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This old thing? How second-hand became big business

This old thing? How second-hand became big business

Reposted from The Times UK, 01May24

Harriet Walker   Hannah Rogers  


At the pub with friends, checking out a photo on a colleague’s screen or even queuing behind a stranger at the supermarket — chances are you will have clocked a green “V” notification pop-up on their phone. I recently got one on the front row in Paris, waiting for a five-figure-price-tag sort of show to start. “Vinted always knows when to keep you real,” the person next to me laughed.

The Lithuanian “pre-loved” fashion marketplace founded by Milda Mitkute in 2008 became the country’s first tech unicorn when it was valued in 2019 at $1 billion. Now it has made its first non-fairytale-creature money from facilitating the buying and selling of other people’s cast-offs, turning 2022’s loss of £17.4 million into £15.2 million profit last year. The platform, which has more than 65 million users, handles none of the actual “stock’’ itself.

Everyone I know is on Vinted — fashion editors and City types, school mums, hipsters, Gen Z — though they probably all use it slightly differently. It’s simultaneously the new Instagram, eBay and budgeting app, as people browse idly and “favourite’’ things, empty their cupboards for a bit of cash or refresh their wardrobes amid a cost of living crisis and rising consensus that we have all reached Peak Stuff.

Emma Hamilton, head of handbags at eBay
Emma Hamilton, head of handbags at eBay

It isn’t just in Vilnius that the resale business is booming — eBay’s revenue was up 2 per cent last year to $2.6 billion, while the global market is estimated to be worth $197 billion.

Not only has decluttering become something of a fetish, buying second-hand eases the guilt of consuming — especially when the funds come out of your Vinted balance, which tops up as you sell, rather than your bank account. There’s no such thing as a free lunch but there was once a Charlotte Simone jacket that paid for itself after I offloaded some old bits I no longer wore.

I use Vinted to make space at home by shifting stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day for a while, and to buy kids’ clothes. It means I can pay less for decent brands in good nick, such as Petit Bateau, Mini Rodini and Arket, in the knowledge they will be put through their paces in the playground, if not soon grown out of.

There are high-street brands on there too, often for as little as £1 or £2 — items you might once have passed to a friend with younger kids or charity shop, but which Vinted has created a market for, with the sense its buyers are saving money and the planet.

 Why fashionistas are reselling designer clothes, not hoarding them

It isn’t until you get into resale that you realise how much a part of life it has already become — from the queues of people with parcels in post offices, newsagents and supermarkets, and the springing up of QI code-operated collection lockers on street corners, to the gradual shift, when you pay someone a compliment these days, from old parlance — “Zara!” — to the new: “Vinted!”, often followed by “Ganni! £15!”

When it comes to womenswear, beyond the morass of old M&S and Next, there are buzzy brands such as Reformation, Acne, Nanushka and Martine Rose — some with the tags still attached, all priced lower than new.

Tips from Vinted’s in-house experts on how best to make a sale include using plenty of keywords and photographing things against a plain background from multiple angles. There are pre-checks on designer items, which must have labels and logos clearly pictured, as well as an optional verification service for anything over £100 (at a cost of £10 to the buyer). People tend to offer below the asking price, so start high and expect to come down.

For anybody yet to dip a toe in what the industry euphemistically calls “pre-loved”, be warned that you will neither make millions nor find a cheeky Chanel handbag for under £100. It is as canny a marketplace as any real-life souk — and you, the tourist, must learn its ways. (And although these sites now report seller earnings to HMRC, you are not liable for tax unless you are making a profit on anything.)

“Ebay is a great place to buy Japanese designers as it’s so international,” says Chioma Nnadi, British Vogue’s head of editorial content, who has a second-hand Junya Watanabe habit.

She’s right — I bought some great Comme des Garçons and Yohji there about 15 years ago for not much at all, but expect to pay proper prices now for anything designer (still less than new, though). Ebay is great for bags and insider brands — some front-row types refer to it as e-Raey, after their favourite — because it offers an authenticity guarantee on anything more than £500.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” the site’s head of handbags Emma Hamilton told me last year. “But there are big, big discounts — pre-loved is the future.”

Retail price: £1,850; on The Cirkel: £850
Retail price: £1,850; on The Cirkel: £850

High-street bits are cheap on eBay too but Vinted is a less faffy process all round and it doesn’t charge sellers’ commission. It also automatically applies insurance for anything that “doesn’t turn up”, whereas eBay sellers must refund their buyers so end up out of pocket.

Bear in mind that you won’t make back what you paid in the first place — unless what you are selling is a Hermès Birkin. If it is, try HEWI (, which was founded by a Monaco resident, Sharon Wolter-Ferguson, who realised people in Monte Carlo were renting extra apartments just to house their extensive designer archives.

 How I made £1,000 by selling my old clothes and books

HEWI will collect, photograph and sell items provided they meet its exacting standards. Here, a Chanel flapover bag will cost you £4,000 instead of £6,000, and there is a good stream of recent-season Alaïa, The Row and Bottega Veneta, but you’ll need to move fast.

That’s because, even on the industry’s highest rung, the best fashion brag now is that something is “archive”, “vintage” or, my favourite, “sourced”. The Vogue stylist Clare Richardson’s platform Reluxe is a trove of ultra high-end, front row-favourite labels such as Khaite, Balenciaga and Phoebe Philo-era Celine curated from some of the most rarefied and high-calibre wardrobes in the world. Gwyneth Paltrow’s make-up artist Gucci Westman is a fan, as is the model Edie Campbell (

Moizant: our site “only features aspirational fashion”
Moizant: our site “only features aspirational fashion”


“The RealReal was my go-to when I Iived in New York,” adds Nnadi, “but I recently bought a Miu Miu skirt in perfect condition from Vestiaire Collective that I plan to wear all summer.”

The Paris-based platform is known for partnerships with prominent influencers, and its popularity among front row-ers, so scrolls like an Aladdin’s cave. I bought a Mansur Gavriel bucket bag from there for £200 (new price £625) that I am still using five years on, and its uber-chic co-founder Fanny Moizant is the poster girl for wearing pieces sourced from other people’s wardrobes.

“Before we launched, the choice wasn’t great and it took ages to dig out the gems,” she says, “but our site has a quality control department and only features aspirational fashion.”

Eliza Batten, co-founder of The Cirkel
Eliza Batten, co-founder of The Cirkel

At the younger end of the spectrum are The Cirkel and Depop. The former is full of Rixo and Self-Portrait ahead of wedding guest season, much of which is modelled by co-founder Eliza Batten (sample price: £95 for a dress, down from £300). Depop, meanwhile, is a Gen Z hub of clothes from the early Noughties, with 35 million users mostly aged between 18 and 35, who have made $3.5 billion on it to date.

For men, Vinted is good at millennial metropolitan favourites such as Folk, Albam, Acne and Oliver Spencer, while eBay is better for cult and rare retro streetwear (the Stone Island and CP Company communities are very active) and sneakerhead-collector trainers. There are still Wales Bonner Adidas Sambas to be had, admittedly for £200-plus — if Rishi hasn’t put you off them.