WHAT’S OLD IS NEW: In what will be a first in the company’s 109-year-old history, L.L. Bean is launching its first sale of vintage apparel Wednesday. Debuting via Instagram Stories, the selection will feature preppy mainstays like a chamois shirt and the Maine guide shirt spanning from the ’60s until now. The retailer and mail-order specialist is known for its long-lasting products, although its lifetime guarantee was discontinued in 2018 and it now offers a refund for any returned merchandise within one-year of purchase.
The L.L. Bean Pre-Loved collection will be available solely online, in three installments: the first on Wednesday, followed by on Oct. 20 and Oct. 27. The online assortment of 28 garments has been chosen by L.L. Bean’s design team, which started the process years ago by visiting vintage fairs and flea markets nationwide as part of its strategy to look to the brand’s heritage for inspiration. The flagship in Freeport, Maine, will offer an additional 120 garments. Anoraks, vests, fleece pieces, flannel shirts and outerwear are in the mix in men’s, women’s and unisex styles.
The resale apparel market is a burgeoning one and L.L. Bean, a nearly $1.6 billion entity, is following a path forged by some of its competitors. Currently estimated to be about a $36 billion industry, that figure is expected to grow to $77 billion in 2025, according to a ThredUp report. Patagonia was among the first major outdoor brand to get on board with reselling apparel. Others like The North Face, Cotopaxi, Toad & Co., REI and Arc’teryx have joined the fold. Some like REI are also reselling outdoor gear and equipment. Adidas has launched “Choose to Give Back,” a program that uses ThredUp’s Resale-as-a-Service platform. Consumers can send used apparel and footwear from any sports performance brand to Adidas that will be reused or resold by Adidas within 45 days.
But the L.L. Bean finds have been spruced up through a partnership with Tersus Solutions, which refurbished and retagged them. Meghan Newton, one of the designers who helped to cherry-pick the items, said the collection is “also an important step in our commitment to extending the life cycle of our apparel for years to come.”
A company spokesman declined to comment when asked if the company has plans for a more significant resale and buy-back program.
Decades after “The Preppy Handbook” helped to satirize and simultaneously elevate L.L. Bean as an emporium of prepdom, the company’s New England-y styles still resonate with shoppers. Last year’s collaboration with men’s wear designer Todd Snyder, a sampler of his archival pieces from different decades, was a sellout and one of the designer’s most successful partnerships. Snyder and L.L. Bean followed that up with a new collection last month inspired by fishing and hunting.