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Vintage Fashion: Second-Hand Luxury in Global Market Essay


The fashion industry is reported to be cyclical which creates a periodical but relatively constant demand for clothes from earlier trends. Historical research on global vintage apparel consumption behaviors states that nostalgia is the main drive behind the latter (Cervellon et al., 2012). Such claims are also supported by modern studies that suggest that people are motivated to buy clothes from other periods to experience their spirit (Cozer, 2018). Such a drive can be explained through the prism of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the aspect of belonging. It appears that this sense of connection aligns perfectly with nostalgic themes in buyers’ motivation.

Another motivation that multiple researchers agree plays a large part in buyers’ behavior is the desire to economize. Indeed, saving money on secondhand apparel without a sufficient decrease in stylishness may be a good motivator. Yet, this point of view is not fully supported by contemporary scholars. Thus, Leipämaa-Leskinen and Turunen (2015) argue that there is rather a combination of factors at play than just one.

They suggest that presently, people are driven by ecological concerns, uniqueness, and the treasure-hunt attitude besides simply buying cheap. This point of view seems more logical, as human buying behavior is a complex phenomenon that is difficult to explain using a single factor. Other motivational theories are nonetheless consistent with Leipämaa-Leskinen and Turunen’s (2015) views on the multimodal nature of motivation.

For instance, Azevedo et al. (2009) cited in Cozer (2018) argues that motivations for vintage clothes consumption can be influenced by “psychological, socio-cultural, personal, psychological and rational factors” (p. 8). The apparent drawback of current motivation frameworks is their dependence on culture as in different societies values and priorities may differ significantly (Xu et al., 2014; Liang and Xu, 2018; Antola, 2017).

Customer Attitude

The attitude towards vintage fashion is also formed from different factors. Thus, as noted by Henninger et al. (2018), in China, where it is often required to uphold the positive image of self in society, vintage clothing is not always demonstrated by buyers even if bought. Yet, ambiguity persists with authentic vintage fashion in China. While new trends may be considered rebellious, with careful marketing and historical underlining, the vintage clothing industry may have a chance (Henninger et al., 2018).

The instability of trends and attitudes also speaks the research performed by Yeoman (2011). He argues that there are several global shifts towards luxury consumption including increased value for quality and exclusivity, as well as readiness for renting clothes. As unique vintage clothes can also be considered a luxury that gains popularity, it may soon lose its exclusive status and might need a redefinition.

One more factor that influences consumer attitude towards vintage garments is eco-consciousness. Reusing, reselling, and repurchasing are the terms that currently define luxury clothing market perceptions in Finland (Antola, 2017). Gorra (2017, par. 3) names this phenomenon as a “Secondary behavior” and argues that it has spread globally due to the popularity of online shopping websites and smartphone applications.

Yet, second-hand production might not necessarily be related to natural resource-saving, Hancock (2016) argues. Yet, despite her claims, it seems to be an evident economy because the demand for second-hand items generates a lower supply of new apparel. In this sense, the attitudes towards vintage second-hand clothes are inherently positive. Thus, there is a steady positive consumer attitude towards vintage clothes in the secondary market, yet cultural differences persist, which requires special marketing approaches and further comparative research.

Current Market Status

According to certain experts, the fashion market, including its vintage niche is currently under the influence of digital means of communication and environmental awareness. Ellwood (2016) reports the rise of sales in the vintage luxury apparel segment in the U.S. and the broad involvement of large brands in the production of high volumes of premium vintage-style items. However, in China, as suggested by Pan (2017), the second-hand luxury segment is not developing at the same pace because domestic consumers still do not apprehend this concept. The percentage of fake branded items is another reason why the market is progressing slowly.

In the U.K., the market for secondhand premium items of style rose by 21 million pounds for the last 6 years and, according to Gonzalez-Rodriguez (2018), will continue to grow. The reason for such immense growth in developed countries might be in the higher environmental awareness and resource conservation that became highly popular in the last decade (Cervellon et al. 2012; Xu et al., 2014).

It might indeed be the case, but one cannot deny the influence of other factors. There is also a reason to believe that the cultural differences between China and Western countries contribute to the dissimilarities in market development. As noted by academics above, culture plays a major role in consumer behaviors, which leads to different purchasing decisions (Henninger et al., 2016). It is also noteworthy that an online segment of the secondary market for premium vintage items rose considerably since the 2009 recession. Gorra (2017) links this fact to the economic options that several applications offer as well as the re-sale boom.

Reference List

Antola, L. M. O. 2017. Motivational drivers behind second-hand luxury consumption: a qualitative exploration of consumption motivations in Finland. Finland: Aalto University.

Cervellon, M., Carey, L. and Harms, T. 2012. Something old, something used: determinants of women’s purchase of vintage fashion vs second‐hand fashion. International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, 40 (12), pp.956-974.

Cozer, C. 2018. Consumer’s perception and purchase intentions: a qualitative study on second-hand clothing stores. Sweden: Jönköping University.

Ellwood, M. 2016. Inside the booming vintage luxury fashion market. Business of Fashion. Web.

Gonzalez-Rodriguez, A. 2018. . Fashion United. Fashion United. Web.

Gorra, C. 2017. . Harvard Business School. Harvard Business School. Web.

Hancock, G. 2016. Vintage done right: tracing the secondhand clothing supply chain. California: Urban and Environmental Policy Department.

Henninger, C. E., Tong, Z., and Vazquez, D. 2018. Perceived brand image of luxury fashion and vintage fashion—an insight into Chinese millennials’ attitudes and motivations. In: Ryding, D., Henninger C. E. and Blazquez Cano M. eds. Vintage luxury fashion: exploring the rise of the secondhand clothing trade. Cham: Springer International Publishing. pp. 97-110.

Leipämaa-Leskinen, H. and Turunen, L. L. M. 2015. Pre-loved luxury: identifying the meanings of second-hand luxury possessions. Journal of Product and Brand Management, 24 (1), pp.57-65.

Liang, J. and Xu, Y. 2018. Second-hand clothing consumption: a generational cohort analysis of the Chinese market. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 42 (1), pp.120-130.

Pan, Y. 2017. . Jing Daily. Web.

Xu, Y., Chen, Y., Burman, R., and Zhao, H. 2014. Second-hand clothing consumption: a cross-cultural comparison between American and Chinese young consumers. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 38 (6), pp. 670–677.

Yeoman, I. 2011. The changing behaviours of luxury consumption. Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, 10 (1), pp.47-50.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Vintage Fashion: Second-Hand Luxury in Global Market." December 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/vintage-fashion-second-hand-luxury-in-global-market/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Vintage Fashion: Second-Hand Luxury in Global Market'. 11 December.

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