|One of the many designer bags that go through Vestiaire’s head office in Paris
Whilst in Paris last month, I decided to pay a visit to Vestiaire Collective Head office. I’ve been buying some amazing pieces in recent years, from my Cecilie Copenhagen dress to Sonia Rykiel bag – it has truly the best selection of second-hand designer pieces out there and the best, most edited range of relevant pieces, too. It is, in my opinion, the best way to buy designer pieces for a reduced price.
Vestiaire has really grown in the last few years, and Chanel and Hermes are their top selling brands (30% of sales!) – as they are the one of the only sites that are authorised to sell these brands second-hand.
They have a team of 25 ‘curators’ – who must approve everything that goes on the site – they refuse 30% of items. This way, nothing that’s not sought after and won’t sell is listed. So you know everything on the site is pre-approved – and they’ve really tapped into a seller who uses things a few times and sells – so you can buy new season bags (even Celine) for a much reduced rate.
They even help the sellers with the price – when you type in your sale price, they either tell you that it suits the market expectations or politely advise you to put the price down/up. The great thing about buying designer (albeit infrequent, for me), is that it generally holds its price. So even if you buy a bag one season and are not sure the next, you’ll generally get most of your money back.
But how do you know that what you’re getting is the real deal? The experts talked me through their process…and I found it hugely fascinating (total fashion geek here).
They talked me through the process with Hermes – I’m not suggesting everyone buy one straight away, but hoping you can appreciate a good bag when you see one…
The authenticators at Vestiaire know their stuff. Just from the original photograph, they can usually tell if an item is a counterfeit. After an item is sold, it goes to the Head office and is rigorously checked (one office in NY and one in Paris). They have been trained by the staff at the biggest auction houses in France and work hand in hand with the luxury brands (who come into the office every six months to train staff and teach them about their brands and counterfeits etc).
They generally look for quality of leather, finishes, engravings, date stitching (they even count the number of stitches) etc. They know what to look for -you can even have ‘real’ invoices and serial numbers on a fake bag. They look for modifications (new handles etc) and whether the item matches the description of ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ condition.
They laugh about using the five senses – touch, smell etc – especially with vintage bags – they also use lot of logic.
This vintage Hermes Mini Kelly is selling for £6,500. If they have any doubt on its authenticity, they will ring up the brand. Occasionally, they have found a really good counterfeit, Hermes work hard to outsmart the counterfeiters (who’ve started to understand secret coding and embossing, stitch number etc). Hermes and Chanel are quite unique that they almost go up in value the older they are.
|Labelling up an Hermes bag
On Vestiaire, people buy ‘like new’, almost boutique like. People wear once and sell…and buyers expect invoices, dust bags etc. It really takes away the stigma of buying secondhand. Savvy bloggers like Lucy Williams openly buy their Celine trio bags from Vestiaire…and I am eyeing up a Mansur Gavriel bag myself (why do I have such expensive taste?!).
And then after a hard afternoon of looking at designer bags (I must say, one of my less stressful days at work), we had a rummage ourselves in VIP clothing….
|Oh, this old Saint Laurent coat?!
|The Isabel Marant jacket they had to pry off my back
So, I’ve found yet another website you can while away your day on – and did I mention you can sign up for alerts? Whether you’re after Valentino Rockstuds or Celine sunnies, type it in and add to your alerts – and Vestiaire will email you every time new items land online)…I’ve signed up for Valentino flats and Louis Vuitton ‘Neverfull’….one day, one day.