FM Fashion Reboot: recycling and second hand, the last resort for fashion? #612


Political and economic situation, figures on the evolution of the fashion market, potential of recycling and second hand… On Thursday 1st December 2022, the fashion ecosystem was invited to the annual seminar of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) to “rethink fashion”. Rethinking, reinventing or, literally, “restarting” a system that no longer functions (definitively?) as it used to.

“Covid, war in Ukraine, energy crisis… Can we still do business as usual today?” asks Lucas Delattre, a former journalist and now professor at the IFM, the dashing moderator of this seminar. No,” replies the first guest, Alain Frachon, a journalist at Le Monde. It’s the end of the golden age of globalisation, the realisation that we are dependent on certain products and, by extension, the rise of protectionism. Is this enough to change the fashion business, which until now has been based on relocation and imports? No doubt.

“The everything, everywhere, all the time, right away has probably lived, and we must prepare for two years of recession” explained the second speaker, Denis Ferrand, Director General of Rexecode*, who gave an implacable explanation of the current concern: inflation. “During containment, the whole world stopped producing but incomes were maintained. As a result, post-Covid, people wanted to spend, companies wanted to invest, but there were few, if any, products left on the market. The tension on the supply side created a price slippage, which turned into a shock with the energy crisis. C.Q.F.D. Denis Ferrand nevertheless balanced his demonstration with the fact that today, with demand stagnating and supply increasing, prices are bound to fall again. According to him, inflation should not take hold beyond 2023.

What lessons can fashion professionals draw from the geopolitical and economic situation?

The clothing market has slowed down in 2022: 26 billion euros against 27.8 billion euros in 2019 (the only reliable year of comparison). Before proposing avenues of reflection for the future, Gildas Minvielle, director of the IFM’s economic observatory, indicated the results of quantitative studies, which are able to orientate the actors of the fashion industry. Among the positive facts indicated by this professional, we can cite: the renewed dynamism of department stores (+35%), which is understandable given that the international clientele has returned; the increase in men’s demand (which occupies 30% of the market share compared to 50% for women); and an average shopping basket that is on the rise (53% increase).

An enthusiasm that should be balanced with other data: shop traffic and the transformation rate are down (47 per cent and 50 per cent respectively): independent multi-brands, department stores and hypermarkets are down sharply (19.4 per cent, 11.1 per cent, 17.8 per cent) even though Internet sales and those of large distributors are up (+1.7 per cent for both).

Forgetting the years of growth, being resilient, reinventing ourselves, showing solidarity

Among the new perspectives, Gildas Minvielle points out the rise of second-hand goods (+38%), upcycled clothes (+36%) and rentals (+9%): “In 2022, 44% of consumers bought an eco-responsible product, 42% are anxious about the possible toxicity of products and 8% have environmental concerns. Could the near-import route be the way forward? Yes, except that Gildas Minvielle notes, paradoxically, a strong increase in Chinese imports. Yet the explanation is simple: the French are full of good intentions, but when it comes time to pay, they are no longer in the same frame of mind. Isn’t it said that “the French have their heart on the left and their wallet on the right”?

According to Franck Lehuédé, director of studies and research at Credoc**, purchasing power remains THE main concern of the French. The financial situation has deteriorated, especially among the most modest populations (-1,500 euros per month), single-parent families, but also, and this is what worries this specialist, among families, craftsmen, shopkeepers and company directors. The French are asking questions about income policy and social networks, flooded with posts about the high cost of living, are witness to this.

The famous “consume less” does not necessarily mean “consume better”, but also “consume even cheaper”. The proof? Made in France in fashion represents 3 per cent of purchases, while hard discount is gaining market share. All this amounts to a questioning of our consumer society and an observation: the French have monopolised second-hand products, 38 percent of them to be precise. A reality that the fashion ecosystem will have to take into account.

From the age of possession to the age of use via upcycling and second hand

To address the fact that upcycling lacks a glamorous, dream-like image, the IFM invited Leopolda Contaux-Bellina, founder of Sed Nove Studio***. Her poetic presentation aimed to demonstrate the intangible value of upcycling: “The upcycled garment is a witness to a history, it relies on the sum of values before it (the original one with the raw material, the know-how, the prestige of a brand…)”. And he cites fashion phenomena such as bootleg (re-appropriation of what brands do to create a new product), logomania or the event-driven, and therefore rare, aspect of an upcycled capsule.

On this subject, Jean-Marc Bellaiche, president of the Printemps Group, naturally echoed his Second Life space on Boulevard Haussmann. “They call me Mr. Wow because, in my opinion, we need to rediscover the wow effect of the in-store shopping experience,” he says. To reenchant it, he is counting on the rise of second-hand skills, but also on catering, the humanisation of customer service and a live shopping channel orchestrated by his personal shoppers.

The 2022 seminar obviously addressed the issue of digital (the proper use of Tik Tok, web 3.0) as well as other subjects such as the relationship with beauty or the effects of the zero Covid policy in China. Nevertheless, the conclusion was given to Fanny Moizant, founder and president of Vestiaire Collective, as an invitation to consider that circularity is, for the time being, the path that fashion must take to reinvent itself.

With 24 million members in 80 countries, a turnover of 1.7 billion dollars, five million items in the catalogue and a market that has tripled in the last two years. Vestiaire Collective, France’s eleventh unicorn, is establishing itself as a way forward. “Vestiaire Collective has taken the second hand out of its dusty side by inscribing the codes of luxury (photos on a white background) and by doing a lot of curation to create an inspiring universe, explains Fanny Moizant. My dream is that the second hand can compensate for the sale”. To achieve this, the director has launched several projects: proposing solutions to brands to accelerate their own circular economy; no longer reselling fast fashion items; deploying on the blockchain, which will allow the traceability of clothes via digital ID; lobbying the Ministry of Ecological Transition…

Does activism open the way to a logical politicisation of fashion? Answer in a forthcoming article linked to a study, presented this Thursday, December 1st, in preview, by Caroline Ardelet and Benjamin Simmenauer, professors at the IFM.

*Rexecode: research centre for economic expansion and business development. **CREDOC: research centre for the study and observation of living conditions. *** Sed Nove Studio enhances the value of dormant leather stocks through experiential workshops.

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