For style savants with luxury tastes but a limited budget, a wardrobe full of designer threads and accessories was, for a long time, an unattainable dream. Until, that is, boutiques selling “preloved” items began to appear and gain in popularity locally.
Top-tier designer goods are never discounted, meaning secondary-trading hubs such as online retailer The Luxury Closet (www.theluxurycloset.com), The Closet (www.theclosetonlineshop.com) and the fashion app Shedd (www.sheddapp.com), which offer big discounts on nearly new designer goods, are appealing options.
According to the consultancy Bain & Company, Dubai ranks 20th on the list of top cities for luxury-goods sales, with a market that was worth €3 billion (Dh11.97bn) last year. Globally, the personal luxury-goods market was valued at more than €250bn last year.
With job losses in key sectors across the UAE in recent months well documented, the economic malaise has resulted in a slight rise in sales for some vintage vendors.
“I founded my company at a time of recession, in 2009, and compared with then, spending is the same – a bit more, perhaps,” says Hadeer Soliman, the owner of Dubai-based preloved store The Closet.
“Even though people can’t necessarily afford to spend a lot, they always seem to find ways to pay for luxury goods. They feel the need to buy, and fashion seems essential in their life. They want to be on trend no matter what, so we provide them with a good option at a cheaper price.”
For those who have the urge to splurge, even with limited resources, items that might appeal this season at The Closet include a leather card holder by YSL for Dh250, and a pair of Burberry espadrilles for Dh800. At the other end of the scale, a prized Thalassa blue Hermes Kelly bag in Clemence leather will set you back Dh40,000.
“An average spend is probably around Dh4,000,” says Soliman. “Clients often don’t have the full amount up front and like to use our 12-month instalment plan instead. That way, they can still have it now, while figuring out how to pay for it.”
But what do the designers think of this second-hand trade in their creations?
“I have no experience of this at all and I’ve never thought of my clients reselling pieces they have bought from me in this way,” says Emirati designer Lamya Abedin. She is the founder of the label Queen of Spades (www.queenofspadesstore.com), and her abayas sell for between Dh2,000 and Dh5,000.
“Of course, it’s completely up to them and if it means my brand reaches countries or people who haven’t come across it before, that’s good. What I’m designing is not just for this region – it just happens to be from this region.”
Shedd presents itself as an entirely different model for the price-conscious consumer. It allows customers to buy and sell mid-range to medium-range pre-owned goods via a phone app. The sellers – commonly people having a clear-out – simply upload pictures of clothes or accessories along with a description and their asking price.
Items from Zara and Mango range from Dh20 to Dh300, while designer offerings from the likes of Kate Spade or Michael Kors handbags can fetch from Dh500 to Dh1,000.
“Some items are top quality, others have been worn a couple of times – and high-street brands are always very popular as sellers offer them at such reasonable prices,” says Fadeelah Al Horaibi, Business Development Manager at Shedd.
“The earnings people receive from selling items on the app tend to act as a bit of extra pocket money. Being raised in the UK, I used to love rummaging through vintages stores and charity shops – the options are limited here in the UAE, so Shedd became my answer.”
The app also has a selection of abayas, jalabiyas and kaftans, averaging prices of Dh200 to Dh700. Almost without exception, however, brand names are hidden by the sellers, perhaps to encourage buyers to make a direct inquiry instead of just browsing through the app’s images.
Buyers and sellers on Shedd can communicate with each other before agreeing on a sale, for reassurance about the authenticity of the goods. Nevertheless, it remains wholly the buyer’s responsibility to ensure they are receiving the real deal.
In contrast, exclusive online retailer The Luxury Closet removes this headache for its clients by verifying all items on their behalf.
The e-tailer, which launched in 2011, now employs about 40 staff members, and says it has enjoyed “double digit” monthly growth and has more than 150,000 members.
“Thankfully, the number of fakes we receive is incredibly low,” says chief executive Kunal Kapoor. “We have in-house experts rigorously inspecting all items, and detailed catalogues to authenticate goods by their serial numbers, leather, materials, stitching, metalwork and so on. Authenticity is something we take very seriously and clients are charged a fee if their goods are discovered to be counterfeit.”
Trust is a key consideration for designer devotees and high-rollers, such as Mira Martinova, from Bulgaria, who browsed TLC for a year before opening an account with the site.
“I now check the TLC website every day and they call me when they take delivery of special pieces,” she says. “They know that for me it’s not about the price, it’s about the rarity of the bag. I’m most interested in Chanel and Hermes, and one of my most precious pieces is a Jumbo Patchwork Chanel bag. I wasn’t looking for it – it found me when I received the call.”
Martinova’s monthly investment ranges from Dh40,000 and Dh100,000 and while her collection of bags is heavily insured, it doesn’t remain hidden away in a wardrobe at home.
“I wear them all, of course,” she says. “I tell everyone where I buy them, too. I have zero ego about it. Some people call it ‘buying second-hand’, but they don’t understand that all-too often you can’t just walk into Chanel and acquire whatever you want. There might be a waiting list, and certain pieces are limited editions that sell out in less than two hours.”
Items on the secondary market for designer goods are indeed looked down on by some as “second-hand”, but proponents prefer to them as “preloved” or “vintage”, given their original high value and status.
An estimated 60 to 80 per cent of business generated in the UAE by traders of pre-owned designer goods comes from the domestic market.
“Historically, the best selling brands of bags tend to be Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton,” says Kapoor. “With watches, it is Cartier and Rolex, and shoe-wise it would be Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo. As for jewellery, clients want Tiffany’s, Van Cleef & Arpels and, again, Cartier – especially for their Love bracelet.”
A gold, open-cuff Cartier Love bangle costs Dh14,000 at TLC – a saving of about 15 per cent on the original retail price. A pair of “gently used” peep platform Louboutins is Dh730 – an incredible saving of nearly 80 per cent.
At the platinum end of the spectrum, a timeless HermÃ¨s Birkin 35 bag in grey ostrich leather will set you back almost Dh226,000 at TLC. The original price to buy it new is a closely guarded secret.
Sellers include people looking to streamline and upgrade their collections, or recycle unwanted gifts. Impulse purchases also commonly find their way onto TLC, with clients keen to sell shoes, prêt-Ã -porter, leather goods and watches – a gold Chronoswiss timepiece sold in record time for Dh140,000, for example – still in their original packaging.
“My first purchase was a pair of dark-green Louis Vuitton suede driver loafers – they had never been worn,” says Afif Iskander, from Malaysia, who has been trading with TLC for 12 months.
The majority of preloved designer-goods companies will collect items from the seller and deliver them to the buyer. Most items sell within two months and payments are made directly to sellers in the form of a cheque or bank transfer.
Commission of 20 per cent to 35 per cent is common. The newer and more rare the piece, the higher the price it will fetch.
Iskander has a top tip for speeding up the sale process.
“I usually clean any items that I want to sell beforehand,” he says. “I go to a place called Lovin My Bags where they are experts in restoring Louis Vuitton’s Vachetta leather items. My first sale was of a Gucci canvas travelling bag. The condition was excellent and it took about a month to sell – in fact, it was shipped to Paris, which tells you the international community is watching this space now.”
With consumers in the European capital of fashion watching pre-owned goods for sale in the Middle East, it would indeed appear that the race for evermore exclusive designer pieces is definitely on.
“Look around today and you’ll see every second person has a Birkin,” says Martinova. “The secondary market made that possible. Before, it was a statement and you’d have to wait eight years to get it.
“Arguably, no designer goods are fairly priced, and I know that every time I damage my credit card I’ll be crying for a few months. But that’s what we want – we all fall for the brands.”
Source: art & life