attracts almost as many ‘boomers’ (aged 56-65+) as it does ‘millennials’ (aged 25-37). Its appeal is cross-generational.

The resale market is further proof that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

More so, one’s man’s trash is now his treasure too - it’s never been worth more.

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