Open up your web browser and search for “designer blouse.” You’ll be served up tens of thousands of shopping choices. Let’s say you settle on a second-hand Diane von Furstenberg blouse: How can you be sure the garment is an authentic product of the DVF design house? You may not be able to, depending on the retailer or reseller.
In the world of high fashion, provenance is measured in thousands of dollars. It’s money that could be wasted — unless you have a trusted connection with experience in appraisal and open channels with the world’s major fashion houses.
Vestiaire Collective is just that connection. The Paris-based company has assembled a team of fashion experts under one goal: to become the world’s most trusted third party when the original owners of designer fashion items choose to consign them.
Here’s how it works: To sell an item, the owner simply sends it to Vestiaire, where a community of “vetters” systematically evaluates it inside Vestiaire’s workshops. Once the item is authenticated and sold via Vestiaire’s online marketplace, the company packages and ships the item to its new owner. Vestiaire takes a 25 percent commission, but it does not charge sellers listing fees.
The approach is working. In its first year, 2011, the company generated revenue of €10 million ($16.3 million), followed by a 70 percent increase to €17 million ($27.7 million) in 2012. In late 2013, Vestiaire was on track to meet its goal of €30 million ($49 million). Vestiaire has expanded from France into 10 European countries — and in 2014 it will expand to the U.S., as well. The company boasts a fast-growing market of 1.5 million registered users.
The seed of Vestiaire was formed in a discussion between founder Fanny Moizant, now its marketing head, and co-founder and current CEO Sébastien Fabre. Both were, in their own ways, clotheshorses.
“We were facing the same physical situation of having a crowded fashion wardrobe and no idea where to resell it safely and with a nice experience,” Moizant recalls. “I had also noticed all these fashion bloggers who were starting to sell on their own blogs separately. I wanted to create a marketplace for those fashion-conscious people.”
The founders began in 2011 with just one additional full-time employee: a customer service representative. Today Vestiaire employs 90, and the company is in the midst of hiring for its U.S. launch.
The Vestiaire model is successful, Moizant says, because of the company’s dedication to creating great experiences for customers — and that starts with logistics. Consumers of high-end fashions are demanding customers, so Vestiaire chose FedEx. “I think quick and reliable deliveries are essential for our customers,” Moizant says. “That strongly enhances the Vestiaire experience.”
Equally as critical for Vestiaire is a rigorous dedication to quality. “The majority of our vetters come from major fashion houses and have a background in quality control,” she says. “All of them have strong knowledge in fashion and are able to recognize counterfeiting in all types of items.”
In 2012, Vestiaire signed a declaration against counterfeiting in conjunction with major houses such as Christian Dior, Chanel and Burberry. That charter provides Vestiaire’s team with twice-a-year training from the houses, keeping them up to date on how to spot counterfeit versions of their goods.
With worldwide luxury goods revenues outpacing global GDP, according to Bain & Company’s 2013 reporting, the future appears bright for the well-positioned Vestiaire.
“We are positioned as a platform dedicated to fashion, with a strong curation and quality-control process,” Moizant says. “Buying second-hand items is nowadays such a normal behavior, so Vestiaire Collective has been able to become part of the global fashion internet landscape.”