The only thing better than investing in a designer bag is finding one at a discount. But the problem with that is brands like Louis Vuitton historically do not mark down their products (in order to control the value of their goods), and you’ll rarely find a Chanel bag on clearance Chanel in a store. The loophole? Buy it secondhand. We know, we know, while this seems like an obvious, sustainable solution, the task can be daunting.
The fear of being scammed is real: “super fakes” or “triple-A fakes” are almost indistinguishable from authentic luxury goods, and even a pair of trained eyes can be confused by their quality. As scary as that sounds, the best you can do is shop smart. So we spoke to experts in the field to help you navigate your search for a dream bag, including where to shop from and helpful tips on how to avoid being duped.
First things first, do your homework
“Researching is the key to making a successful second hand purchase,” says Charles Gorra, CEO and founder of Rebag. “If you don’t have dozens of tabs open on your web browser, then it’s possible you haven’t done enough research.” He suggests checking out blogs and forums for peer-to-peer reviews and cross-comparing resale sites to assure prices are legit. Remember the age-old adage: if it’s too good to be true—i.e. the bag costs way below its resale market value—it probably is.
Buy from reputable sellers
These tend to have “listings that give a lot of information about the bag and that offer images from many angles” and “sellers that are responsive and willing to give more information,” Gorra suggests. You’re looking for complete transparency for the seller, because they should have nothing to hide. Sasha Skoda, head of women’s at The RealReal agrees. “If you’re investing in a luxury handbag, you want to be positive you’re buying from a legitimate source that authenticates bags and has an authenticity guarantee,” she says. “Make sure you’re clear on the site or seller’s return policy, so you know what your options are if something is off.”
Know the value of your bag
“You will get back a substantial ROI for a luxury brand, compared to an aspirational luxury brand.” says Gorro. Chanel’s Flap bags and Hermes Birkins are classic handbag styles because their superior quality makes them outlast others. Skoda shares the same sentiment, and noting “Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Prada and Goyard are some of [The RealReal’s] most popular handbag designers— and that demand translates into strong resale value for consignors.”
When it comes to contemporary labels, you are more likely to get more bang for your buck. “If you’re hunting for a great deal, consider a style that speaks to you but is from a few seasons back (like the Loewe Puzzle Bag or The Row Hunting Bag) or bags from more emerging designers (we love Staud and Cult Gaia),” says Skoda.
The last option is going vintage. With brands like Dior dipping into their archives for inspiration and reissue iconic shapes like the Saddle, “the participation of brands in ‘vintage revival’ has resulted in the popularization of the original vintage pieces, thus increasing their resale value within the market,” says Gorro. You’re still on trend (because what’s old is always new again) but at a fraction of the cost.
Now that you’ve had a quick 101 lesson on shopping secondhand, use your newfound knowledge to shop some of our favorite sites.
The idea behind Rebag is to refresh your wardrobe constantly. Offering more than fifty luxury brands, you’ll find everything from hard-to-get Kelly bags to cooky Chanel bags you only saw on the runway. It’s a candy store of designer goods where every item is examined by their in-house team or third-party authenticators to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
Recently expanding from its sneaker roots (another insanely active re-sale marketplace) to include bags in its stock market-like format, this is where the hypebaes shop. Once you find a bag you love, you can place a bid below their asking price and wait for the seller to approve. It’s similar to eBay’s “make an offer” option vs. “buy it now.”
Based in San Francisco, this tech-first company is one of the most well-known resale sites. Exploring the consigned goods on The RealReal is all about spontaneous discovery, with offerings like handbags, clothing, and even home goods. Their brick and mortar stores are a playground of their funnest styles— their SoHo store has a secret Hermes vault filled to the ceiling with colorful Birkins.
Vestiaire Collective is a community of over 3+ million users both buying and selling pre-owned items. Once you add to cart, the product goes through their team’s rigorous authentication and quality control process to ensure that it’s exactly what you expected and then will be sent to you. If any issues occur and there are discrepancies about the product’s description, they’ll help you and the seller haggle the price down, too.
What Goes Around Comes Around
WGACA is one of Los Angeles and New York City’s most beloved vintage store. It is frequented by celebs like Beyoncé and the Kardashians who love the brand’s tight edit of well-kept Chanels, Guccis, and Saint Laurents of designers’ pasts. It feels like shopping someone’s personal closet of collector’s items, all kept in pristine condition. Their high standards means you’re getting your money’s worth.
Founded in 1999, Fashionphile originally started off selling luxury items on eBay before they became the consignment giant they are today. You can buy and sell on their sleek site simultaneously, meaning you can use your credit to fuel your continuing fashion addiction. If you happen to be in California, their three real-life stores are not to be missed. They also partnered with Neiman Marcus, redefining the resale industry as an inclusive experience, dubbing their venture as a new strategy for “recommerce.”
There’s something new to look at every day over at Yoogi’s Closet. The authenticating process involves sellers sending in bags, where they’re examined, photographed, then placed on their site for you to shop. They are known for their top-notch customer service, so you can be certain you’re in good hands.
Bag Borrow or Steal
We all remember Bag Borrow or Steal’s iconic cameo in Sex and the City back in 2008, and the brand is still going strong over a decade later. While they still offer rental services (like the one Jennifer Hudson’s character took advantage of), but you can opt to buy a bag straight out.