Jun 22, 2021
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Vestiaire Collective on encouraging sustainability in resale

Jun 22, 2021

Vestiaire Collective has appointed Vanessa Masliah as vice president of marketing and branding; her role is to focus on, among other things, the second-hand platform's goals in terms of fashion, sustainability, and technology. Nearly three months into her new position, Vanessa Masliah tells us more about her vision, as well as the levers that need to be activated to help make the fashion industry more sustainable.

Can you tell us about your new role at Vestiaire Collective? 
My objective is to define Vestiaire Collective's global marketing and branding vision to engage fashion activists, using innovative marketing channels and strategies to deliver its mission to transform the fashion industry for a more sustainable future. This is a very exciting challenge to try to bring together the best of both worlds and transform an e-commerce platform while highlighting its fashion, sustainable, and tech DNA. This new challenge is both a continuity and a turning point in my career. A continuity because for almost 20 years, I have had the privilege of building or relaunching inspiring luxury brands. And is it also a real turning point because working for an innovative digital pure player, a very agile unicorn, is very different from the large corporations I have known.

How did 'fashion activists' become such an important target demographic?
Fashion Activists are our employees, our growing community of buyers & sellers, our current and future brand partners, NGOs, and everyone else who engages with us on our journey, united in a collective for change that we are creating. They are very important for educating each of us. It starts with simple actions that are accessible to everyone: prefer second-hand when possible, order locally sourced items, don't throw away pieces that you no longer wear but [rather] resell or donate them. And everyone can be an "activist" in their way, the most important [thing] is to start contributing at your scale.  

What levers do you plan to use to win them over?
To help [promote] these good practices we have launched the Fashion Activist badge on the platform. We created the Fashion Activist badge to encourage our community of users to enter the full new circular consumption paradigm by being both sellers and buyers. We have integrated a flag to indicate the user's region, and the next step will be to better explain the positive impact of buying and selling second-hand all along the customer journey, to inspire and encourage our users. 

While second-hand is generally considered a responsible alternative, some voices are beginning to speak of a new way of over-consuming, or even another kind of fast-fashion. What do you think about that?  
This is clearly a wrong debate; the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries, and even if our business model is not free of impact this is clearly part of the solution, through a product or service that preserves, conserves, or restores the environment or resources. We are fighting against overconsumption and untapped potential. Our study with the Boston Consulting Group explains the positive impact of the second-hand business model. [One aspect is] "The Upscale Effect" [with] 85% of preowned buyers participating in reducing overconsumption by trading up fast fashion to fewer, better-quality items. [There is also] the "Durability Boost" with 70% of fashion consumers being encouraged to take greater care of their items thanks to the existence of a liquid second-hand market. At Vestiaire Collective, we promote extending the life of clothes; we are building a radically new way of creating value in the fashion industry, circulating existing items and not producing anything. We're responding to two major issues of the fashion industry -- overproduction and under-utilization. We also suggest to our community to buy less, buy better, wear more and sell more.

In the long term, will second-hand platforms also have to commit to carrying sustainable fashion only (or to banning unsustainable pieces)?
The debate is not just on sustainable brands as they are defined right now (eg, focusing on upward production) but rather on durability. We need to define, at industry level, what pieces are physically and emotionally built to last, and then focus on selling these quality items that are worth producing and circulating -- built to have a long timespan and several potential users -- [in order] to progressively move away, as brands and consumers, from throwaway fashion.

What can be done to ensure that more responsible second-hand goods start taking the forefront today?
Once again, we know our model is not free of impact, and we are looking closely at ...how we can reduce transport, packaging, and our digital footprint, by for instance simplifying the app and web architecture. It's also about influencing consumer behavior ... to avoid the overconsumption effect -- for instance encouraging the idea of "one in, one out" and keeping clothing in circulation -- getting our message to "buy less buy better" out there as well as to buy locally. Then, by offering a new business model to luxury houses, as collaborating with the pre-owned market can secure a number of benefits including the ability to connect with their customer through an innovative strategy. 

The online sphere is also a major part of the future of fashion. How can we ensure that e-commerce consumers benefit from all the services offered in shops?
Personalization is one of our goals: discoverability and findability are playing a bigger and bigger role. When you're shopping for second-hand fashion, it's all about individual pieces, so we want to show you only the items that are relevant to you. We think there's a tremendous opportunity to connect the right buyer with the right product at the right time in the product's life cycle. It's also about creating new features to refine the search process and offer users an experience that mixes luxury and sustainability.

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