Borrowing is the new buying
Thanks to lockdowns, there are few places for brand-conscious fashionistas to flaunt the latest season’s pieces right now. Luxury has been hit hard around the globe. However, as Hong Kong has been one of the least affected countries by the pandemic, everyone is out and about – heading into the office or enjoying a night out at the latest hotspots in Central. And when all travel plans came to a halt last year, many consumers diverted their spend to splurging on luxury items instead, but for avid trend-followers looking to switch up their looks and carry the latest ‘it’ bag, it’s a costly hobby.
Enter Style Theory, a Singapore-based luxury apparel and handbag rental platform that has just entered the Hong Kong market. With over 2,000 designer bags available to rent from Hermès to Dior, Style Theory is offering subscriptions at HKD$899 a month (US$116). The concept also allows consumers to purchase items that are no longer available for rent at a fraction of the original retail price.
From pre-loved to re-loved
When Covid first hit, many Hong Kong locals were hit by the recession and some luxury-loving enthusiasts chose to sell their prized items for cash. Sales of luxury goods have been tumbling ever since. The latest August retail sales of Hong Kong continues to be in the red as jewellery and luxury goods are down by nearly 38 per cent.
From a recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group and pre-loved luxe platform Vestiaire Collective, the resale market is currently estimated to be worth US$30 to US $40 billion, with the market predicted to grow by a CAGR of 15 per cent to 20 per cent globally over the next five years, and even higher in developed markets, which could see a 100 per cent year-on-year growth.
Consignment has always been big business in Hong Kong, as seen from the success of Milan Station, which has been a fixture in the luxury industry for the past decade. Independent luxury consignment businesses have also gained popularity, from Carousell sellers to little stores within commercial buildings of Tsim Tsa Tsui.
In 2016, Yen Kuok, youngest daughter of Shangri-La and Kerry Group founder Robert Kuok, founded reseller platform Guiltless, which merged with Middle Eastern luxury e-commerce giant, The Luxury Closet just three years later. Other new contenders have joined the market, such as Hula, an exclusive invite-only fashionista platform founded by Lane Crawford veteran, Sarah Fung. With a permanent brick-and-mortar store inside a 4,000-square-foot warehouse space in Wong Chuk Hang, Hula has successfully launched several pop-ups in the city, including its most recent one on Hollywood Road, assembled within five days of planning.
Global secondhand luxury online retailer Vestiaire Collective has also been aggressively expanding in Hong Kong after raising EUR€59 million in April to increase its footprint in Asia. The platform recruited top influencers such as Cecilia Ngan and Charles Lam, who both sold their pre-loved goods on the platform and shared discount codes to incentivise and attract new consumers on board. Vestiaire has also recently partnered with Singapore-based fashion marketplace Zalora in a move to promote sustainable fashion, making pre-owned goods more accessible to a new group of consumers.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
As a trendy and stylish city, it has been recently revealed that a third of clothing purchased by Hong Kongers are hardly ever – or never – worn. The research commissioned by Hong Kong-based environmental charity organisation Redress emphasised the negative impacts of the typical throwaway culture in fast fashion.
Redress is known for its global Design Award, which encourages designers to create circular solutions. While last year’s competition was restricted due to travel limitations, the organisation pivoted to a virtual competition. Past winners’ creations are currently showcased at Redress’ physical store in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong’s garment district.
Luxury flash sales platform OnTheList and non-profit organisation ImpactHK both launched 1ofaKind, a fashion boutique in Yau Ma Tei, selling pre-loved clothing and pieces donated by retailers. Store staff are those who were previously affected by homelessness. All profits also go directly to the homeless in Hong Kong.
Many international brands such as Gap and H&M have set their sights on Hong Kong due to its progressive environmental focuses. As of last year, Gap customers can drop off unwanted clothes at several store locations, which Redress then either recycles or re-distributes to those in need.
Meanwhile, H&M’s garment-to-garment recycling system ‘Looop’ has been up and running within Hong Kong’s heritage landmark The Mills since 2018.
Despite heightened safety and hygiene concerns, Hong Kongers are now shifting towards a sustainable mentality in the current climate. Whether it’s for cost-saving purposes or to eliminate fashion waste, there is undeniably a growing appetite from shopaholics getting on board the circular economy with their stylish pre-loved purses in hand.