Brunch and Learn: discussion on sustainability and the future of retail

by Darina Granik January 28, 2020

Brunch and Learn: discussion on sustainability and the future of retail

To kick off the New Year, Lux Second Chance invited selected fashion insiders and media to discuss sustainability and the future of retail over brunch at Soho House Toronto. With the changing scape of retail and climate disaster, these currently are the biggest concerns in the fashion industry.

To open the discussion, Diana Nguyen, the Founder and CEO of Lux Second Chance shared how she started the company and its impact on the industry today. After working in the banking industry in Asia for seven years, Diana moved back to Toronto and founded Lux Second Chance by selling her own 23 designer handbags as a start.  Now it boasts thousands of inventories from consignment stores across Canada, US, Paris (France) and London (UK).

Diana Nguyen, the Founder and CEO of Lux Second Chance
For the occasion, Diana wore a vintage Dolce & Gabbana dress in fuchsia pink. Her choice could not be more appropriate as with the company she advocates for the reuse of luxury items, choosing quality over quantity and supporting circular economy as a survival tool for the planet. It was very emotional for Diana to tap into the topic of climate change and the current wildfires in Australia, where she lived for a couple of years.
While climate change and sustainability are key concerns in today’s fashion industry, vintage comes as a response to the problem. Vintage is a sustainable form of fashion. It’s been numerously reported how the fashion industry is the second most pollutant and wasteful industry on the planet, after oil. Knowing this, modern consumers slowly get more conscious with their choices and shopping decisions. As a matter of fact, according to List Report in 2019, sustainability related keywords increased 75% year on year, with an average of 27,000 searches for sustainable fashion every month.
Opening remarks by Diana Nguyen
It has been discussed how with a rapid expansion of fast-fashion, not just air and water pollution has increased, but the quality and the longevity of garments have reduced dramatically. Buying used comes as a natural cultural response to it. As an alternative to the mass-market throwaway culture, vintage provides an opportunity to recycle once pre-loved items and to reduce landfill waste.
Luxury resale companies work hard to encourage consumers to buy less and better. Companies like Lux Second Chance add to the sustainability message by extending the product life cycle through reuse of something pre-loved by another. 


In the meantime during our brunch the guests raised some concerns about the future of retail. 

JJ Cowan, of Wax and Lash, asked everyone, “With massive retailers going online, will governments put any restrictions in terms of their carbon imprint?” Huge fast-fashion retailers, like Forever 21, are filing bankruptcy and closing down their physical stores due to the rise of online competitors, which require a lot of delivery (read “enormous carbon imprint”) for purchases and returns.  However, with an online luxury retail, the return turnover is significantly less, close to nothing for Lux Second Chance because the purchases are made more consciously. People take more time to consider a more expensive purchase than buying fast-fashion.  Therefore, less carbon imprint! 


Editor-in-chief of FAJO Magazine, Hannah Yakobi-Ross raised a question - “Fashion consumer wants everything NOW [as soon as it comes on the runway], can companies keep up with this pace?” And yes indeed that is quite a challenge for big fashion companies as well as small businesses to cater to their customer as soon as something becomes available and when a customer purchases something online. Diana noticed that Burberry was the first company who tried to implement a new approach of “See now-buy now” as soon as an item hits the runway. At the same time, Burberry has partnered with American luxury consignment store, The RealReal to tap into circular economy and give their older collections the second life. According to The Business of Fashion, British brand announced a pilot program offering people who sell Burberry pieces on The RealReal an exclusive personal shopping experience at select US stores.
The demand now is to get everything instantly. With Amazon Prime spoiling the consumer with almost immediate delivery, the expectations are high and sometimes not realistic for smaller businesses like Lux Second Chance, especially when the inventory is located across the world. That is a challenge that is currently being addressed with consciousness.
Aine Morris, fashion
insider, raised another concern about customers, who haven't quite yet come to the realization of the actual cost of fashion. It is a slow process. Still many people are indulging in fast-fashion throwaway habits, thinking that it is cheap in comparison to designer luxury quality items. It is necessary to consider and actually educate customers about the concepts like “cost per wear”. When somebody buys an H&M bag for $40 and wears it once, its CPW (cost per wear) is $40. When you buy a designer bag that costs $2,000 but you wear it at least 100 times (because it’s so gorgeous!), its CPW comes to $20 and decreases with every wear. This concept includes quality of the garment and its longevity.
Similar to this concept, there is another challenge launched by Livia Firth, an environmental advocate, producer of a highly acclaimed documentary film “True Cost”(2015), Founder of Eco Age (consultancy firm, whose clients include Gucci and Stella McCartney) and newly appointed Sustainability Editor-at-Large of Vogue Arabia. She launched a campaign, called #30wears. She challenges people to think if they are going to wear a piece of clothing at least 30 times before throwing it away. This campaign really celebrates great fashion, challenges the mass-market industry and strengthens the luxury segment, because it is the high time for consumers to weigh their imprint on the planet.
The second-hand market is booming exponentially. Analytics firm GlobalData predicts the resale category will grow to $51 billion in 2023 from $24 billion last year. No longer second-hand market is confined to thrift stores and considered a way of shopping for the poor.  As an example, the London-based store William Vintage is favoured by style icons Amal Clooney and Meghan Markle. 
In addition to that, second-hand fashion is now outstripping growth in the primary luxury goods sector, so that American handbag brand Mark Cross announced plans to launch its own scheme, becoming one of the first luxury labels to offer second-hand products directly to consumers. Would other brands follow? Time will tell but there is definitely a switch of paradigm happening.
Overall during the brunch the main keyword that kept arising was “consciousness”. Customers must be more conscious while shopping, more considerate in their choices. It is not about having more, but having better. 

Guests during the brunch shared their New Year plans and resolutions, which surprisingly shared similar topics of overconsumption and new sustainable goals. The common ground included shopping less and more consciously in 2020 or challenging yourself with “no shopping for fashion for a year”.
As for Lux Second Chance, the plans for 2020 include launching clothing section on the website, partnering with more stores internationally and keep playing a role in reducing human impact on the environment, advocating social responsibility and helping to encourage the incorporation of sustainability into the luxury brand narrative.

All the guests at the Brunch and Learn

Darina Granik
Darina Granik


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