The platform specialising in second-hand has decided to ban several brands for “not being complicit with those who have a huge impact on the environment”. But Vestiaire Collective’s war is causing debate, as many consider it “counterproductive”. Certainly, this decision has one merit: it has opened the discussion on how to manage the burden of fast fashion
In October 2022, some Vestiaire Collective employees went to the Kantamanto market in Accra, the capital of Ghana. They wanted to see for themselves and understand what goes on in West Africa’s largest second-hand clothing market. One of the largest in the world. About 15 million pieces of second-hand clothing arrive here every week in the form of bales called Obroni Wawu or Dead White Man’s Clothes. From this journey comes a series of discoveries, facts, and considerations: obligatory, in some ways; necessary, above all.
Vestiaire Collective’s war on fast fashion
“Forty percent of unpacked clothing is not resold and becomes waste. This trip highlighted the importance of taking immediate and radical action on fast fashion,” says the well-known luxury resale platform. A month later, it started to ban fast fashion brands from its business. The decision was presented as a sustainability operation to crack down on waste but raised several questions about its effectiveness.
Vestiaire Collective removed Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Asos, and Shein products, which accounted for about 5% of the offering. However, other fast fashion brands, such as H&M and Zara, have not yet been banned. Together with an external agency, the Paris-based portal is drawing up a three-year plan to establish the criteria that brands must meet for their products to be allowed on the site. Those who do not respect them will no longer be hosted on its virtual shelves.
Dounia Wone, the retailer’s Sustainability Manager, said: “We do not want to be complicit in this industry (fast fashion, ed.), which has a huge environmental and social impact”. Vestiaire Collective, which also has French luxury conglomerate Kering among its investors, said that this decision is not the same as washing its hands of what is happening at Kantamanto. It will work to find solutions such as ‘wear, repair, recycle, regenerate and donate constructively’.
But is it a helpful war?
Not everyone approves and claps their hands at Vestiaire Collective’s decision. So much so that someone says that this decision is even counterproductive. Like Justine Porterie, Green Manager of British second-hand e-tailer. ‘Banning fast fashion,’ she says, ‘would go against our mission as a credible alternative to buying new clothes‘. While a spokesperson for Vinted (another resale platform) sums up Vogue: ‘Excluding fast fashion does not stop people from buying it’.
Brett Staniland, a sustainable fashion creator who has worked with Vestiaire Collective in the past, argues that ‘by banning fast fashion, consumers are being directed to the second-hand platforms of fast fashion brands, with the possibility of returning money to companies we don’t want to support‘. The reference is to the fact that Pretty Little Thing, Shein, and Zara have already launched their own second-hand platforms. The debate is open. At least Vestiaire Collective’s decision to ban fast fashion served this purpose. (mv)
The photo was taken from deadwhitemansclothes.org