Online bargains: where fashion editors buy (and sell) clothes
Fashion editors love a bargain. As much as you might think they’re in and out of exclusive boutiques all day long, they’re more likely to have found that Chanel handbag on one of two rather swish-looking websites that have revolutionised the world of second-hand designer fashion.
Trawl Covetique and Vestiaire Collective and you’ll see the pieces those editors have sold to make way for the new — picked up from their houses, vetted for quality and uploaded by a team of pricing experts, usually for about a third less than they once were. Just remember: it’s called “pre-owned” or “resale” these days.
On Covetique, a pair of spring 2013 open-toe, bow-front Prada booties were £710 and are now £195. A Dolce & Gabbana blouse — as seen on the catwalk for autumn 2012 — will set you back £850, down from £3,500. And at Vestiaire Collective a Balenciaga top, a collector’s item, is £250. What’s more, you can sell your own unwanted or not-quite-right designer pieces back to each site to fund and make room for the new.
Some of the stock hasn’t even been worn by its previous owners, and it arrives in boutique-worthy packaging. “We did a feature on internet shopping, so I registered that night,” says Vogue’s commissioning editor Violet Henderson about Vestiaire (as it’s known in the business). “I’ve bought a jumper-dress from Les Petites, a red minidress by Charlott and some Balmain boots that were £390 and had originally been £1,300.
“I think ‘vintage’ has washed away any shame that may have been associated with second-hand shopping,” Henderson continues. “Also, I think people are beginning to look at what they wear with a more ecological mindset. And as they’re also reduced in price, it’s near guilt-free shopping — that’s how I’m selling it to myself, anyway.”
This conscience-salving isn’t far off the mark. Research from Covetique has found that women on average spend £1,200 per month on clothes, and have no idea that they could easily recoup that. The site’s founder, Nicola McClafferty, used to work in venture capitalism and was inspired by the credit crunch to start her business.
“People were thinking more about what they owned and how to extract value from these assets,” she says. “For many women, wardrobes are as valuable as a car or a house-swap, but, aside from eBay, there were very few options to consider reselling.”
But on these high-end sites there are no blurry photos or dubious origins. Every item at Vestiaire Collective comes through its Paris HQ, where there are teams of authenticators, versed in Vuitton and schooled in Chanel, whose job it is to sort the real from the fake and to flag up to the customer any faults with the products.
Prada boots, £195 (Covetique)
“I tried to buy a Marni dress,” says Henderson, “but as my order was being processed it went to be quality-checked and verified. I got an email saying there was a stain on the lining and they recommended a 35 per cent reduction in price.”
“Before we launched, the only options were small second-hand shops or unedited sites,” says Fanny Moizant, Vestiaire Collective’s co-founder and head of its UK operations. “The choice wasn’t great and it would take ages to dig out the gems. But our site features only aspirational fashion and has a quality-control department. This has led to a new breed of consumer who is expert at hunting out affordable prices and also sees the resale value of items she no longer wears.”
But before you mourn the passing of the impulse buy, sites such as these are also facilitating a certain amount of “gotta have it”. The prized Chanel canvas rucksack from the label’s spring 2014 art-inspired collection recently sold on Vestiaire Collective for £1,000 above its original price — a sign that these sites aren’t just for bargains (and who doesn’t love one of those?): they’re also for snapping up the pieces you loved but lost out on in previous seasons.
And there’s no shortage of choice either — these sites receive about 10,000 items per week, 1,000 of which pass strict criteria and are posted daily. So what are you waiting for? Clicking is the new rummaging.