If Vestiaire Collective’s March acquisition of U.S. resale marketplace Tradesy put the French company head to head with behemoth The Real Real, the deal also spotlighted French retail’s progressive, vanguard mentality when it comes to circular fashion.
In France, buying secondhand comes second nature. “Vintage fashion and savvy shopping have always been part of French culture,” says Alix Morabito, Galeries Lafayette Head of Womenswear, Kids and Lingerie, Trade Marketing and Special Projects, citing Paris’s plethora of thrift shops and flea markets. This motivation springs from both “economic advantage and the desirability of the past,” she adds.
Indeed, while B-Corp certified Vestiaire Collective continues to innovate with a new and ultra sustainable central Paris headquarters, — inaugurated this week — luxury department store players Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are evolving their own ongoing strategies in the pursuit of a more circular future for retail.
Galeries Lafayette Doubles Down On Circular Services
Galeries Lafayette’s third floor (Re)Store space launched last year spotlights brands for their sustainable and responsibly produced wares with a combination of luxury French consignment brands like Monogram and Personal Seller, vintage, and upcycled labels such as Patine.
The next few months will see the launch of new in-store circular services says Morabito — “to allow customers to extend the life of their products.” There will be a repairs service with a French partner company and also a resale service launching in July — not only in Paris but across five stores in Galeries Lafayette’s network.
Concern for the planet aside, such a focus makes sound commercial sense as well. According to a 2021 report by Boston Consulting Group and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, resale, rental, repair and remaking have the potential to grow from 3.5% to 23% of the global fashion market by 2030.
As for the (RE)Store concept itself, the group is planning to roll this out to its province stores with an objective of five (RE)Stores in the network by 2023. Focus cities will include Nice and Nantes — chosen for their thriving social and sustainable economies.
Launching this week in Paris is a month-long pop-up with OMAJ, a Paris based online consignment start-up that debuted summer 2021. Co-founded by former McKinsey and Bain management consultants, Marine Daul Mernier and Paul Charon, the full service outfit is focussed on simplicity and a low impact business model. OMAJ’s curated selection offers an assurance of quality, says Charon as every product has been checked by the team before finding its way onto the site.
Other recent (RE)Store additions include Les Récupérables which creates clothing and accessories upcycled from household linens and dormant stocks from the French textile industry, whimsical, Paris produced Toile de Jouy concoctions from Studio Rosalie and upcycled jewelry from Strasbourg-based Tête d’Orange.
Printemps Brings The Designer Outlet In-Store
When it comes to past stocks, Printemps’ new Hors Season concept store has recalibrated the rule book. Hors Season is a 200m2 area on the third floor of its Boulevard Haussmann flagship permanently dedicated to pieces from past collections — a physical first for a French department store.
Launched at the end of March, the customer response, says Printemps Chief Merchandising Officer Karen Vernet, has exceeded expectations. “We took a disruptive approach” she continues. “In the past, old stocks had a bad image. But we put them in a beautiful architectural concept with impactful visual merchandising.”
Printemps’ Hors Season offering takes the form of a multi-brand concept store fusing women’s and menswear with accessories and homeware. It features a combination of luxury and contemporary labels including Jacquemus and Alexander Wang and Ganni. The retail space is arranged according to color as opposed to by brand.
“Our role is to take a curated approach,” says Vernet. “Often you don’t see the pieces you want in current season. It’s not right to say that something is no longer in style once the season is finished. We choose creative brands and emerging designers.”
Hors Season’s 40% to 60% reductions are available to members of the store’s loyalty card program — a way of circumnavigating France’s strictly regulated biannual sales periods. From a business standpoint, the initiative also serves as a means to recruit new clients Vernet adds.
The concept is an evolution of the luxury department store’s ongoing focus on circularity. Launched 2021, Printemps dedicated its entire 1300sqm 7th floor to circular consumption. Dubbed Second Printemps, it offers a mix of luxury designer vintage and a rotation of upcycled and low environmental impact brand pop-ups including residents of Paris’ responsible luxury fashion accelerator hub, La Caserne. Second Printemps already has a resale service where goods can be exchanged for store credit.
The vintage selection is curated by vintage consultant Marie Blanchet, whose Mon Vintage agency works with influencers including Rihanna and Amal Clooney and luxury brands such as The Row. For the record Blanchet has also worked with Vestiaire Collective, Selfridges and William Vintage.
Vestiaire Collective’s Office Of Tomorrow
But back to Vestiaire Collective. The company has just unveiled a 5400m2 low impact, high sustainability HQ, a refurbished Haussmannian building in Paris’ hip 11th arrondissement.
The goal for the space, designed by French Architecture firm Les Batisseurs, was to reduce carbon emissions, minimize waste and maximize on employee well-being and creativity. Vestaire, already offers employees a 50:50 split between office and remote working.
50% of the total surface is geared to social and collaborative areas while inclusivity and well-being is encouraged via a parenting space, meditation room and basketball court. Giant frescos come courtesy of French street artist Louis Bottero and recycled paper lighting is designed by origami creator Junior Fritz Jacquet.
Sustainable materials were locally sourced and over 60% of the furniture — designers include Charles and Ray Eames and Charlotte Perriand — is recycled, upcycled or second hand. They were sourced via project partners like cult design resale outfit Selency and plant curation business La Grande Serre. Kitchen facilities were provided by French start-up Back Market which specializes in refurbished electronics.
Ultimate goal say Vestiaire co-founders Fanny Moizant and Sophie Hersan is to “create a flagship concept that can be replicated in new and existing offices in New York, Hong Kong, Berlin and London.”
Under the Tradesy deal, the combined company will boast a membership community of 23 million, a catalogue of 5 million items with a gross merchandise value exceeding $1 billion. It will also unlock the potential of more environmentally friendly local to local transactions with a new authentication center in Los Angeles — the fifth globally and second in the U.S. In September 2021, Vestiaire announced a $210 million fundraising round backed by Softbank Vision Fund 2 and Generation Investment Management.