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The Archivist Wants Brands to Take Control of Their History

The luxury vintage market will soon be under the supervision of brands, not resale sites.

woman looking at brand name bag
BRIN, Courtesy of The Archivist

According to Joseph Einhorn, co-founder (along with digital development whiz Ashley Granata) of data and technology company The Archivist, resale sites diminish the value of archival designer goods by positing them as items to be sold for less than retail. The sales are then just a way for shoppers to save big on something from a designer they can't actually afford. But, there are inherent risks in resale for brands that Einhorn sees as inevitable: counterfeiting, quality control issues and consumer dissatisfaction.

The vintage selling experience Einhorn envisions would be one for buyers who "view these pieces as works of art," and have an interest in "tracing their provenance and appreciating their timeless qualities.” These consumers see past season's jackets and accessories as collector's items; things that accrue value; things meant to be cherished. There are more and more consumers like this, who choose to shop this way — like they're hunting for fine art.

the archivist website
The Archivist

If brands reclaimed control of their archival inventory, Einhorn explains, they'd get to oversee the resale of their products, pulling items off sites like Ebay, Grailed, GOAT, StockX, TheRealReal or Vestiaire Collective and back into their own ecosystem, where messaging, monetary value and consumer experience are under their direction. In the same way artists are removed from sales beyond the first transaction, brands are too; but they're tired of being excluded.

LA-based designer Daniel Patrick began taking back his archives last month with the launch of his The Archivist hub — danielpatrick.thearchivist.com. On it, clothing and footwear from past seasons are listed by third-party sellers. Patrick's team, however, has a hand in every step of the process — from approving listings and product images to communicating with the customer when the shipment has departed and will be delivered.

Ushering brands through the launch of their own store is only half of The Archivist's mission, though. The foundation of the company is data: which vintage items from a given brand are selling well, how abundant they are, where they're being sold, what condition they're in and many other metrics. The Archivist crawls thousands of sites and millions of listings worldwide to offer brands "the Bloomberg terminal of resale." There, brands get an informed look at the entire archival luxury market and are encouraged to base brand decisions on it.

daniel patrick website
The Archivist

"There's this thing called resale, which is when somebody buys an item, and then they use it, and then they sell it for whatever they can get for it," Einhorn explains. "And I understand that that's a very big, lucrative business, but that's not a business that we have any interest in. We're interested in the other side of this world, which is the timeless pieces; the pieces with the magic; the pieces that are growing in value."

The Archivist, Einhorn explains, can help brands build out their archives, decide which designs should be retroed (aka revised and relaunched, like Jordan 1s), and even make hiring decisions. Because while many brands will keep a few copies of certain garments for their internal collection, the fourth or fifth and beyond could totally be sold — and on their own The Archivist site if they tapped Einhorn for assistance.

"Brands can use the data to make decisions about acquisition: Whether they should be building their own archives — which many of these brands have started doing — whether they should be going piece by piece, or whether they should be buying out collectors' entire collections," Einhorn says. The Archivist makes it easier for brands to capitalize on the $40 billion dollar resale market — and fast, as resale sites begin to struggle but the luxury vintage market continues to grow.

Einhorn alludes to a progressive decline of these sites rather than sudden demise, but he believes plenty will be gone within the decade — because of consolidation. Kering — the group that owns Saint Laurent and Balenciaga — invested in Vestiaire Collective; GOAT invested in Grailed; Etsy bought Depop; Gucci launched its own vintage site, appropriately titled the Vault, with TheRealReal; TheRealReal's exploring its own clothing line, where margins are better and customer experience something they can more easily control.

man posing in fashion magazine
Aimé Leon Dore

"Companies are starting to join forces in this industry because they can see the writing on the wall: This subject is of too much importance to the brands themselves to allow external parties this much control," Einhorn says.

Plenty of brands — not just luxury labels — have begun reclaiming control. Banana Republic debuted an online store filled with its own archival items; Aimé Leon Dore curated a collection of designs that inspired their own garments; Levi's operates a Levi's thrift and vintage store filled with one-offs and other gently worn items called SecondHand; L.L. Bean dipped its toes in the vintage market earlier this month.

Recycling old designs is smart and sustainable, and a way to attract even more shoppers, of which there seems to be no shortage. The luxury resale market is on pace to grow another 15- to 20-percent annually over the next five years, and brands want to be ready this time around. The Archivist hopes many will ask them for help.


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