fashion investment pieces

Resale Experts on the Fashion Pieces Worth the Investment

How to think of your clothing in terms of its long-term value.

By: Camille Freestone

The way we shop is changing. We’re now paying more attention to where we spend our hard-earned money and what we buy, especially with the economy in its current state. Bottom line: It needs to provide a return on investment. This return could be financial through the potential of resale; it could be emotional, regarding the joy it brings you. In terms of style, it could prove its longevity by staying relevant season after season. And depending on what you want to spend, this could range from a Rolex to a classic shift dress.

To deduce the smartest purchases of the moment, who better to tap than experts from two major resale companies? Sophie Hersan, fashion director and co-founder of Vestiaire Collective, and Noelle Sciacca, The RealReal’s women’s editorial lead, are a wealth of knowledge, as they have watched both the fashion and resale industry over an extended period of time and know firsthand what has stayed desirable.

Apart from providing the knowledge of which items have the highest resale value, they recognize the fickle nature of trends and the importance of investing in your own pieces—taking care of them to eliminate wear. And while, yes, the major designers à la Gucci, Hermès, etc., always perform well, more accessible labels like Ganni and Paris Texas are becoming a force to be reckoned with, as well.

 

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fashion investment pieces

From your experience, what are pieces that don’t date in terms of style?

Sophie Hersan: “Timeless investment pieces and vintage classics will always remain in style. Iconic designs like a Hermès Birkin, a Cartier Tank Watch, or a perfectly fitted vintage blazer from YSL will forever be fashionable and are worth the money as they hold their value over time.”

Noelle Sciacca: “An elevated tote bag you can take to work, like the Louis Vuitton Neverfull, or even the beach similar to The Row’s canvas tote, is a style that seems to transcend age demographic, decade, and economic climate.”

Financially, which items hold the highest resale value?

SH: “Iconic styles from classic luxury brands have historically always retained their value and in some instances can also increase in value over time. For example, a Hermès Kelly, Birkin, or Constance, and a Louis Vuitton Keepall are a reliable investment. More recently, we’ve seen ‘new luxury’—brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, Prada, Dior and Off-White—holding their resale value, as they’ve become so trendy. Limited-edition pieces are also something to consider. Rarity drives up the price. A one-of-a-kind color or special collection increases the demand and holds interest over time as a collector’s item. A couple of recent examples would be the Louis Vuitton x Murakami collection or the unique Dior Saddle designs released over the past few years.”

NS: “Fine jewelry, watches, and handbags are always smart investments, since they hold strong resale value or even appreciate in value over time. For handbags, brands you can’t go wrong with are Hermès, CHANEL, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. For jewelry and watches, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Rolex are all at the top.”

Which items typically have a slower turnover rate?

SH: “Out-of-season or out-of-trend items tend to sell more slowly. Though, on many occasions, certain pieces come back in style, so it’s good to hold on to items that might not be valuable right now. Most importantly, take good care of your pieces so they don’t lose their value. Always invest in their care—don’t over-wash your clothes, have them repaired by a tailor, and take your leather goods to a professional who can easily make them like new again.”

*As a public company, The RealReal cannot comment on their turnover rate.

 

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fashion investment pieces

Do clothing and accessories typically sell at the same rate? Which category has a higher return?

SH: “Depending on the style and how in-demand a particular model might be, accessories overall sell faster than clothing does, since they’re unsized and less prone to wear. Fine jewelry and handbags are something buyers are always looking to invest in, especially when they’re made to last and well cared for. There are many vintage pieces on Vestiaire Collective that are still in like-new condition after decades of use.”

NS: “Popular clothing silhouettes can change from season to season. It may be 20 years before we see the demand increase for a certain ’60s-style dress. Accessories, specifically small leather goods and silk scarves, have more timeless designs that are coveted consistently, regardless of what’s trending.”

What is the rate of sale of top luxury designers versus smaller, younger brands? Has this changed since you’ve been in business?

SH: “The demand for luxury and designer brands has remained fairly consistent on our platform, although we see these change and evolve over time as some brands grow and wane in popularity. Gucci, specifically, has become one of our best-selling brands on Vestiaire Collective, overtaking many of the other luxury houses. We’ve also noticed that emerging and indie designers have really taken off over the last few years. The rise of social media and better access to consumers has helped to fuel this. We’ve now seen many accessible, contemporary brands like Ganni, Rouje, Wandler, and By Far prove to be extremely popular with our community.”

NS: “The top luxury brands remain our best sellers. Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci are some of the best sellers on our site. As we add new names to our designer directory and continue to increase our emerging designer supply, growth for that category continues to be strong. That being said, we are seeing emerging designers sell well on our site and have seen the overall demand for these newer names increase by 20 percent since last month, with Nanushka, Paris Texas, and Khaite as some of the most coveted.”

Are there certain pieces that you see clients holding on to for long periods of time in their own closets versus those they might keep for only a short period of time, then sell to you?

SH: “Trend-focused pieces tend to be sold over a shorter period of time. Though they sell quite quickly on the resale market, we do see quite a few current-season listings. You just have to be quick to catch them! For example, the Bottega Veneta quilted mules have had quite an Instagram moment and are sold out firsthand, so people see the resale value and like to cash in. Timeless classics are kept much longer.”

NS: “People tend to hold on to their investment pieces for a longer period of time. It could be a timeless investment like a great, classic bag or a splurge-worthy watch, while to others it might be a collector item like a vintage dress or one-of-a-kind piece straight from the runway. These are the pieces that people hold on to longer because they not only retain value over time, but also are the most meaningful to the customer. We see that people keep the items from the more ‘in-the-moment’ industry trends for a shorter period of time. Trends are constantly changing, so we see consignors coming to us to consign these items after they’ve worn it for the season so they can reinvest in next season’s trends.”

 

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How have your sales shifted since the pandemic hit? Which items have sold better, and which have lost traction?

SH: “We’ve noticed a lot of our members using the extra time at home to clean out their closets. Our number of new listings increased by 88 percent in May compared to the year before. In light of this, we recently launched our new direct shipping service in the US! For all items under $500, buyers can opt out of physical quality control and authentication and receive their purchase directly from the seller. We’re also offering free shipping on this service, which saves buyers an average of $20, reduces delivery times by nearly 40 percent, and cuts down on shipping-related carbon emissions. We’ve responded to our members who are especially interested in this accessible price range right now and who want to save time and money on their orders during the pandemic. Orders at this price range have increased 119 percent since last year. Otherwise, we’ve seen sales on all categories remain stable, but comfortable loungewear and stable investment pieces have proven particularly popular.”

NS: “The demand for investment handbags hasn’t faltered since the pandemic hit. We’ve seen a 20 percent month-over-month increase in demand for high-value handbags. People are becoming more conscious of how they consume and are gravitating toward classic investment pieces in case they want to consign the handbag in the future. Demand for women’s vintage handbags and clothing has also held particularly strong. In May we saw a 50 percent spike in demand for women’s vintage compared to the same time last year. In years past, we’ve typically seen stronger demand for cocktail dresses, given the summer wedding season and other seasonal events. We’re seeing demand for cocktail dresses down, but demand for casual dresses is up 65 percent year over year.”

Do the patterns of sales ever surprise you?

SH: “Our members are quite savvy and very attuned to trends and news in the industry. For example, after Raf Simons joined Prada, we saw a 1,289 percent increase in searches for Prada the following day. Similarly, we tend to see dramatic increases in searches for brands and designs after celebrities wear certain pieces. Marine Serre is a great example. Her iconic moon design is hard to keep in stock because trendsetters like Kylie Jenner have posted it so much on Instagram.”

NS: “There are many factors that can affect demand and sales on the secondary market, so it’s hard to make predictions on patterns of sales. Trends can have a major impact on demand for resale as well as designer shakeups (for example, when news that Phoebe Philo was leaving Celine, [searches] went up 30 percent on our site) and notable moments in pop culture. All of these factors can create demand on the secondary market, therefore impacting resale prices and sales on our site.”

What would you recommend as three pieces of clothing/accessories to purchase that you will keep forever?

SH: “I love classic designs and an edited wardrobe, so my top three choices right now would be a Rolex Lady Datejust, a vintage Yves Saint Laurent smoking jacket, and a Cartier Juste Un Clou ring.”

NS: “Three smart investment pieces you can love and wear forever are a cashmere sweater in a neutral color, a luxe leather tote bag, and a delicate gold necklace.”

 

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