How luxury brands and consumers can drive the circular economy
How Luxury Fashion is Embracing Sustainability and Circularity
By Ranji Mangcu
As contemporary fashion audiences continue to develop the vocabulary and nuance of sustainable fashion, it only makes sense that the fashion economy evolves in turn. Thinking about clothing as an investment – economic or cultural – has become a key point in conceptualising the future of fashion and how we might act responsibly in keeping this essential economy alive.
New York Times fashion editor, Vanessa Friedman writes:
“Our closets are a problem each of us can solve. By teaching yourself to think about each garment you buy. To choose for the long-term.”
Fittingly, this quote is on the opening page of German fashion journalist and curator Brenda Weischer’s online archive, “Disruptive Berlin”.
Founded in 2020, this platform presents meticulously curated, password-protected monthly releases. Advocating for a slower, more conscious approach to fashion, its existence signifies that fashion’s renewed focus on slowness, circularity and longevity has given way to more cerebral, investment-oriented approaches to fashion, roping the luxury sector into the sustainable fashion conversation.
Fashion journalists and critics, Vanessa Friedman and Brenda Weischer. PICTURES: Creative Commons and Brenda Weischer SnapChat.
The luxury sector is growing more deliberate than ever in sustainable and ethical practice, with major companies positioning themselves within the conversation by writing purpose-driven practice into their missions. In making progressive changes to their thought and operations, they align themselves with the expectations of Millennials and Gen-Z – a burgeoning market whose consumer values challenge tradition and status quo.
Circularity in the luxury economy is also currently being driven by a secondary marketplace made fashionable by Tik Tok and Instagram.
Once burdened with stigma, present-day luxury resale signifies an exciting shift in the cultural economy of luxury fashion, in which youthful values emerge as a stakeholder.
What Is Luxury Resale?
The emergence of secure and reputable online platforms in the secondary luxury marketplace, such as Vestiaire Collective, FarFetch, and South Africa's Luxity, has transformed the way the digitally fluent interact with luxury fashion.
These platforms have made luxury more accessible and secure, moving away from the shady alleyway reputation that the secondary market once had.
While the demand for pre-owned luxury is better established in the Northern Hemisphere, South Africa has witnessed a gradual solidification of interest in the last five years.
Luxity, along with a network of vintage stores, has contributed to the rise of luxury resale in South Africa, aligning it with the global conversation around sustainable fashion futures. This conversation emphasises circularity, slowness, and community-driven approaches to upcycling and thrifting.
What Is the Appeal?
The appeal of the secondary luxury market to African Millennials and Gen Z stems from a desire for purpose-driven and transparent fashion practices. Balancing a TikTok-driven consumer culture with a consciousness of sustainable fashion, the youth market in Africa faces economic challenges but still engages with archive fashion in a curious and research-driven manner.
Many young individuals have grown disillusioned with the fast-fashion trend cycle and instead seek connoisseurship and care in their fashion investments.
We’ve adopted a spirit of connoisseurship and care when it comes to the investments we make, asking ourselves and our friends: “Will it add value to my life, or is it a micro-trend?” before we buy things.
Investing in archival luxury offers a substantial story and artistic philosophy to engage with, making it attractive to this demographic.
Secondhand luxury items provide access to the archives of renowned fashion houses at lower price points, allowing for a deeper cultural investment in designer fashion. Unlike fast fashion, luxury items appreciate in value over time and hold cultural significance, transcending the novelty of trends.
Engaging with archival luxury goes beyond updating one's wardrobe; it becomes a monetary investment in a designer's body of work, including their aesthetic philosophy and relevance in fashion history.
@thejessxu most insane thrift find ever @2ndstreetusainc !!! mention me at any location for $$$ off <3 #thriftfinds #viviennewestwood #vintageviviennewestwood ♬ original sound - JESS XU
This shift in mindset represents a generational change where the social currency of luxury is now more about the knowledge and understanding of one's investment.
Boasting a more curatorial, collector’s engagement with fashion, it relies on thinking beyond status symbolism, and aligning oneself with the cultural, contextual and philosophical value of a piece.
This is a fundamental generational shift – the social currency of luxury is now more so about what you know about your investment, above and beyond just owning it.