What does that even mean? Designer or luxury? Who decides what constitutes a designer consignment label; or what is or is not a luxury brand? Is it price? Rarity? Quality? All those criteria factor in, of course, But, as with many subjective questions, the answer can fall into one of three perspectives: “It’s in the eye of the beholder;” “You know it when you see it;” or “Compared to what?”
For those of us in the women’s consignment business, we keep a close eye on trends: What’s hot and what’s fading. It’s an ever-shifting market. Each person likely has their own definition of authentic luxury clothing and handbags or designer labels-based on exposure, socio-economic status, taste and lifestyle. Certainly most people would put designer label handbags, clothing and jewelry from Chanel or Louis Vuitton in the category of luxury resale. Quite possibly, that’s because those are the most well-known and hence most desired brands in the resale market. But not everyone knows or has heard of some brands that we love and believe fall into the higher echelons of women’s designer consignment. Designer houses and luxury labels like Hermès, Lanvin, Tods, Balenciaga, Versace, Bottega Veneta and similar couture brands are very high end and quite expensive, but lesser known in a mainstream American market. If you read Vogue religiously in your youth, as I did, you may be very familiar with the designers that graced their pages. If you didn’t, that’s no judgement, it may not be your taste, your budget or your choice. We can admire and appreciate without purchasing, am I right?
People with incomes in the millions might have a higher bar for what they consider to be “designer” label, while those of us with more modest means might set the bar a bit lower. Some brands that used to be considered by us to be at designer status are no longer, for a variety of reasons.
For one, Coach. When the company was originally founded in 1941, all their bags were handcrafted in New York City by leather artisans. I ordered my original Coach bag in the mid 1970’s (a Convertible Clutch in Tabac, if you’re wondering) it was to me a designer bag. I no longer recall the original price, but it was a prized possession and a status symbol to me. Their catalogs were gorgeous, with sepia-toned photographs of the leather artisans at work in the New York workshop. It was intoxicating. All these decades later I no longer consider Coach to be a genuine designer label. When Coach was bought out and became a publicly-traded company, their approach to business changed drastically. While they still make some very attractive and desirable handbags, their pivot to mass production, factory-made bags and market saturation, their quality is no longer the same and they are no longer a status symbol. For many of us in the women’s consignment/resale shop trade, any brand that has embraced the factory outlet model cannot be considered to be an authentic luxury brand. Harsh? Not at all. Those companies are doing what publicly traded companies are supposed to do – maximize profits for their shareholders. We don’t look down our noses at people who carry Coach bags, or Michael Kors or even Dooney & Bourke, but we have to draw a line at where we consider the luxury consignment market begins.
And, nothing against publicly-traded companies, either. Many, many of the really well known designer labels are owned by a single publicly-traded entity-LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). Over the years, LVMH has acquired luxury houses as diverse as Celine, Christian Dior, Kenzo, Loro Piano, Marc Jacobs, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, Givenchy, Tiffany & Co., Bulgari and TAG Heuer. Is your head reeling yet? Those are just the fashion and jewelry houses! They also own Sephora, Dom Perignon, Hennessy, Veuve Cliquot and of course Moët Chandon. For more about the consolidation of the luxury market I recommend a great read: “Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster” by Dana Thomas.
All this is not intended to make you jaded, or to make you hate the luxury market suppliers. Far from it! If a company can make a quality product that lasts generations and is beloved by its users, then more power to them. As I said, you don’t have to buy luxury brands to appreciate them. And, of course I have to plug the resale market here! Because true designer label and luxury brands hold their value well, and when well cared for, also are durable and less likely to show their age, the pieces brought to us for consignment are ready for the next generation of luxury resale lovers. The savings are real too. Many of our designer consignment handbags are priced 25-70% off the original retail price. When you consider some luxury consignment items retail in the thousands, that’s a pretty big savings.
In addition, because Here We Go Again caters to a variety of shoppers, we carry a wide range of quality resale handbags and clothing, from vegan leather bags and backpacks to buttery soft Chanel, Prada and Gucci designer consignment handbags.
But the question is still hanging out there – what is a designer label? As consumers, I believe each of us gets to answer that question ourselves. When it comes to consignment, however, we would probably draw the line at price points, but even those can vary widely due to condition, style, trend, desirability, age and a host of other criteria. Not trying to weasel out of the answer here, but it’s difficult to pin down.
Designer labels we would absolutely categorize as luxury resale (in no particular order): Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Celine, Christian Dior, Christian Louboutin, Chloe, Balenciaga, Tiffany & Co., Hermès, Burberry, Prada, Gucci, Givenchy, Lanvin, Stella McCartney and certainly any other handbags that retailed over $1000.
When it comes to women’s designer clothing consignment, the issue gets a bit stickier. There are so many brands, both in the US and abroad that are highly coveted and expensive, and those might bump up to a luxury level. But as far as designating clothing as designer label? We take a broader view of that category, including women’s clothing brands like Theory, Equipment and Vince, as well as brands that may be lower in cost, but are hot on trend in the moment, like Pendleton. Remember, the women’s resale shop market is fluid, and our consignment shop is in Portland, not New York. We love the quality of designer labels, and absolutely appreciate the details of construction and fabric.
Many lower cost women’s clothing lines are doing a good job at mirroring or mimicking designer labels; and many of them are creating fun and exciting clothing all their own. We love it all! There is room in the local women’s resale shop universe for all comers. Except fast fashion brands-we have to draw the line. The quality and the business model are both lacking in sustainability. We don’t accept that clothing has a single season durability and style usage lifetime. Better quality clothing lasts longer, and although it may cost more to start with, will yield longer wearability, retain its resale value and be less likely to go out of style in an instant. So, there’s the best reason to shop resale – you get a better quality of women’s clothing and accessories, save money and lighten your carbon footprint. Let’s hope that footprint is in a women’s designer shoe!