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Inside Beat

Old is new: Looking at recommerce in the fashion industry

Given climate change, there has been a recent increase in shopping conciously and sustainably, which involves the idea of recommerce.  – Photo by SPCA Thrift Shop / Flickr

In fashion, the common saying is "out with the old, in with the new." Yet, with the rise of recommerce sites and interest in sustainable clothing, the old has become the new.

Recommerce is the idea of reselling non-current products, often in good to fairly decent conditions, back to the consumer. Reverse commerce, or in short "recommerce," is also the new wave in the fashion industry according to Vogue India. More and more consumers are looking at pre-owned clothes to save costs, be sustainable and stay on-trend. 

Leading the way for recommerce in the fashion industry is the luxury consignment store TheRealReal, as it has made a recent announcement to partner with the Italian brand, Gucci. Gucci’s partnership with TheRealReal is a tipping point in the fashion industry as a recognizable brand, commonly known by millennials for its double "G" belt, publicly announcing that the old can be new. 

In the partnership between the brands, Gucci and TheRealReal have taken an environmental cause for their campaign. When consumers either consign or shop pre-owned Gucci products from ThRealReal, Gucci will donate to the One Tree Planted foundation.

The same day that Gucci and TheRealReal announce their partnership, Levi’s, an American jean brand, simultaneously gave the news of its company launching its own recommerce site, Levi's SecondHand. In Levi’s recommerce website, the brand sells used denim pants and jackets that are handpicked vintage pieces by Levi’s or products given from consumers. 

Levi’s recommerce site is new, yet it proves to consumers to give back pre-own items in return for a gift card, in which the value depends on the age and condition of the item.

Even if the idea of recommerce begins to rise during this new decade of the 2020s, it's essential to understand that there is a key difference between selling exclusively vintage clothing. 

The conversation of how much time does an item takes to become "vintage" is a constant debate — some consider 50 years to be vintage while others see 10 years. For the sake of a common definition, a decade-old gives enough time for an item to be called "vintage," given the fact that the item was able to age for 10 years or more and past a generation.

In luxury fashion, the more age an item has, the more it has value. This, of course, does not happen to all clothing but is common knowledge in that a vintage Gucci dress can either be the same price as a current Gucci dress or more. 

The price of vintage clothing all comes down to the discrepancy of the seller. 

Recommerce can sell "vintage" pieces, but one should be aware that not all recommerce items are vintage as a consumer. Pre-owned is a key term in recommerce. One is not buying new clothes but pre-owned that might be a decade old or a year old. 

In no way is buying items that are not "vintage" or "new" necessary bad, but the consumer’s role is to be well-versed in shopping on recommerce sites. Be a smart shopper.  

The upside of recommerce is sustainability – how clothes receive a second life. Some clothes can take a millennium for its fibers to decompose, yet recommerce skips this step in clothes life. In many ways, recommerce fashion is combatting the fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M due to the constant pollution and inhumane labor.  

Recommerce challenges consumers not always to wear what is new but to be eco-friendly and environmentally cautious.  

Sustainability has slowly been a central motive of the fashion industry, and the industry has taken a few steps. Either with Vogue UK putting Taylor Swift on its 2019 January cover with a vintage Chanel, to Zendaya wearing a '90s Versace dress to the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, the perception of wearing pre-owned clothes is now different. 

Recommerce, in some capacity, is also a result of a massive pop culture trend of the 2010 — where nostalgia reign supreme for previous decades, according to Esquire. Many looked to the 1990s for trends and inspiration — currently, the '80s theme of color and shape seems to re-enter fashion. 

Somehow, everyone wanted to appear like a '90s sitcom actress or feel like a high school student from a 1995 romantic comedy based on a Jane Austen novel. 

Without the craze of nostalgia, recommerce might be the current force it is in the fashion industry. 

So bring your re-sell your old Levi’s and go consign that old Gucci sunglasses because the old is in.


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