The Breakdown: Here's Why Luxury Resale Is Thriving

Major takeaways from The RealReal's 2021 report.

bodies in silk


In the past, you may have caught some side-eyes for buying your classic, diamond-quilted Chanel Flap Bag secondhand. That’s not the case now. Luxury resale is mainstream and booming, especially as a new devotion to sustainability and affordability drives today’s trends.

The RealReal is an authenticated luxury consignor with an expansive online presence and expanding brick-and-mortar side. Taking data from their 23 million subscribers, TRR published its 2021 Luxury Resale Report, decoding what the past year did to the luxury resale market. 

“Evolving COVID restrictions and reopenings are significantly impacting shopping behaviors. Savvy shoppers are latching onto luxury investments, with the most dramatic growth among Gen Z and millennials,” The RealReal president Rati Sahi Levesque says in the report. “Of all age groups, our data suggests Gen Z will be the most conscious shoppers yet.”

Whether you’re thinking about making a luxury resale purchase or simply curious, these are the five big takeaways from this report plus some final thoughts.

Shoppers Love Sustainability

Levesque says that luxury resale is experiencing record growth. Six million members joined TRR in the past year alone, and that doesn’t even include how many new shoppers joined other luxury resale platforms.

A lot of what’s driving this surge is more conscious consumption. The pandemic forced daily changes that made everyone take a step back and reflect on their life. Major events around racism and environmental disasters forced widespread, honest reflection. Out of all this, the drive for sustainability grew even stronger.

A whopping 43% of TRR buyers say sustainability is a deciding factor in their shopping on the platform, and about 40% say shopping at TRR is a replacement for shopping fast fashion.

These changes in today’s context seem to highlight a cultural shift as opposed to a seasonal trend. Luxury resale is growing and seems like it’s here to stay.

Telfar Keeps On Growing

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance either you or someone you know owns a Telfar shopping bag, affectionately nicknamed "the Bushwick Birkin." Founded in 2005 by Liberian-American Telfar Clemens, the brand is finally getting its flowers.

During the pandemic, while designers and brands everywhere struggled to keep customers, Telfar rose in the ranks. The Black-owned brand is known to stand solidly by its mission of accessibility and sustainability—coincidentally two of Gen Z’s biggest values. For example, Telfar rolled out a one-of-a-kind program to make sure anyone who wanted a bag could get one (or ten) through its Bag Security Program. Not only does this program cut down on waste and excess production—a common occurrence and major issue in the fashion industry—but it made the bags a lot more accessible. The program was right in line with the Telfar slogan, “Not for you, for everyone.”

Demand for Telfar bags shot up a staggering 590% in 2021 from 2020. This also influenced its resale value, which tripled.

Gucci is Golden

The Italian luxury brand is a classic that has been etched into icon status by its loyal Gen X fanbase, hip hop, and increasing popularity with the House of Gucci film, starring the one and only Lady Gaga.

For TRR, Gucci was the most bought and the most sold brand of the year. Purchases and consignments both increased just over 60% since 2020. Even though Gen Z seems to drive just about every trend today, shockingly it’s Gen X who is responsible for all the Gucci love. They especially love the brand’s accessories. Seen a double G belt lately?

Gen-Z Loves an Investment Piece

“Younger generations have embraced newer forms of investment such as crypto and NFTs, and they’re now looking to luxury goods, which can yield significant returns even after a piece has been worn,” TRR senior merchandising director Mayank Hajela said in the report. The data backs this up, and some of it is thanks to TikTok trends. The number of Gen Z consignors shot up 86% since 2020 and those buying also increased by a noteworthy 33%.

Handbag Prices Are Rising

“Rising interest in vintage from Gen Z and millennial shoppers over the past two years has driven up prices for most-wanted vintage handbags at a rate well above more recent versions,” the report says.

Because vintage bag prices are higher than the modern design for several classic designer bags, TRR dubbed vintage bags “the new smart investment.” The Jackie by Gucci, the Flag Bag by Chanel, and the Speedy 30 by Louis Vouitton have some of the biggest returns and most interesting backstories

Final Notes

Luxury resale is like thrifting, but a lot more glamorous (and expensive). If you want to get started on your own luxury resale adventure, whether buying or selling some gems you own, we recommend using The RealReal, Tradesy, or Rebag.

The luxury resale market includes a lot more than these major resellers. While big resale companies have booming business, small boutiques are another place where you can find pre-loved (and sometimes cheaper) luxury goods. As we’ve grown accustomed to saying during the pandemic, shop local.

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