Phillip Lim, The RealReal

A staunch advocate for slowing down and taking stock of things, Phillip Lim enters resale with a public archive sale launching today with The RealReal.

Items will be featured in a dedicated shop with a landing page for all 3.1 Phillip Lim items until they’re sold.

While the 3.1 Phillip Lim brand was already available to some 16 million shoppers at The RealReal — with the brand’s consignment channel alone saving more than 100 metric tons of carbon and 3.5 million liters of water — the archive sale speaks to more troubles plaguing designers where the circular economy may serve as the solution.

The RealReal business-to-business platform, with which Lim is partnering, aims to lift the burdens of trapped inventory, order cancellations and give designers a potential alternative to or exit from wholesale.

“We are that additional channel to unlock that inventory and share it with millions and millions of shoppers worldwide,” said Karin Dillie, director of b-to-b and estates at The RealReal.

Although Lim opted for a public sale, sellers on the b-to-b platform can choose to maintain anonymity.

Speaking to the benefits of a resale partnership, Dillie said: “Ease has also been a recurring theme in our conversations with brands.” With the same logistical perks available to an individual consignor on The RealReal — including photography, product listings, fulfillment, shipping, etc. — b-to-b sellers also have the advantage of “expedited processing” and real-time “personalized online sales dashboards.”

From conversations with independent designers and brands alike, the stress from paying bills, closing storefronts, having to deal with trapped collections and idling or dwindling site traffic is widely felt.

For Lim — along with these indicated stressors — the pandemic has sprung new awareness, with “love, unity, community” at the forefront of his decision-making, although palpable throughout his career.

Speaking to the upheaval the pandemic has caused to the fashion industry, Lim said: “Never before has there been assault simultaneously on the demand and supply chain.” Even prior to the pandemic, Lim was pausing to rethink “revolutionary” in his own terms, turning to natural fibers and “smaller, tighter and more refined and focused” collections.

“Sometimes, revolutionary is being able to disrupt yourself and get back to the origins. That’s my mission,” he added. “At a point, we lost the idea of, who is it for, actually? Now, what’s kind of amazing is we’re all realizing, you don’t need all that stuff,” Lim said.

Fortunately, he and his team don’t need the stuff, either.

The archive sale of “past season goodies” comes at a convenient time for shoppers and sellers, as Lim enthused, citing items in perfectly good condition, the only fault being they got swept up in a “too fast” market.

What’s included in the sale?

Lim’s archive sale will feature some favorites, like the first sample of the brand’s exclusive chocolate-toned motorcycle jacket, customized hiking boots for a Paris runway and Lim’s own rendition of Air Force Ones: in a luxe gray velvet and suede.

“Now that people have time, we were able to bring it back through an archive sale — kind of a secret portal — and remarket it in a way and offer it at such an amazing price that people are so happy about. It recirculates these things,” Lim added.

He’s finding this renewed interest in his own closet, as are the consigners to The RealReal.

Early in March, The RealReal pivoted to virtual consignment appointments with respect to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. As for how the virtual consignment is faring, Dillie did not provide numbers, but said: “We’ve continued to see strong interest in consigning, and have conducted thousands of virtual appointments since launch.”

While The RealReal’s vendor business has been “historically small,” interest from new vendors is up 10 times versus pre-COVID-19 levels, according to chief financial officer Matt Gustke, in an earnings call for The RealReal. From the beginning of May to date, The RealReal has seen its supply from the b-to-b program double compared to the same time last year.

Lim’s hands-on approach to resale is part of his larger vision, which is simple at its roots.

“Everyone’s talking about sustainability as a theory, as this big overarching thing. We forget that actually if we just look at our parents and we go back a little bit further, they had only a handful of options. It wasn’t ‘consume, consume, consume.’ It was, ‘educate, knowledge, patience, wait, appreciate and enjoy.’ I want that again. I want to think about clothes and accessories and shoes in that way. I want to look at it and be tickled by it,” the designer said.