One of the first luxury brands to broach resale, Oscar de la Renta has partnered with Archive to launch on its web site a resale experience for clients. “It’s a very interesting initiative,” said Alexander Bolen, CEO of the brand. “We’ve already been learning a lot. For years, customers said, ‘I found this little black dress in my mother’s closet and I wore it.’ During the Covid-19 pandemic, we started to see some acceleration of customers’ shopping their closets.”
Bolen said there was never a question of launching resale in-house rather than partnering with a platform such as The RealReal or Fashionphile. “There’s been a proliferation of third party resale sites,” Bolen said. “We’re not entirely happy with the way our brand is presented on those sites. Forget about counterfeiting, there’s at least some misidentification of products. We decided that if we’re going to do it right, we ought to do it ourselves.”
Called Encore by Oscar de la Renta, the resale experience is powered by Archive, which offers a complete operating system for brands to power their own second-hand programs in a resource and capital-light way. Through each customized resale marketplace, consumers can buy and sell secondhand items directly from their own e-commerce sites and alongside new inventory, reflecting the integrated shopping experience of the future.
“Encore’s technology solution is on point with the way we want to approach the business,” Bolen said. “It’s just another offering for our customers. We’ve already had a lot of crossover, with customers that have come in through Encore and ultimately shopped full price, and vice versa. Resale will be the key to customer acquisition and retention for the near term. It’s going to be a great way to reengage lapsed customers whether it’s consigning product or buying product.
“We’ve had some challenging discussions with some of the third party resale sites,” Bolen added. “We want to make sure that our customers have an experience in resale that’s commensurate with full price, whether it’s a digital experience or brick and mortar experience. We’re excited about Archive because it allows us to focus on what we think we’re good at – the front end and working with customers. Archive takes care of all the complicated back of house payments with resale, which is different than current product.”
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Bolen said the sustainable aspect of resale appeals to clients who are concerned about the environment. “Resale and circularity are important in the fashion world right now,” he said. “If resale is successful, it really changes the way people look at luxury fashion. Right now, we’re a consumable or disposable product, but if there’s demonstrated resale value, it becomes an investment and becomes an asset. Resale allows us to have a bigger conversation with our customers.”
Encore by Oscar de la Renta showcases fashion from the Sixties to as recently as two years ago. “We’ll continue to have that mix and we’re experimenting with some fine jewelry from jewelry dealers we work with,” Bolen said.
But sourcing the fashion has been a challenge. “We decided to ask our key retail sales associates to approach long-time customers and ask them if they want to participate and consign to Encore,” Bolen said. “To our great surprise, most of them said, ‘No, I’d just like to keep my clothes.’”
Encore introduced a charitable component, which encouraged clients to consign. “The option for customers to make a donation sort of changed the perspective,” Bolen said. “We’ve started to hear from more customers as they’ve learned about this option.”
Bolen said it’s critical to position resale and full price side by side. “This is all about our brand,” he said. “Encore demonstrates that there’s residual value in Oscar de la Renta fashion. We always thought that was the case, because people keep their clothes for so long. We can demonstrate that now it has actual value that can be monetized, or turned into store credit or a charitable donation. It gives people more confidence in buying current Oscar de la Renta products.”
The fashion house dresses celebrities for red carpet events and Bolen wants to auction the gowns worn by actresses and influencers, donating the money to the charity of their choice. “We’ll bring immediacy in the form of an auction,” he said. “It’s all about getting customers to engage. The team at Archive is very willing to come up with compelling solutions.”
According to Bolen, Oscar de la Renta’s timeless styles lend themselves to resale. “When you buy an Oscar de la Rental garment, because our aesthetic is very timeless – yes, it varies from season to season – this confirms that it’s an asset, not a consumable. That’s one of the key issues for me. It’s not a perfect analogy, but the way BMW and Mercedes are involved in the preowned car market, for similar reasons, we want to be involved in resale. It’s an important part of our brand and allows us to talk to even more customers.”
So far, Encore is resonating with a diverse audience. “As we entered into this, we thought Gen Z would be our principal audience,” Bolen said. “It’s been all over the map. There have been Gen Z clients, and buyers and sellers who have been more traditional, long term Oscar de la Renta customers.”