Shopper’s Delight

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Dreaming of owning a Louboutin or Louis Vuitton but low on funds? Online consignment and resale can turn your fashion dreams into reality, and they’re changing the way we shop, one sale at a time.

STORY BY MIN A. LEE

The retail world is constantly transforming as designers and brands navigate the economic roller coaster, boosting some to success while leaving others to reevaluate their strategies, a struggle Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors and GAP Inc.’s Piperlime division have all faced. But the latest challenge to both independent and established designers is adapting to a landscape that turns more digital by the day as consumers become more tech savvy. Just type “Helmut Lang top” into any search engine, and a shopper can find a plethora of retailers and prices, allowing her to ultimately set her own price range for what she’s willing to spend. Indeed, looking for discounts and resale items is no longer just a necessity but as trendy as the latest Chloé bag. So it makes sense that online consignment websites and resale software have emerged as the cool new things.

With the buyer in mind, resale and consignment companies are creating interactive reselling platforms, allowing people to shop for luxury to mid-tier brands at budget-friendly prices from individual sellers. And it’s no passing fad: The resale industry is estimated to gross around $16 billion annually, according to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops (NARTS). Hop on Instagram, and you’ll find thousands of photos from excited shoppers sharing their highly discounted treasures. (Just look at these three hashtags: #thrifting, #thrift, and #fashionfinds — the sum of their posts combined soars over a million.)

“If you look at what’s happening in America today, there is an increased awareness of being able to recycle and restyle your wardrobe with secondhand fashion,” says Vijay Ramani, the founder of Totspot, a mobile application focused on the resale of children’s clothing. He attributes this uptick to a variety of reasons: “You can actually find great pieces of fashion, you can find some styles that are not in the stores, you can actually save money, and you can save a carbon footprint.”

For Morgan Schadegg of fashion blog Between The Racks, being able to shop designer while on a budget is key. “It not only helps save money to buy secondhand, but having the option to easily sell clothing that you no longer wear is what keeps me in check,” she says. “Being able to shop secondhand online, I have definitely gotten more picky about the quality of clothing I buy, and let’s be honest, the brand, too. I mean, where else can you score Christian Louboutin shoes for $150?”

And while price is a driving force, for Antolette Dalnay of high-end discount site Haute-Shoppe.com, convenience is just as important. “My wardrobe choices have definitely changed because I’m able to browse to suit my needs,” she says. “I don’t have to drive to a mall and shop an infinite amount of stores to find what I’m looking for. I find that just by searching for a particular designer, hundreds of items pop up on whatever device I’m using.”

So is there a chance that mobile and web could replace brick-and-mortar? Perhaps not completely, but Ramani does see how digital platforms have cast a more positive light on resale. “The ease with which you can have conversations with sellers and upload quickly made it really easy for people to share their lives even more and share their interests,” he says. “You have a confluence of things: fashion, mobile apps in general, and increasing usage of photo sharing apps, such as Instagram, and interest sharing apps, such as Pinterest. All this happening over the last few years, people have become a lot more open to the idea of fashion from your phone, restyling and re-sharing your closet.”

It’s something the fashion industry itself is going to have to adjust to, as well, according to Manish Chandra, the founder of resale e-commerce and mobile platform Poshmark. “We believe the fashion industry can learn quite a bit from the closet-sharing movement in how they think about their products’ true lifespan,” he says, “as well as exactly what motivates consumers to engage with each other beyond just transactions.”

Ready to shop? Here, six websites and mobile apps that are changing how we buy fashion.

  • POSHMARK – This community-oriented app allows sellers and buyers to communicate easily, so you can ask to see more pictures of listings, receive exact measurements and negotiate prices with a streamlined offer tool. Poshmark.com, iTunes, Google Play.
  • VAUNTE – Shop the covetable closets of the featured women, from designers and fashion execs to actresses and producers. Chances are you’ll score some hard-to-find luxury items at amazing prices. Vaunte.com.
  • THREAD UP – does the work for you — everything on this site has already gone through a thorough evaluation process. And if you’re a seller, unlike other sites, pieces that are accepted under $60 are paid out immediately. Thredup.com.
  • TOTSPOT – The name says it all. Totspot is the place to find children’s clothing, from infant and up, allowing budget-minded parents to keep up with their kids’ growth spurts. Available on iTunes and Google Play, TotSpot.me.
  • THE REAL REAL – With well-curated daily sales and clearance events at prices up to 60% off already reduced prices, TheRealReal has more promotions and promo codes than other sites, allowing buyers to really aim for their dream investment pieces. Therealreal.com.
  • VESTIAIRE COLLECTIVE – This European site features a large selection of hard-to-find European brands, like AllSaints Spitalfields, Isabel Marant and Maje.  While shipping to the U.S., after going through Vestiaire’s review process, is $40, it’s worth it if you are looking for something particular. Vestiairecollective.com.

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