Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Alexis is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Alexis focuses on US Retail and eCommerce reports.

As a follow-up to Women’s History Month in March and in honor of Earth Day in April, Mintel’s Senior Retail and eCommerce analyst, Alexis DeSalva Kahler, spoke with entrepreneur and secondhand fashion expert Meredith Fineman, CEO of FinePoint, Author of “Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion” and Secondhand Society. They discuss the importance of self-promotion in the workplace and how successfully promote accomplishments, as well as the importance and future of the secondhand fashion market. Below is part two of the interview. (Click here for part one.)

Alexis DeSalva Kahler:

Here at Mintel, I cover retail and apparel, and recently I’ve been focusing on the secondhand market and consumers’ interest in shopping secondhand, which continues to grow. Mintel’s research as of March 2021 shows that nearly 70% of consumers have an interest in buying secondhand. My research has piqued my own interest, which is how I discovered you. You were the creator and co-host of It Never Gets Old, a podcast talking all things secondhand and sustainable fashion, and more recently, you’ve started a newsletter, Secondhand Society, covering the same topic. We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but first, can you share how you got into secondhand shopping and why you continue to shop secondhand? Do you primarily shop secondhand?

Meredith Fineman:

I almost entirely shop secondhand, save for a few items. I started when I was 11. My mom is a prolific secondhand shopper and she took me with her and I found a tank top I really liked that was very trendy and I couldn’t figure out why it was so inexpensive. The store owner told me it was consignment, which she explained meant that someone else had at first, and I did not care, I just wanted the cool thing. That’s how it began, and then it became a very obsessive thing. I’ve sold with every platform and at every store; I’ve bought with every platform and with every store. Now it’s all about sustainability, and brands know that’s what people care about. It’s been really interesting to see that enter the conversation and see people who would be enticed by the price but thought the concept was a little weird, now see it (shopping secondhand) marketed completely differently. That’s been my foray into lots of conversations about sustainable fashion.

ADK: Sustainability has become a big angle in this market. Can you talk more about that? What are your thoughts on the future of circular fashion or secondhand fashion?

MF: Obviously buying something that already exists is the most sustainable option, but it’s not perfect. There’s still packaging and transportation involved. There are lots of cornerstones of sustainability; water and emissions, and others entering the conversation are labor rights, fair wages, and working conditions. A huge part of sustainability in fashion is who is in charge; who are you giving your money to and what do they stand for? A much bigger view of sustainability is, “do I, like the people running these companies?” “Do I like who they are, and what they stand for?” It’s definitely evolved, but I think it’s a really fun way to interact with fashion. It’s more affordable and it’s more sustainable.

ADK: Let’s talk about Secondhand Society, the newsletter you recently launched. What is it and why should people subscribe?

MF: I originally started the podcast, It Never Gets Old, because I’ve advised on the industry and my knowledge on this subject is so deep. I ended up putting it on hold because I’m doing a Brag Better podcast. So I turned it into a weekly newsletter, Secondhand Society. There’s a free version, which includes a lot of “how-to’s” for shopping and selling secondhand, and there’s a paid one; the paid one has around seven to 10 links of amazing things I’m seeing in the secondhand market that you can buy and also offers access to private sales, which is an item or two every week. And if you are a paid member, you can sell directly to other paid members.

ADK: That brings up an interesting point. We’ve talked about some of the obvious benefits that I think most people associate with shopping secondhand (sustainability, affordability), but there’s also the communal benefit, and the social network aspect, especially on a peer-to-peer marketplace. Brands and retailers are recognizing that this may be more than a trend and have greater potential. We’ve seen a lot of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers team up with a secondhand platform or begin offering secondhand or resale options. What are your thoughts on non-circular retailers entering the market?

“A huge part of sustainability in fashion is who is in charge; who are you giving your money to and what do they stand for?”

MF: They know that people care about sustainability; many stores are losing money and they desperately want a piece of the pie and to be on-trend. It’s a bit of a mess because they’re trying to reverse engineer it, but I think that all retailers are going to start carrying upcycled things and recycled things. None of it is perfect, but the retailers that aren’t traditionally secondhand are starting to carry more sustainable brands and sustainability is a part of their business proposition, so we’ll see how it goes.

ADK: I think that one of the reasons secondhand is growing in awareness is because of the bigger players, like TheRealReal, ThredUp, or Poshmark, which have all filed IPOs, are dominating the market. But traditionally, secondhand fashion has mostly been about small businesses, with little to no eCommerce presence. Where do you think the market is going? Do you think those bigger players are going to overpower small businesses? Is the secondhand market going to be more about an online presence?

MF: We need to preserve the culture of consignment because those are spaces that focus on community and that’s really important. The RealReal and ThredUp are eclipsing all the small guys who can’t compete. There are people that will continue to shop local, and I do think this idea of “sanitized secondhand,” such as what you see from The RealReal, has opened this up as a channel for shopping for people who would otherwise never shop there. For many small businesses, the technology is lagging; people need to be able to get online more easily. And it’s a shame; I don’t have a good solution. We’re just going to have to see the next generation of secondhand shop owners, because secondhand shop owners, for the most part, are older women who aren’t as tech-savvy.

ADK: Some businesses have been pretty savvy and have been able to quickly move on a dime through the pandemic and even utilize social media and Instagram, like Eva Dayton from Consignment Brooklyn. I think she does a great job with her eCommerce, but that takes a lot of resources to pick an item, photograph it, and get it on the site, and sometimes the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. But when you can quickly show an item in an Instagram Story and say it’s available for sale through a DM (direct message), that’s a little bit easier, and I’m encouraged by that. I’m hopeful that the next generation of shop owners will help push that forward and keep that alive.

MF: It’s interesting; the next generation of owners won’t have physical stores. Power sellers on something like a Depop are the models and they are the sellers and they are the shippers and they are the marketers. We’ll have to see what happens post-pandemic; I don’t think people will ever not want to shop in a store.

ADK: I agree. I see it changing in terms of why consumers are shopping online versus in a store. It’s starting to shift; the enjoyment of shopping online has increased over the pandemic and it’s becoming more of a leisure activity for some. I think the discovery is shifting, and right now a lot of that is happening online.

MF: But I think that’s something that will bounce back as people want to browse.

ADK: Of course. Wrapping up, I always love to ask, what are some of your favorite brands/designers and places to shop (secondhand)?

MF: I’m a very high/low person; I like Celine and Saint Laurent, and then a lot of Levi’s and thrift. I think the best of the best is Wasteland in Los Angeles. And a couple of places in Paris, such as Réciproque. There’s also a great vintage dealer in Williamsburg called Rugged Road.

ADK: And if anybody wants to know where else to shop, they’ll have to check out Secondhand Society! Any parting thoughts?

MF: There will never not be a desire to buy things new. It means something to some people to be able to pay retail or full price for something. And for me (or anyone else) to buy something secondhand is dependent upon someone else buying it first.

ADK: Very true. It’s a cycle; it needs to start somewhere!

Visit Meredith Fineman online or on Instagram. To find Meredith’s newsletter on secondhand and sustainable fashion, visit Secondhand Society and to learn more about her book, visit Brag Better.