“Customers will continue to question their consumption”: Interview with Vestiaire Collective’s CEO Max Bittner

With growing consciousness of sustainability, it looks like fast fashion might not be so on trend anymore. Currently benefitting from that shift is Vestiaire Collective, a French fashion tech startup based in Paris. Founded over ten years ago, the company has raised €209 million, closing a recent funding round just weeks ago totalling €49 million.

We caught up with CEO Max Bittner, who took the helm of the startup in 2018. A former founder himself (of the e-commerce giant Lazada), we discussed tips for first-time entrepreneurs, as well as Vestiaire Collective’s unique value proposition, future trends in sustainable fashion, and how the company is faring during COVID-19.

Thanks for your time, Max! For our readers who don’t know, what is Vestiaire Collective and what problem is it trying to solve?

Vestiaire Collective is the leading global resale platform for desirable pre-owned fashion. Our community of 9 million fashion activists worldwide inspire one another whilst selling and buying unique pieces from each other’s wardrobe. An increased interest in sustainability and the rise of social media has driven consumer interest in the pre-owned market. Gen Z and Millenials want to access the fashion they desire in a more sustainable way whilst also feeling connected to a wider community, which is where Vestiaire offers a unique proposition that meets a growing demand driven by the younger generations.

Congratulations on closing the latest most recent funding round! You’ve stated that one use of the cash is to keep fuelling Vestiaire Collective’s international expansion. What have you found to be the key challenges of continued growth?

This is really the moment for resale. There are so many opportunities we could pursue, one of my personal biggest challenges has been to keep the team focused on the big topics that really make a difference. The biggest challenge overall for the business has predominantly been scaling internationally. Each market has its own cultural nuances, meaning you need to dedicate a lot of time to research each market, building a broad understanding of all the factors that can impact your ability to scale successfully. It’s important to build a strong local team that understands each market you want to reach.

This is the second time you’ve chosen to personally participate in a funding round during your time leading Vestiaire Collective. What motivated that decision?

The first thing that struck me when considering joining Vestiaire Collective was the huge potential for the business model. I strongly believe the platform answers a number of today’s growing consumer needs and this shift in the consumer landscape will continue to escalate over the coming years, this is why I wanted to invest in the business myself shortly after I joined in 2019. I’ve reinvested again in this round as I am personally convinced that this unprecedented period of disruption will not only challenge where we shop but how we shop which will further drive adoption of online resale platforms.

Vestiaire Collective was founded in 2009 – it’s already been over ten years! As the business has grown – and investor cash has flowed – how do you believe the company goals and objectives have changed?

I’ve been with the business for just over a year and a half, but I believe the fundamental goals of the company remain the same as they were in the founding years. Encouraging a sustainable approach to fashion consumption was a core founding pillar of the Vestiaire Collective model when it launched, and this remains key to the company’s future objectives.

When the founders launched the platform they spotted a shift in the way people were starting to think about and consume fashion. This evolution has continued to grow and we believe this will be further escalated by the impact of the current crisis. We want to encourage more people to join our circular fashion community and explore a more sustainable way to enjoy fashion.

In these ten years, more fashion startups with similar circular business models have arrived on the scene. What continues to make Vestiaire Collective unique?

The platform remains unique due to its highly engaged global community, its rare desirable inventory and the high level of trust we have developed in the company and the community. There are no other players in the market that offer this unique combination. I also believe that you should always be willing to self-disrupt so we are constantly looking for new ways to innovate and evolve to ensure we can continue to provide for the ever-changing needs of today’s customer.

What trends do you see taking off in the fashion e-commerce industry over the next five years – will sustainable alternatives really triumph over fast fashion?

We live in a world where consumers, especially younger generations, have really been changing the paradigm of the way things are done. There has been a shift of consumer behaviour towards a circular economy and digital landscape. I think customers will continue to question and change their approach to consumption. Where they are becoming more conscious of both sustainability and the impact of consumerism, this will be further escalated by the current crisis which will ultimately force brands to rethink their current model.

How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted business at Vestiaire Collective, if at all?

As a C2C platform we have been able to be quite agile in the way we operate during this period, and this has allowed the business to rebound from an initial impact quite quickly. We are seeing positive figures on both order and deposits right now. Central European orders are +20% on our pre-Covid-19 February average, and overall deposits are +33% for the same period. We’re also seeing our community continue to be strongly engaged on our app.

Finally, as a founder yourself, what advice do you have for those hoping to take the plunge and start their own company?

Follow your passion and your instincts – you need to start a company that will make you want to get out of bed in the morning. Always keep an entrepreneurial state of mind. Innovation is key to any business maintaining a competitive edge, so never miss the opportunity to drive change where you believe it’s needed.

EU-Startups

Amid the throes of COVID-19 pandemic, Vestiaire Collective collects €59M to boost its second-hand fashion platform

Ahead of Earth day’s 50th anniversary, Vestiaire Collective, the global platform for desirable pre-owned fashion has raised €59 million funding recently, bringing the total amount raised to €219 million. 

The financing round consists of a huge investor’s list including Korelya Capital, Fidelity International-managed funds, Vaultier7, Cuit Invest, and existing investors Eurazeo, Bpifrance, Vitruvian Partners, Condé Nast, Luxury Tech Fund and Vestiaire Collective CEO Max Bittner.

Max Bittner, Vestiaire Collective’s CEO comments:

“I am personally convinced that this unprecedented period of disruption will not only challenge where we shop but how we shop. Vestiaire Collective was built during the 2008 crisis and proves today how it can help people in their daily life to make the most out of their belongings, but also to access fashion in a sustainable and conscious way. Every day, I feel proud and amazed by our global community of fashion activists who are leading the way towards a brighter future”

Based out of Paris, Vestiaire Collective aims to limit waste produced by the fashion industry, by keeping clothes out of the landfill and increasing the number of times they are worn today, for a better tomorrow. 

With the funding, the French company intends to continue transforming the fashion system while offering a smart, circular and responsible alternative to throw-away fashion. Additionally, the company also plans to explore the expansion of the global business into Japan and Korea through Korelya Capital, backed by Naver and expand the launch of direct shipping service in the US. 

Paul Degueuse, General Partner of Korelya Capital says,

“As we all take a step back and contemplate the way we live, we believe consumption patterns are on the verge of a deep structural evolution, and C2C platforms have a strong role to play here. We see in Vestiaire Collective an emerging leader and catalyst for this upcoming disruption. We are extremely enthusiastic to support the Vestiaire Collective and its founders in its expansion. There are tremendous opportunities for growth in Asia, and we look forward to helping the company accelerate its expansion in this part of the globe.”

According to the company claims, currently, over 80% of the French headquartered company’s transactions are already generated cross-border. Launched in Europe in September 2019 the service is increasingly popular with a growing number of customers. Currently, already over 50% of orders in the EU are fulfilled through the new service, which is also growing at a rate of +60% MoM. The model will be launched in the United States in early summer followed by Asia before the end of 2020.

Vestiairecollective.com has over 9 million members across 90 countries worldwide with offices in Paris, London, New York, Milan, Berlin, and Hong Kong. Over 60,000 new items are submitted by its community of sellers every week, which enables buyers to search amongst highly coveted and sold out fashion pieces whilst participating in the circular fashion movement.

Vaultier7 comments:

“Vestiaire Collective has transformed the way people consume desirable and luxury fashion with its trusted and inspirational resale model and we are truly proud to be there at this time to support them in their mission, and support buyers and sellers across the globe on their path to cautious, minded consumption, values which are more important than ever and which are at the core of Vaultier7.”

Frank Boehly, Président of SIC SA investor Cuir Invest, says,

“Cuir Invest is happy to support Vestiaire Collective, as it is a company with an impressive management team, and huge growth potential. We have been impressed by the technical quality of the solution, by the quality and the dynamism of the management team, and by their intelligent and sustainable approach to fashion. We truly believe that Vestiaire Collective can become the world leader in their sector.”

Main image credits: Vestiaire Collective

Stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more European technology news

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Startups – Silicon Canals

Vestiaire Collective raises $64.2 million for its second-hand fashion platform

Vestiaire Collective just closed another big round of funding in the middle of an economic crisis — the round closed in early April. The startup raised $ 64.2 million (€59 million) and the company has raised over $ 240 million over the year according to CrunchBase. Vestiaire Collective operates a marketplace of pre-owned fashion items. Users can both sell and buy clothes and accessories on the platform.

There’s a huge list of investors in today’s round — Korelya Capital, Fidelity International-managed funds, Vaultier7, Cuit Invest and existing investors Eurazeo (Eurazeo Growth and Idinvest Venture funds), Bpifrance, Vitruvian Partners, Condé Nast, Luxury Tech Fund and Vestiaire Collective CEO Matt Bittner are all participating.

With 9 million members across 90 countries, Vestiaire Collective has become a huge marketplace. And it makes sense that an e-commerce website focused on pre-owned items is working well. There has been a ton of backlash against fast fashion over the past few years.

People now also value circular business models as it becomes more affordable to refresh your wardrobe, especially during an economic crisis, and it is better for the environment.

As always, Vestiaire Collective will use the new influx of cash to expand to more countries. In particular, with Korelya Capital as a new backer, the company will expand to South Korea and Japan this year. While the company started in France, 80% of transactions are now cross-border transactions.

Originally, Vestiaire Collective asked you to send your items to its warehouses to check them before putting them on sale. The startup has been betting on direct shipping from the seller to the buyer in Europe and it has been working well. You can get reimbursed if there’s something wrong with what you ordered though.

Direct shipping has been available in Europe since September 2019 and it now represents over 50% of orders in the region. Up next, Vestiaire Collective will introduce direct shipping in the U.S. this summer and in Asia by the end of 2020.

Startups – TechCrunch