Along with the traditional fashion week calendar, what is defined as a new product for that season has hastily changed. Whilst it wasn't that long ago that it felt essential for brands to regularly create pieces in a bid to stay relevant, now alongside upcycling waste materials, they're reselling relics from past seasons as part of a current and sustainable retail strategy. Luxury fashion is tapping into the second-hand market. 

Gucci, as they often are when it comes to innovative changes, were the first luxury house to recognise the value of vintage. Inside the recently launched Gucci Vault – an online concept store that also acts as a showcasing platform for young designers – are vintage pieces handpicked by the Creative Director and the House’s expert archivists that are available to buy. As Alessandro Michelle puts it in the press release, they're one of a kind pieces that evoke inspiration themselves, so why wouldn't the Italian fashion house honour them? "I treated them with love because I looked at them all again, examined them, and they became wonders." Nearly all the pieces have sold out. 

Gucci Vault

Today, Valentino announced the first phase of Valentino Vintage; their latest initiative to promote a circular economy within the brand, where customers will be able to sell their preloved pieces for store credit. Valentino have partnered with specific vintage stores around the globe, including Milanese favourite Madame Pauline Vintage, who will conduct the pricing of the garments. Even before this, Pierpaolo Piccioli referenced yesteryear by including six garments in the SS22 show that were replica's of old collection pieces, the most eye-catching being these poppy gowns from the seventies. From a sustainable viewpoint, it feels unnecessary to remake a piece that is probably still available to buy even if it takes an investigative search online or in a vintage shop to find it, but the nod to past collections still feeling relevant today certainly adds to the idea that we shouldn't be discounting what has been done before. It's a concept that's also been picked up by Jean Paul Gautier, who also today has released a collection inspired by iconic archives garments named Les Punks, a selection of vintage pieces and an archive rental service for unique and iconic JPG pieces.

Audrey Hepburn wearing a Valentino dress for a 1971 April British Vogue cover.

Valentino SS22

But why now? We know that vintage has been on the rise for the last decade, but the pandemic has accelerated that even further. eBay reported that two secondhand fashion items were sold every three seconds between January and July 2020, and that there had been a 404% year-on-year increase in pre-loved sales since 2018. With sustainability becoming more and more of a priority for consumers,
the outdated production methods within the industry are no longer being tolerated, no matter what side of the luxury or high street spectrum your brand may fall on. 

Seeing how luxury brands are tapping into the second hand market is an exciting step towards a more circular industry, but as is the case with any sustainable purchase, the eco-friendly thinking can't just stop at the product at hand. Questions around the carbon footprint caused by shipping, and if their packaging is environmentally safe still need to be asked to avoid greenwashing. But, this also marks a really innovative time for design. For decades, creative ingenuity has only been marked through a new garment; a new collection; or a new idea. Using has-been products and presenting it as something that is needed now flips this old mindset, and proves that the old structures of the industry are starting to be replaced. And with this type of change, anything can happen. 

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