Why all your clothes should be secondhand after COVID-19

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There’s a 50 percent chance that any dress I wear on-air for a Fox Business segment is from TheRealReal.

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I love fashion and find that buying secondhand is the best way to satisfy my desire for variety and designer quality without huge price tags.

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Post-pandemic, I will likely be buying close to 100 percent of my ‘new’ clothes secondhand for a number of reasons, top of mind simply being cost savings in a time of uncertainty.

Close behind is that there will be an abundance of people looking to simplify lifestyles and perhaps raise a little bit of cash, which will create added inventory opportunities, especially in luxury.

But what is the best way to get a deal? When searching online, I favor items marked ‘new with tags’ or ‘pristine condition’ and get a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that the item is the same quality as buying at retail, but with a discount of about 75 percent.

Beyond a great deal, buying secondhand supports deep sustainability via the ‘slow fashion’ movement and circular economy of buying quality, optimizing use, and sharing.

My most gratifying purchase combined items from Herve Leger, Zimmermann, Veronica Beard, Tory Burch, and YSL… totaling less than the original retail price of a single item.

Buying thrift was previously considered a public-facing faux pas, but has always been an inside secret of the well-heeled.

Much like cars, the value of apparel, accessories, and furniture depreciates the moment you exit the store.

I typically equate my wardrobe value by the intersection of cost-per-wear and positive impressions, so the best way to ensure value is to minimize cost and maximize impressions.

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In the age of social media, I personally feel pressured by the unwritten rule of not repeating photographed outfits, thus being able to extend my wardrobe without breaking the bank or sacrificing quality creates a win/win solution.

Luxury is the sweet spot for buying secondhand since well-made goods have better wearability.

In general, the higher the price point, the more advantageous for consignment buyers and the more important the return and verification policies.

Websites like The RealReal, 1stdibs, Fashionphile, Bob’s Watches, thredUP (which recently partnered with Walmart), and Rebag guarantee the authenticity of their items with a full refund.

Items go through an intense hands-on review process, and though not foolproof, it details condition, model, and sizing to align buyer expectations. In contrast, open platforms like Poshmark connect buyers and sellers directly, typically offering more varied merchandise and lower prices than the aforementioned, but with no authentication process.

There are some measures you can take to report counterfeit items, but it is not as straightforward as using a site with a pre-approved policy.

eBay is somewhere in the middle of the pack, as it connects buyers and sellers directly like Poshmark, but sellers have the option of using eBay Authenticate where they pay a fee (as a percentage of profits) to have a third party certify the authenticity of luxury items, thus protecting them from potential sanctions and penalties from selling counterfeit goods.

I have found that the best way to prepare an online consignment purchase is to be familiar with the brand first-hand.

If you have your eye on something specific, visit the retail store and pay close attention to stitching, leathers, logos, tags, lining, weight, feel, hardware, shade depth, etc.

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Like anything in life, it’s the small details that make a big difference. Try on a few similar items so you know your brand sizing and take photos of model, numbers, UPC codes, etc. Research the seller, their return policy, and buyer ratings.

Regarding how to inspect an item, let’s use a Louis Vuitton monogram bag as an example, since it’s a favorite among counterfeiters.

True LV monogram bags have natural cowhide leather handles that patina over time to a honey-brown color, especially in the areas where the leather mixes with the natural oils of your hand.

If the bag is fake, the handles will not patina (as they are likely plastic). The body of real monograms bags is made with coated canvas and features symmetrical repeats of LVs, diamonds, flowers, and circles, often using one piece of continuous material, thus half of the design is actually supposed to be upside down.

Logos on the inside of the bag will always be full form and never spliced.

Hardware on authentic bags will be heavy and made of solid brass.

In bags produced after 1990, there will also be a date code inside that indicates the style of bag, year, and location it was manufactured. These indicators are similar for other luxury items, so it’s worth a google search to identify what to look for in your potential purchase.

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These are my personal favorite secondhand sites, all of which guarantee authenticity #notsponsored:

The RealReal features luxury consignment based primarily online but expanding to brick and mortar with three retail stores that offer items for purchase in NYC and LA and nine Luxury Consignment Offices where sellers can drop off merchandise. Their focus is on women’s apparel, though men’s, children’s, jewelry, art, and décor listings are expanding. The RealReal uses over 100 brand authenticators, gemologists, and horologists to ensure quality. When searching listings you can sort by top resale value, trends, seasonal, vintage, items with tags, and more.

1stdibs is a superluxe, high-fashion international online antiques and vintage marketplace that connects dealers with collectors of rare furniture, art, and jewelry. They partner with the Art and Antiques Dealers League of America (AADLA) to ensure quality and accountability. Their editorial-inspired site is frequented by aesthetic lovers including interior designers, artists, architects, photographers. 1stdibs is the best option if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind piece.

Bob’s Watches is the premier seller of authentic pre-owned Rolex watches. Consumers often mistakenly think that purchasing a luxury watch is an investment that will appreciate, however, the value of most watches actually declines over time, except in rare cases. Bob’s Watches transparently publishes all current buy and sell values so consumers can be ensured of fair pricing.

Beyond a great deal, buying secondhand supports deep sustainability via the ‘slow fashion’ movement and circular economy of buying quality, optimizing use, and sharing.

It’s a retail perspective and trend that I personally find increasingly important as human attention spans shorten and instant gratification becomes the norm.

The make well – buy well – re-sell philosophy creates positive solutions for all parties, which never goes out of style.

Erin Sykes is a retail and sales strategist, consultant and former QVC Guest Host. 

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