By Ben Kiem
Paco Crofts, a third-year Humanities major, sits in the living room of his 4-person dorm room, wearing a purple knit pullover and a pair of green, flared trousers. It is a late Thursday evening. As he receives a push-notification on his phone reminding him to pick up a Balenciaga jacket he bought on Vinted, a European platform for selling clothes, he slips into a pair of black and gold Gucci slippers, completing his eccentric outfit for the day.
As a fashion reseller, Crofts’ method is fairly simple: he spends an hour per day on Vinted, searching for exclusive designer clothing in a haystack of fast-fashion. He targets underpriced, designer brand products, often sold by a target audience he describes as “the wealthy trying to free up space in their wardrobe” and who “don’t per se know the value of what they are selling”.
He then goes on to sell most items on Grailed, a dedicated platform for people who are “into the men’s fashion industry and know what they are buying,” according to Crofts. “I am basically an intermediary between Vinted and Grailed, because I filter through the debris on Vinted and offer a concentrated, curated selection on Grailed. That’s where the profits lie”. This kind of business model – known as ‘retail arbitrage’ – is the well-known practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two markets.
His ability to identify such underpriced items stems from a long interest in fashion. It was in Buenos Aires when the Dutch-born Crofts developed his first interest in fashion. As he moved to Dubai and later Zurich, his surroundings further shaped his designer taste. Not being able to afford it himself, he started saving money to buy items second hand, developing the sense for a good deal. Quickly, the then 16-year-old Crofts noticed that the market price differed significantly between platforms, allowing for him to pocket the markup when reselling.
Aware of this potential in the designer clothing industry, Crofts started on “a really small budget” in order to get “a foot in the door of the fashion world”. After some successful years, the now 20-year-old decided to expand his method and invest his student loan. “I am in the privileged situation where my parents are able to help towards my tuition,” Crofts says, “which allows me to invest a sizable amount of my monthly student loan”.
WO students in the Netherlands, such as Crofts, can receive loans of up to around 1000 Euros a month. The loan is relatively unconditional of usage and academic achievements, as well as – up until the beginning of this academic year – being interest free, providing a flexible and beneficial loan structure for students.
So far, Crofts has invested a cumulative 25,000 Euros in designer clothing. The – for a student – immense investment originates from two main sources: 5,000 Euros in profits from previous sales and 20,000 from his student loans.
However, Crofts will have to revisit his investment strategy as the government recently announced that, as of past January, a 0.46 percent interest rate will be charged on student loans. Other risks to his business include buying inauthentic designer items from scam sellers.
When Crofts arrived home from picking up the Balenciaga jacket, he noticed that the jacket was not an original Balenciaga. Under closer examination, two stripes are “not how they are supposed to be” when compared to the original. However, this doesn’t prove to be too concerning for Crofts, as he explains that he will usually get his money back if he can prove the item is fake or ‘unauthentic’.
In fact, his main concern is not being scammed or misjudging the price of an item but rather the idea of something happening to his investments. “I used to keep these clothes in my shared student apartment,” Crofts says, “I was constantly afraid of someone breaking in”. He goes on to explain that his three roommates all had their laptops stolen in his first year, and not being insured on his investments further intensified his anxiety.
As a solution, he brought most of his 20,000 Euros collection to his parents’ home in The Hague. His inventory includes mainly high-end brand jackets and shoes, such as the Gucci slippers which he bought for 100 Euros and intends to sell for more than 300. He projects the overall resale value of his inventory at around 35,000 Euros. To further boost his sales, he is currently in the process of creating his own make-shift photo studio in his dorm room to make better quality listings.
His girlfriend of three years, Harper Strahan, has mixed feelings about Crofts’ business.
“While I fully support him and admire what he does, I wish at times he would sell quicker because he is sitting on a massive amount of debt,” Strahan says.
Crofts concedes somewhat begrudgingly. “I agree with her,” he says, “I owe the government more than 20,000 Euros and even if I consider the risk to be minor, it’s still a risk”.