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Designer handbags are expensive: This is a fact. And that many shoppers prefer to pay less than the original retail price for them is another. Fortunately, there are a lot of places to do that online.
Resale itself is a billion-dollar industry; the annual revenue is an estimated $17 billion, and the category of handbags is particularly lucrative. High-end consignment sites like The RealReal and Vestaire Collective are owning this space, and making it incredibly simple (and more secure) to shop for pre-owned designer bags online, with the same type of customer service experience you’d find at any other reputable e-commerce site. Secondhand shopping has come a long way in the past few years.
So what’s worth your investment? Here, we asked Graham Wetzbarger, The RealReal’s senior director of authentication, which bags you should consider buying now if you’re looking to resell later.
What are some of the most popular bags on The RealReal right now? What are people going crazy for, or showing an increased interest in?
There are always going to be some staples: the iconic brands that are always in fashion, both on the high end and on the low end. The biggest names are Chanel, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton. Those always have really high demand; they’re iconic, and because of their very high price point, people really seek them out on the secondary market.
Last year, Mansur Gavriel was huge, but now the bags sit for a few days. They still sell, but the sense of urgency is a little less than what it was. We’ve seen other brands come up and come down. Sometimes it has more to do with the silhouette and brands that cater to that silhouette. We’re seeing a big spike in Kate Spade right now, because they do a lot of really youthful and colorful bags. They also do tons of crossbody, just like Rebecca Minkoff. They’re an accessible price point, and the color palette is suited toward spring and summer. When people want a seasonal bag, they’re not going to go too expensive.
MCM is also really coming up. We’re seeing a customer who’s more street-style-driven than luxury Fifth-Avenue-driven, who’s loving cool sneakers and MCM backpacks and bags and baseball caps. Even some of these vintage MCM bags are doing really well.
What other shapes are big?
I think Lady bags — with a nice, sophisticated, gorgeous top handle — are back, and have been for a while. You see these from Delvaux, they’re gorgeous; Valextra has many that are stunning. And then the backpack is back, so hard. Everyone from Chanel to Mansur Gavriel and so many brands in between — everyone wants a backpack, and everyone is doing a backpack.
What are some of the best bags to buy now that’ll be worth the investment later on?
You can’t go wrong with Louis Vuitton monogram canvas. Not only is it very durable, but it holds its value, probably 70 percent of what you paid for it. And then when you consider the brand increases prices 10 percent every year, that’s a great ROI.
Something on the more entry-level price point is harder, because they tend to go on sale. Department stores will put things on sale seasonally, so you can get them retail at a lower price point. And there are just so many more of them made, so the secondary market gets a little bit flooded. You’re never going to get a really strong ROI on something like that — it needs to be slightly less approachable and more covetable than a mass brand. Finding those brands that don’t go on sale, have smaller production, and have bags that are very publicized are always going to have staying power.
Also, there are some silhouettes, even in Louis Vuitton, that wax and wane depending on what the house is doing now. These houses and these brands that have lots of history and deep archives are often pulling and resurrecting styles that have been out of production for a while, so that really has an influence and effect on the secondary market and on vintage items that are similar.
How long should you hang onto a designer bag before selling it?
In general, I always say a year. If you keep your bag for a year, it’s still going to be in great shape and still relatively on trend. And if it does have some spin of seasonality to it, in a year you’ll be back in that same season as when you bought it.
Sometimes, we can feel a trend before the data shows it. About four or five months ago, we kept getting more and more Rockstud Pumps from Valentino every day. At first we were like, “Awesome!” and then we were like, “Wow,” and then we were like, “Uh oh...” The data always comes a month later. So intuitively, that means it’s time to clear your Rockstuds. When the data starts showing that their velocity has slowed down and they’re taking longer to sell and the selling price point has gone down as well, that’s the sign that this trend is over.
Just like with technology, being an early adopter always helps. Trust your instincts. If you see something and you like it, go for it. If you start seeing a lot of other people carrying it or that style being replicated by other designers, you know it’s at its peak, and that’s a great time to part with your goods — before the trend is over. It’s just over-saturation. Mansur launched the bucket bag and it was huge, and every other designer started doing a bucket bag. It was popular for a minute, and there are a ton out there. So while there aren’t as many Mansurs, there are a ton of other facsimiles. So it just slows down and kind of kills the trend.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.