Getting and Spending: Is "The Circle" rolling at the luxury consignment stores?

This message from the consignment site TheRealReal whirled into my mailnox at the beginning of Earth Month.

First, a definition of "full circle fashion",  from Dr. Anna Brismar, founder of GreenStrategy, a consultancy in the sustainability in the fashion, apparel and textile industries:
"'Circular fashion' can be defined as clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively...for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use."
Great, right? But then, why am I so queasy when I read that line, "Your smart buys will pay for your latest obsessions and support the circular ecomomy." Well, first it makes no sense, because it's your smart sales, not buys, that pay for the next obsession. 

The proposition is, sell some, turn around and buy your next gotta-have-it from the same site.

That assumes that what you have has retained a high market value. Whoever consigned this Togo "Retourne" Kelly (price, $CDN 18, 144) will, if that is achieved, earn 80% of the selling price, but for those selling less-lustrous bags, the payment schedule drops, and the TRR contract specifies that they can discount the price by 20% at their discretion, starting immediately. (Source: The RealReal.) 

From TRR's pitch:  "Expertly crafted items are designed to last a lifetime. They can change hands countless times and still retain their beauty and value. TRR extends the life of luxury goods and enables more people to own and appreciate them, while ensuring that their original owners realize the maximum value of their investments."

Who wants to challenge the "last a lifetime" bit? You, in the ratty Dries Van Noten sweater now reserved for walking the dog? Or me, whose champagne-colour leather jacket's cuffs and placket were scuffed within a year—nothing to be done but wear a big blanket scarf over it.

Do you care that more people can "own and appreciate luxury goods"? Well, kind of... but I can think of about a hundred things I care more about people owning more than a Lanvin blazer.  

If you have no local option for consigning pristine, pricey, current items, TRR can work. But is this "Full Circle Fashion"? No, it's a consignment store, and those have been around for centuries. 

I searched TheRealReal because I'm shopping for a dress for an upcoming occasion. (You know how I feel about renting a wardrobe.)  I found this dress by Creatures of the Wind; I especially like the different colours on front and back and the simple cut.  

I pondered how much I'd wear a dress (hmm, nylon, will it breathe?) because the only way to realize the maximum value is to wear the thing into the ground, or if that's not possible, give it to someone who will enjoy it, either by gift or donation. 'Value' should include intangibles, too, like the joy of seeing your friend in the pretty sweater you shrank a full size.

You will get some value back from reselling if the market is there and your item is in excellent shape. That dress? There was one phrase that sent the value plummeting like a bungee jump: "a faint mark on the front."

Buying secondhand, given the goods were not overpriced to begin with (Hi, The Row), can be smart.  But if you sell so that you can turn around and feed an obsession, you're just keeping a plate spinning. 

It's not circular, it's consumption.


Paula said…
Buy quality, buy classic, and enjoy it for a good long while.
Laura J said…
A good example of “green-washing”!
The dress is good but slight mark + nylon = better not, at least for me....
Tom said…
Check out the even more over-the-top word salad at Thredup, which markets itself as a thrift shop (it is not)--making a virtue out of overconsumption. I remember the beautiful dress you wore to your son's wedding. Do you still have it? e
Laura J said…
Both Thredup and the Real Real require me to sign in...something I resent on a sales platform if I just want to browse!
Jane in London said…
I suspect that the phrase "circular economy" used in this context is about as authentic as using the phrase "sharing econony" to describe Uber and Airbnb.

It seems to me that any item of clothing or accessory bought to actually use and enjoy (as opposed to keeping it unused and pristine for resale if/when demand for it goes up) cannot really be a monetary investment.

Also, anything that invites me to "feed your obsession" gives me the heebie-jeebies....

Jane in London

Ps Also, nylon: might it not grab you round the legs? ;)
Duchesse said…
Paula: Beautiful! A mantra. (Not all my clothes are classic but as I move along in years, more are than ever before.)

Laura J: I agree substantial nylon fabric would feel awful, but I have a kind of tissue-weight nylon top from Motion that is really good, almost like parachute silk. But I had the same thought: would it be hot? Static-y?
It's the mark that disqualified it, finally. Why would they sell something with a mark, even faint, for $300?

e/Tom: No, I donated the dress. It eventually felt a little short. From the lower-priced (Thredup and many others) to the lofty (Vestiare, TheRealReal etc.) sites, the "good for the planet" message is bullshit if one is overbuying.

Laura J: I always use a defunct address for sites where I only browse. If you ever decide to buy you can become a real person. They asked for it.

Jane in London: You can't put much past women in the Passage. And if you try, no mercy. I appreciate your comparison to "sharing economy"—exactly.

I sense a What Obsessions Do You Feed post coming on.
materfamilias said…
Yes! To Jane in London's comment and to your own highlighting of yet another way that our putative desire to care for our planet is exploited in order to entice us to buy more. Ugh! And the continuous emphasis on the need for variety. Keep preaching, sister!!
Allison said…
I have purchased a few items on Poshmark which I use and really enjoy. I found a couple cashmere ponchos that appeared to have not been worn for a fraction of their price as well as a lovely Lily Pulitzer cashmere scarf that is very light with a pretty print. These are all items that would not normally be in my budget. I tend to keep and wear my clothing for a long time so I purchase with an eye towards need and longevity. If I don’t need it I don’t bother. I am not sure if it’s the culture of over consumption or what the motivation is for people to spend so much on clothing and barely wear it. Sadly I think many fashion bloggers are complicit in this with their incessant links or pushing products on the regular that they have been ‘gifted’. More and more I see these formerly enjoyable blogs as just big advertising platforms and have unsubscribed from them. I don’t mind the monetizing but when I am just scrolling through the list of links and there is little or no content I am out. My time has value too.
Laura J said…
Duchesse and Mater: agree! Notion of obsession and variety requires duchess’s analysis!
Allison...I too have dumped a number of fashion bloggers as they still seem to be in another purchasing era of consumption, variety, and semi fast fashion. I am hoping we’ve moved on
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: The "full circle" angle is a justification that never entered my head, or my friends' in our student years when we bought secondhand purely to afford things we couldn't have full price, like Allison says. And there was a different attitude. No one called 8 pairs of jeans a minimum requirement.

Allison and Laura J: I have had it with flog blogs, especially when the writers announce how proud they are to form these "partnerships" with vendors. They are still knowledgeable, have good taste— but often deny that they are doing it for money and how they are driving consumption. (They might retort that if a reader over-consumes, it's her fault.) I think longtime readers know there are no "gifts" in the Passage, no payment, no "partnerships".

My only partners are you, and I appreciate your discerning comments and hearing of your experiences.
Hester said…
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Hester said…
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