The new age of shopping secondhand is well underway. Gone are the days of scouring eBay and your local charity shop for preloved designer gems. The rise of online preloved platforms in the last decade has redefined secondhand shopping as an acquired coolness—a whispered luxury, almost. From food delivery to Netflix-binging, digital convenience is embedded in nearly everything we do. And secondhand shopping is no exception.
Nothing quite beats the triumph of scoring a Philo-era Céline clutch, or a pair of Dries Van Noten trousers that have stood the test of time—and trends. Now, online preloved platforms have made this process possible within just a few clicks. That gasp when you spot a vintage Prada jacket tucked deep within the rails of a Parisian vintage store? It’s now replaced by a digital hit of dopamine when your bid gets accepted, and you get an email saying, “Your order has been dispatched”.
The promises of quality, timelessness and individuality have long captured the hearts of secondhand loyalists. There’s no denying—conversations on more sustainable consumption habits have reached a fever pitch. While nothing can be more sustainable than wearing (and caring for) what you already own, shopping secondhand can be a more circular way of refreshing your closet than buying brand new. Beyond its conscious offerings, online secondhand shopping offers unprecedented access to designer pieces that would otherwise cost five times its preloved price point.
Preloved platforms have streamlined the process for us shoppers to a tee, making shopping secondhand online easier than ever. With tips straight from the leading purveyors of online secondhand shopping, read on for Vogue’s guide to maximising your digital preloved journey.
Have an idea of what you’re looking for
One of the best parts of shopping secondhand in person is the sense of discovery when you land upon a dream item before anyone else in the store. The good news about shopping secondhand online? That joy of striking sartorial lottery translates through the screen—except your search time is automatically reduced to a fraction of the time it takes you to physically trawl through a vintage store. Having something specific in mind is akin to hitting Command+F in real life. With the help of algorithm-powered filters, you can often find designer items at majorly reduced price points, with bargains that shave up to 90 per cent off an item’s original retail price.
The RealReal’s women’s editorial lead, Noelle Sciacca, tells Vogue, “On any given day at The RealReal, you can find current season Gucci sneakers and a vintage Saint Laurent Rive Gauche dress, a limited edition Hermès Birkin and a classic Louis Vuitton wallet.”
Apart from convenience, access is at the heart of online secondhand shopping. Pieces that you wouldn’t otherwise get your hands on are now just a few taps away on your phone. “The internet has changed our relationship with vintage. Before, it was exclusive and only accessible to those who knew of the best boutiques,” says Fanny Moizant, co-founder and president of Vestiaire Collective. “Now everyone has access to the world of one-of-a-kind vintage through online platforms.”
Trust the platform you’re shopping on
While online secondhand platforms are now a dime a dozen, it’s crucial to ensure that the platform you’re purchasing from has authenticity policies in place. Sciacca emphasises that a good rule of thumb is to be sure that you’re shopping with a trusted source that stands behind what it’s selling. She tells Vogue, “If the website doesn’t look and feel high-end, it’s likely not legitimate.”
Daniel Lim, co-founder of Reebonz, stresses the importance of credibility: “With the emergence of online pre-owned stores, shoppers need to know the reputation of the resellers they are looking to make their purchases from. A credible platform should have a return policy (where applicable) and also guaranteeing the authenticity of the items.”
“We might be online but there is an entire team behind their screens ready to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out via the chat directly on the site,” says CEO and founder of The Fifth Collection, Nejla Matam-Finn. “We are not only super responsive but we love getting to know our collectors better.”
Attention to detail is key
As with any online purchase, you’re ultimately buying pixels on a screen until it arrives at your doorstep. Preloved platforms have honed systems that ensure maximum trust and transparency from wishlist, payment to delivery. From detailed descriptions by sellers to cross-checked condition reports, every bit of information on your item is intended to aid and safeguard your purchase.
The more you dabble in preloved shopping, the more discerning you get, too. The term ‘vintage’, for instance, has been bandied around online so much that it’s lost its meaning. According to Matam-Finn, an item should have at least 20 years (essentially a stamp of guaranteed quality and longevity) for it to be considered vintage.
Moizant of Vestiaire Collective offers similar advice, especially when it comes to sizing: “Do your research—this is especially key if you are keen on purchasing a vintage item. You need to pay extra attention to the measurement details, as sizes often don’t correspond to sizes we know today.”
Wait before you make an offer
If the platform you’re shopping on has a built-in bidding function, take the opportunity to put your bargaining skills to the test. Price drops can sometimes happen a few days to a week after an item has been listed, and patience can mean a $100 difference in price.
“Before making a purchase, it is also good to know the original price of the item in its new condition,” Lim suggests. “With multiple platforms selling pre-owned items, some do not disclose the item’s original price and you may find yourself paying more.”
Stay mindful in the way you shop—yes, even secondhand
With every garment that enters your closet, apply the ‘five ways to wear’ rule before pulling the trigger on an item. Be as honest as possible with yourself—if you can think of five different ways to style the piece, chances are that you’ll get more mileage out of it, making sure it outlives a fleeting moment of impulse.
“A big benefit to shopping secondhand is that it supports circularity by extending the life cycle of quality items already produced,” Sciacca points out. “Instead of collecting dust in the back of someone’s closet, or worse, ending up in a landfill, luxury pieces are granted a new life when resale platforms connect them to new owners.”
The Fifth Collection is on the same page regarding the value of shopping secondhand online. “It’s nice to be part of the story of our consumers’ lives, like anniversaries and birthdays. We had someone from South Africa who bought an item to be delivered to someone who lives in Australia for their birthday,” shares Matam-Finn. “That’s our little connection to the world.”