Vintage is more than viable at The RealReal
With more than 24 million members, The RealReal is something of a proxy for the shifting habits and changing desires of luxury consumers.
Iconic Nineties designers are seeing a spike in value, with Gaultier, vintage Prada and Westwood earning up to $2,100 for dresses, coats and bustiers, respectively.
This marks a shift from the luxury and designer resale platform’s early days. When The RealReal launched in 2011, it accepted for consignment items that were no more than a decade old. It turns out consumers covet the more unique and rare pieces as well.
“We’ve accepted vintage items for many years, but over the past couple of years we’ve seen a significant increase in demand for vintage among both our buyers and our consignors,” said Samantha McCandless, senior vice president of merchandising at The RealReal. “We’ve built out a team of vintage experts across our authentication centers that specialize in authenticating and pricing vintage pieces. We added vintage as a filter on the site in 2020 to more easily surface vintage items for shoppers.”
McCandless attributed the trend to celebrities and influencers wearing Nineties vintage pieces. Putting the decade in the spotlight has driven up demand. For example, everyone from the Jenners to rappers to TikTok stars are wearing John Paul Gaultier.
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They’re also wearing modern pieces that reference the past, such as current designers inspired by Nineties icons such as Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela, the reappearance of the Fendi Baguette in the “Sex and the City” reboot “And Just Like That,” and Kim Kardashian’s custom Mugler outfit for the Met Gala a couple of years ago.
“This all makes the originals not only valuable from a fashion history perspective, but increasingly desirable for shoppers looking for unique pieces,” McCandless said.
Having a consignor base that spans generations has been an advantage for The RealReal in sourcing vintage items. For example, the Nineties and early aughts continue to see high demand for styles such as Jean Paul Gaultier mesh tops and Louis Vuitton Multicolore pochettes, which are popular among younger shoppers. Part of the supply is coming from Generation X consignors, who have those original pieces, and others in their closets.
Several luxury brands are popular among all generations, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Chanel, while contemporary brands Rag & Bone and Tory Burch share universal appeal, consistently appearing in every demographic’s top 10 sold lists. Meanwhile, the top brand and item sold by neophytes is Gucci, and dresses, respectively.
While every demographic increasingly adopted consigning this year and the cohorts agree on what to sell and shop for first, the similarities end there. Generation Z is selling items such as Gucci sneakers, belts & crossbody handbags to have the freedom to buy more of what its members want. Gen Z, which is mostly selling to Gen X, is in an expansion mode as the fastest-growing cohort of any demographic with a 56% year-over-year increase.
Motivated by sustainability, Gen X is selling to other likeminded Gen Xers. The group sells items such as Chanel and Gucci shoulder bags and LouisVuitton top-handle handbags so that its members can reinvest in their wardrobes. Millennials are selling skinny jeans by Rag & Bone, J Brand and Frame to other Millennials so that they can invest in their wardrobes. This cohort is the most likely to sell as a side hustle.
Asked if The RealReal is doing anything to make the process of selling easier for consignors who are building businesses around resale, McCandless said, “The beauty of our consignment model is that we do all the work. A consignor who’s selling as a business can earn up to three times more selling with The RealReal without having to invest the time in a peer-to-peer resale site, where there can be haggling with buyers and shipping and [other administrative pain points].”
The RealReal’s 2022 resale report offers insights into trends into what’s in fashion at the moment and what’s out of favor. After waxing and waning in previous years, luxury logos are on the rise as Gen X and Millennials swap closets to sport the era’s iconic accessories. On the other hand, the value of the era’s contemporary logos declined in 2021, but demand is on the rise.
Amid a year of rising resale value, the most expensive Tiffany piece ever to sell on The RealReal fetched more than 80,000. With supply chain constraints, high-carat pieces like the Tiffany & Co.
The top five brands with the highest resale value gains were a diverse crew, including high-value sneakers, 32% ahead; Rolex, 16%; Bottega Veneta, 15%; Chrome Hearts, 13%, and Hermès, 13%.
Not surprisingly, vintage jewelry is outpacing new baubles as consumers look for unique pieces that enhance their self-expression. The desire for jewelry and watches with distinctiveness from decades past is so strong it’s increasing resale value to maximums of up to two and three times that of current collections.
For example, Chanel vintage necklaces sell for up to 697% of retail, Rolex vintage timepieces sell for up to 288% of new watches, and Tiffany & Co. vintage clip on earrings sell for up to 381% of retail.
The fact that an unbranded yellow diamond engagement ring was the highest item ever sold on The RealReal at $350,000 doesn’t bode well for overt logos.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen demand shift from statement jewelry and watches that pop to unique, vintage pieces that are rich in character,’ said Steffi Lee, editorial manager, fine jewelry and watches at The RealReal. “These pieces are a quieter, and more versatile, way to stand out from the crowd.”
It turns out that consumers have an appetite for blue chip art with investment works that speak to personal style spiking 43%. Just as vintage fashion is trending, unique blue chif art is gaining traction on The RealReal. Some members of Gen X and Baby Boomers are moving on from Nineties and Aughts ready-to-wear and collecting the artwork of the era.
With shortages, supply and demand is out of kilter. Sold out items attract 50% more new buyers. “If you want it now, or at all, the resale market is increasingly becoming the only place you can get it, spurring a rise in resale value for coveted items such as Hermès’ Avalon blanket and Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual watch, which are chronically sold out on the primary market,” the report said.
Gen X is the most invested cohort in sustainability, but not the only one. “It’s gratifying to see sustainability grow as a motivating factor across every generation,” McCandless said. “Now, 40% of our buyers shop luxury resale as a replacement for fast fashion.”