Luxe for Less: Two Stylists Show Us How to Shop (and Sell) Smart

Vintage Chanel

Vintage Chanel

Lusting after that celebrity closet is fun for sure, but it’s also frustrating if you’re not a person with serious cash to flash. So just how do ordinary earners afford to carry a classic quilted Chanel clutch or a beautiful Balenciaga tote? The answer is: Upcycling. Think of it more like “leasing” your big-ticket items by owning them for a while then consigning them.

While consigning/resale is, obviously, not a new model, what has changed is that it’s become much more mainstream, not simply with the likes of eBay but particularly with the proliferation of online sites such as the RealReal, Vaunt, Portero and many more dedicated to style. It’s not simply about being a savvy vintage shopper anymore; it’s a new way of thinking about shopping. And the 360-degree process of making your closet work for you, and taking the concept of investment dressing to a new level. The key, we learned, is in choosing the pieces that hold real value. We turned to two of our styling sources for insider info on how to get this thing right. Pass the Chanel backpack please!

Barbra Horowitz is the Founder of Style Rescue – a service that revamps and upcycles your closet — and Leslie Christen is L.A. and Orange County’s secret styling weapon with a roster of clients from around the globe.

Barbra Horowitz

Barbra Horowitz

FTD: So first, how can I sell some of our stuff to raise cash for some investment pieces?

Barbra Horowitz: Try and get tired of your things before the resale market for them gets completely tired. Also, if you clean your closet out with what you think you’re ready to part with, stores like Crossroads will wake you up fast to what you need to work on!

FTD: Like that horrible experience where the person buying in used clothes turns up their nose at your favorite old dress?

BH: Exactly! But don’t be afraid to go into resale stores. They will really teach you what has value at that time. Also look at eBay. It’s fantastic for price comparison so you know what the market will yield.

FTD: So I don’t have much to sell right now but I am in the market for one or two nice pieces to perfect my high-low style.

BH: Investing is simple: if pieces don’t have good resale value, don’t buy them.

Leslie Christen

Leslie Christen

FTD: So what always keeps its resale value?

BH: Handbags! They hold their value and they also are not size-resistant, meaning everybody can wear them so they’re always popular. The things that are really hard to sell online are pants. They show horribly in pictures and are impossible to sell. Some black items don’t necessarily show up well online either.

Leslie Christen: Yes, handbags and shoes don’t have to fit your waist or your bust and women love to splurge on them. Scarves are good too, like an Hermès scarf. Also stick with classic styles and those items are going to be timeless so it’s not going to look like you’re wearing something that was last season, or maybe five seasons ago. Then there’s also a great chance someone in the future will want to buy it from you when you’re tired of it.

FTD: What about a leather jacket? I really want a caramel or tan one right now.

LC: Anything leather keeps value pretty well.

FTD: What about labels that always sell well?

LC: Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton…When I was working for The RealReal, a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag that was popular 15 years ago would sell instantly! There was always someone who wanted it and didn’t care that it was still pretty expensive even on consignment.

Taylor Swift at the Melrose Trading Post

Taylor Swift at the Melrose Trading Post

FTD: Is buying something in a color, like bright yellow or pastel pink, always a bad idea?

LC: Well if you buy investment pieces in black, navy, white or brown then you can have them forever and they will always have value. Classic silhouettes and a neutral color palette are key to resale value. For example, a black leather jacket is timeless and a classic black handbag is never really totally out.

BH: But you can start out with shopping recycled clothes and bags at a lower price too. The lower the price point, the less the risk factor and that’s what’s so beautiful about places like Crossroads or the Fairfax flea market. An ideal mix for your closet is 80/20 – 80 percent of things that retain their value and 20 percent fast-fashion or very trendy pieces.

FTD: Er, I’m more like 90 percent fast-fashion, 10 percent luxury.

LC: You can afford to have more luxe items in your closet if you shop the right way. A lot of people I work with invest in labels, but then they’re selling it on for 40 or 50% of what they bought it for. So even if you’re on a budget, you can pick up some really great designer labels on a consignment site, in a store, or on eBay and resell it later. It just involves a little legwork and research. You can also focus on more affordable contemporary brands like Rag & Bone or Alexander Wang, for example, that also have good resale value.

Nicole Richie carries the Célien Luggage Tote

Nicole Richie carries the Céline Luggage Tote

FTD: Isn’t eBay unreliable? How do you know if things are fake?

LC: It’s true that it’s a gamble on eBay. But if you go to sites like The RealReal, they have authenticity checkers. Also the people buying in your unwanted items at Crossroads or Wasteland don’t necessarily have that knowledge so I wouldn’t count on them to buy real, authentic pieces.

BH: The retail market has also really changed around luxury. Somebody on a smaller budget can now get the luxury items because stores will mark items down three times until the prices are even comparable to resale or consignment stores. But resale places are fantastic when end-of season sales aren’t happening. Also waiting until items are 75% off works best if you’re an unusual shoe or dress size. Like if you’re a size 11 shoe, you’ll get great deals at final markdown at Barneys. People who are more average may need to buy things the first time they are marked down.

FTD: So I’ve saved and sold, how do we justify spending a whole rent check on a bag we’ve lusted after?

LC: It’s also all about cost-per wear. So if you wear that Céline luggage bag every day and it retails for something like $3,000 but you got it for $2,500 and you wear it every day for a year, just break it down. Cost per wear is worth it.

Our favorite L.A. brick and mortar resale shops:

Images courtesy Barbra Horowitz, Leslie Christen, the RealReal, Us and TaylorSwiftDaily

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