Luxury for less: The frugal beauty of secondhand style
Companies reselling fancy brands are popping up across SA, and the discounts are pretty unbelievable
The global luxury resale market is set to top $41bn by 2020, with an expected annual growth of 15% year on year from 2017, according to a report released earlier this year.
It’s no wonder then that the bug has bitten in SA. With economic woes and political jitters, it was only a matter of time before those people who can spend freely on luxury goods would consider the resale economy – it is cost-effective as well as sustainable.
For Heather Freeman, a Cape Town finance professional and regular at The Changing Room, the luxury-for-less is a feelgood concept. “I get an intimate boutique experience of an already curated selection of designer goods,” she says. “Plus, I’m very conscious of a world where inequality is more and more profound and I don’t want any guilt in my closet. As such, I have no issue buying a secondhand pair of shoes or pants or a dress.”
Luanne Gaby echoes this. For her, a trip to Paris and a stop at Chanel on Rue Cambon was a nightmare, full of jostling tourists. As luck would have it, when she returned to SA she spied the Chanel pants she was after in The Changing Room e-mail and went to the store the next day to pick them up. It was a painless experience, and – at a 40% discount – pretty profitable, too.
The Changing Room, owned by Toni Tamaris, is one of a handful of SA resale and consignment stores. They all offer something different. Tamaris, the daughter of fashion doyenne Shirley Tamaris (founder and owner of the Callaghan boutiques), has an eye for luxury. She spent her formative years trawling the Paris shows with her parents and can whiff out a cashmere count from across the room. She also has an edgy sense of style, taking in McQueen studded boots, Tory Burch pumps, Hermès breeches, and more. For her, it’s not just about the label: it’s about the essence of style, and this comes through in her offering.
“When I started The Changing Room five years ago, I saw there was nothing else like it in SA,” she says. “Yes, we have the bricks and mortar store in Cavendish, but it’s the online presence that really sets us apart.” The site, set up on the Net-A-Porter template, is updated daily, and weekly emails and Insta-stories highlight new arrivals. “Online allows customers from all over the country to buy and gives us authority for those looking to sell,” Tamaris says. “You would never believe the pieces I get sent – who knew there was so much Lanvin in Mpumalanga?”
But who is selling? According to Luke Calitz, the owner of online retailer Luxity, there are three types of customers: the very rich; the not-so-poor not-so-rich (who spend up to R20,000 every couple of months); and the not-so-rich-at-all. This latter tier is made of “secretaries and women who can’t really afford status labels”, Calitz says. “They buy on lay-by and sell just as easily as they buy.”
In fact, like Luxity, The Changing Room initiated a credit system at the beginning of the year. Payflex allows you to buy now, pay later, with 0% interest.
“Some of our stock comes from women who are moving overseas, or clearing out their cupboards – no longer are they handing on bags or coats to friends and family, when they’ve realised there’s a secondary market.”
And what about authenticity, especially when it comes to status handbags such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, or Burberry? “Every brand has different tells that make it real,” Calitz says. “Often we get bags in from women who say their husbands gifted them and we have to be very diplomatic when we say they’ve actually got a fake.”
Calitz says there hasn’t been an increase in “clear-outs”. “The very rich are not affected by the economy,” he says. “They buy what they want and will continue to do so. A case in point – in December we posted a baby-blue 32 Hermes Birkin on Instagram and the next morning a woman came in and swiped R180,000 on her card for it.”
“You can’t pretend when you spend a lot of money on a piece of clothing it’s not special,” Gaby says. “Whether it’s first- or secondhand, when you’re buying designer, it’s inevitably a premium offering. When you’re buying in the luxury resale space there’s also a sense of treasure about it – being able to find something that is entirely unique. The brand may not be available in SA, or you know it’s something not everyone would want. In this world with so much fast-fashion, resale is a very conscious way to shop, on so many levels.”