In the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people made the switch to a slower, sustainable way of living, Ahmedabad-based sustainable fashion curator Virja Shah was decluttering her wardrobe.
“The pandemic gave me time to cleanse my space and this is when I realised how much unused stuff, such as apparel and accessories, I had hoarded over the years,” says Virja. Realising that the the products could get a new life, she launched pre-loved by Virja in early 2020. While she sold over 300 outfits of hers in the first year, when clients and friends expressed interest in reselling their items, she expanded.
“It was tricky to extend the curation as I did not want to lose the aesthetics along the way and make the initiative commercial, so I made a selection through pictures sent by clients. The curation has all high-end loved Indian designers including Pero, Eka, Bodice, among others,” says Virja, whose biggest markets are Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Turns out, Virja wasn’t the only one on a journey towards rehoming designer wear. Several initiatives have taken root in the lockdown years, and the trend is here to stay. The 2022 annual resale report by online store Thredup and retail analytics firm GlobalData states that ‘secondhand is becoming a global phenomenon’, with the pre-loved fashion segment in particular expected to grow 127% by 2026, and 3X faster than the global apparel market overall.
The latest brand to join the bandwagon is Revivify, a pre-loved Indian designer wear platform retailing apparel with labels such as Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi, Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, among others. Founder Aashni Shah says post-lockdown, the stigma attached to luxury resale is fading out with shoppers “showing an evolved allegiance to responsible shopping and affordability”. “Revivify aims to lead the conversation on designer resale, in order to evolve the space into a more consolidated ecosystem.” A Shyamal and Bhumika outfit that originally cost ₹1,16,100 was sold for ₹56,330, and an Anita Dongre lehenga worth ₹3,04,000 was rehomed for ₹1,71,000.
The vintage closet
Anuradha says this consumer shift has given rise to a new wave of start-ups, including resale platforms, that cater to the sustainable fashion segment. “New technologies, including social marketplaces, give consumers the tools to make money, extend the lifespan of their clothing, and connect with one another,” she says.
At Poshmark, the e-commerce marketplace that launched in India mid-pandemic i:e September 2021, there is a surge in orders for designer bags and accessories during the holiday season. Anuradha Balasubramanian, General Manager - India, says traditional silk sarees, sherwanis, and lehengas are sought-after during the festive and wedding season, and jackets, boots, and shoes are highly searched and shopped items during the winter months.
“Poshmark’s most popular high-street brands in India include Zara, H&M, SHEIN, Forever 21, Nike, Adidas, and Levi’s. We are seeing the maximum footfall from metros, and key states are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi-NCR, and Karnataka,” she says, adding that approx. 73% of Poshmark’s users from the gen-Z and millennial segment, falling between the age group of 25-34.
Battling the stigma
As festivals and weddings are usually associated with wearing new clothes, how are these players tackling this typically Indian mindset? Anuradha says India has a history of thrifting and resale, and Passing pdown traditional pieces of fashion over generations is a behavioural norm.
“Earlier, saree sellers would go around villages with a basket of silk sarees in localities, and women would exchange a saree from their kitty for one in the basket. The barter would continue, and everyone would benefit,” she says, adding that Indian shoppers today are a lot more value conscious and mindful of their consumption, especially post-lockdown.
While Sruti Ashok, founder of Chennai-based Relove Closet, is witnessing an overall rise and acceptance of the pre-loved fashion market, she says “we still have a long way to go before buying second-hand becomes normalised as there still are a lot of stigmas associated with the concept in India.” She retails pieces ranging from a discount from the retail price starting at 30% off - 85% off for luxury brands especially, and the most popular categories on her platform comprise clothing, followed by bags, jewellery, and beauty products.
Launched in April 2020, Shruti sees there is still a tendency with the majority of consumers “wanting a brand new item instead of choosing a pre-loved piece that is kinder to your wallet and the planet”. She adds, “Last year, we sold an Anamika Khanna and Sabyasachi suit and also from our luxury bag collection, we sold the Gucci Jackie 1961 small bag and the Celine bag. During the start of this year, we sold a limited edition Gucci bag which was brand new, and the Ekaya sets, to name a few.”
They would have roughly sold anywhere between 30-85% off the original retail price, and they get plenty of pieces with the tags still on or even just worn once, says Sruti. “The Louis Vuitton Monogram Leather Artsy MM Bag with an estimated MRP of ₹2,60,000 has a selling price of ₹94,950, and the never-worn Ekaya Set priced between ₹45-55,000 has a selling price of ₹17,000.”
Process and checks
As long as purchasing from an authentic and trusted platform where each item is immaculately quality checked and dry cleaned, you are practically purchasing items that are as good as new for possibly half the price and in the bargain, help the environment, says Aashni. “Once you are done with the item, resell it if you wish to! It’s a total win-win.”
Making a case for pre-loved fashion, Anuradha says these pieces of clothing are a discounted alternative to first-hand designer. “Both sellers and shoppers can use our ‘send offer’ feature to negotiate a lower price thereby contributing to an even larger discount. There are also other features like Bundles where buyers can buy multiple items from one seller and get further discounts.”