The end of ownership with Vestiaire Collective's Fanny Moizant

A blonde woman in a white shirt.

Circular economy is now a celebrated form of fashion sustainability, but it took Soho House Hong Kong member Fanny Moizant’s resale website, Vestiaire Collective, to stop the stigma

By Alexander Fury  Monday 9 March, 2020

French women have less of a repute and more a historical background of inciting revolution. It was the market women of Paris who began the march from Paris to Versailles on 5 October 1789 and set France on the road to the Republic. And while Fanny Moizant may not be tearing down the Bastille of high fashion, her 10-year-old website, Vestiaire Collective, is certainly a challenge to much that the luxury industry holds dear. It questions the still-lingering misconceptions about reticence in buying designer online, for once; ideas of counterfeiting, a slight lip-curling at the notion of a secondary economy and the belief that people don’t buy clothes anymore.

Moizant herself cites the era we live in as ‘the end of ownership’, which is a bold statement, but has a degree of truth. ‘My generation didn’t – doesn’t – consume fashion the way my mother’s generation did,’ she says. ‘I remember my mum buying a leather coat; she carefully spent time choosing it and it was an investment. She would wear that piece for almost a lifetime. Very slowly, I think the fast fashion industry and social media changed that. They completely altered our perspectives and mindsets.’ Both accelerated our rate of consumption and the lifespan of products – for some, a bag, dress or coat is dead after one wear (or one Instagram post), no matter how expensive it may be. 

Vestiaire Collective, in a sense, is fast fashion with a conscience and, of course, with the production values of high fashion. Bestselling brands include Chanel, Gucci and Hermès – but, rather than waiting years for a pre-ordered Birkin, you can buy a pre-owned version for a fraction of the price and have it delivered within a matter of days. Each item is second-hand, carefully vetted by the company’s team of validators, and then passed on to the purchaser after rigorous checks for condition and authenticity. In 2009, it was unique; now, it’s a model that’s increasingly popular. Its largest competitor is perhaps TheRealReal, a US-based consignment marketplace that launched in 2011 and was listed on Nasdaq last year. ‘We made babies along the way,’ laughs Moizant.
A close up of a handbag being held in the air above a workdesk.
The idea of designer resale has been rebranded as the ‘circular economy’, which sounds far sexier than ‘consignment’, and certainly better than ‘second-hand’. Accordingly, Vestiaire Collective has brought in celebrities to do branded online sales of their own clothes, often for charity. They include Claudia Schiffer, Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian, whose family now has its own consignment website, Kardashian has also bought from Vestiaire Collective – Moizant hunted down a rare and coveted bible-shaped clutch bag from Chanel’s AW04 collection for her, sourced via the website’s network of sellers. And that does illustrate a shift in mindset; 10 years ago, it’s difficult to imagine any [celebrity] wearing secondhand clothes. ‘It gives us a credibility,’ says Moizant. ‘Having those people with us makes the whole dimension and experience more exciting.’

The initial inspiration for the website came from two places: the overflowing wardrobes of her cofounders, Sophie Hersan and Sébastien Fabre, and early fashion bloggers reselling their own clothes. ‘I tried a few times to buy [second-hand] and it was a nightmare.’ Moizant thought she could improve on this and saw a gap in the market. ‘There was a recession, so people were willing to find clever ways to get their hands on what they wanted,’ she says. Vestiaire Collective started in Moizant’s flat, with a 3,000-piece inventory comprising items drawn from all the cofounders’ wardrobes (six in total), and their friends and family – hence the website’s name, which means ‘collective wardrobe’. It now has around nine million users and offices scattered across the world in Paris, London, New York, Berlin and Hong Kong.

Moizant’s own background is in fashion; she had a love for it and worked in boutiques owned by her fashionable mother. ‘I have memories of her wearing Azzedine Alaïa and bold statement pieces. That was my first emotional connection with fashion,’ she says. Moizant started out in home decoration, ‘which was a bit boring’, but then went back to study at the Institut Français de la Mode after having her two daughters and the idea for Vestiaire Collective came from there.