Handbags and gladrags at Ella's super stores
Ella De Guzman's Siopaella stores in Temple Bar are treasure troves of designer duds and haute handbags
Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30
Opening a retail business at the height of a recession, and ending up just four years later with two more shops in your portfolio, is no mean feat, but that is what Canadian Ella De Guzman has achieved. She now has three branches of Siopaella, her designer resale and exchange stores, located very close together in Temple Bar, and she has her sights set on expanding to the UK. At Siopaella you can buy, sell, exchange or part exchange your pre-loved designer handbags, jewellery and clothing. It's a great way to dress, whether you are a buyer or a seller. If you've paid a fortune for a special dress or jacket and just worn it a few times, it's good to be able to get something back on it to cut the original cost, and reinvest in something else you fancy. If you're a buyer, you are obviously getting a big discount on something you might have fancied but couldn't afford at full price. I love the fact that everything at Siopaella is described in the transatlantic terminology of 'pre-loved, pre-owned, consignment, inventory and store'. It sounds so much more attractive than 'second hand' or even 'used' as they describe items on the eBay sites on this side of the Atlantic.
Ella De Guzman is originally from Penticton, a city in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. A diminutive ball of fire, Ella told me her parents were originally from the Philippines. "They emigrated to Canada in the 1970s, so I was born and raised in the Okanagan Valley, which is a bit like the Tuscany region of Italy." Ella laughed heartily when I asked her how she had then ended up on the cold streets of Dublin. "Why do you think?" she asks, chortling as, in unison, we chimed "a man". I find it's always love that brings people across the Atlantic! "He used his Limerick charm to lure me," she said, of partner Stephen Ryan.
"We met in 2009 in a coffee shop. He was working over there to escape the recession here. I moved over here with him on Paddy's Day 2010, along with my dog Louis." The aforementioned gorgeous pooch is a star in his own right, being the 'face of Siopaella' and featuring on all the price tags.
"I couldn't work for the first year because I had no visa, and then I noticed that there were no consignment stores here. Back home, the way my friends and me shop is to buy with the intention of reselling. We say 'OK, I'm going to buy this top, but it is actually only going to cost me X dollars, because I'm going to resell it.' That's how Vancouver girls shop. We started getting a business plan together and, in January 2011, we opened up the first location on Crow Street." The following year, the pair expanded to Temple Lane with a second store. "We were growing. We wanted to have a luxury shop in Temple Lane, with the high street and vintage clothing staying in Crow Street. We developed a website in 2014, and needed more space because the inventory was growing, so we opened Cecilia Street last winter, and that is now our luxury and high-end store. All of the new items come into the Temple Lane shop first of all, and all the photography and that sort of work is done there too. It's kind of like the new arrivals shop."
There is a big demand for designer handbags year-round but also from tourists in the summer. So, if you think it's time to cut loose some of your pre-loved handbags, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, YSL or Burberry, you can now get cash upfront for them at Siopaella. "There are three options for selling. We pay cash upfront; we do a swap, or part exchange; or there's the consignment option, which means you wait until an item sells." Obviously, you get more if you sell 'on consignment' or, as we would say, sale or return.
"The value of the item depends of course on its age, condition or 'trendability'. If I know it's something that's going to 'flip' very quickly, then we'll pay more, because we have a waiting list. We depend a lot on tourists during the summer. All of my clients would be going on holidays to France, or going away with their kids for the summer months, so a lot of my regular customers aren't here right now. Tourists want to take home a handbag. They won't want to take home a top, they'll go to Grafton Street for that, but they'll come specifically here for handbags. We had a family in from Rome; they had seen our name in an Italian guidebook. We have a great team, currently eight people, which is why I think the business does so well."
Ella says that people really want Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. "Those three brands never go on sale. They actually go up in value. Prada goes on sale, and they, and Gucci have outlets in Italy. When it comes to clothes, Dries Van Noten black dresses are huge, but we don't have any at the moment. Out of 2,300 sellers this week, not one came in."
Ella and Stephen now have their sights set on the UK. As we talked, they were preparing to head to Edinburgh the next day, where they were doing a pop-up shop. "We want to expand into the UK market. Obviously there's a larger population. We chose Edinburgh first because I lived there for two years, some years ago. I love it. It's such a great city."
Items that caught my eye included a gold Chanel 2.55 bag, the retail value of which is €4,800 and which is selling for €2,800, and a Louis Vuitton black epi leather Noe bag, at €995, which Ella assured me can hold four bottles of Champagne comfortably! A beaded dress had just come in and was selling at €149, while a calfskin Victoria Beckham skirt, which would retail for €1,500, was selling at €400. I was also taken by a Chanel ring at €349, and a Louis Vuitton pen which would retail at €2,000 and was selling for €1,000. Look out too for a lovely YSL bag at €600, which cost €1,400 last year. They also have lots of less expensive bags. "Our vintage stock primarily comes from Canada, France and Germany. We go to France on buying trips and come back with a lot of vintage blouses. People love them, they fly out." They also have great pouffes, plates and hanging lamps from Morocco.
"We are going to convert one of the shops to start doing homewares, vintage cameras, vintage delph, knick-knacks, antiques, and so on. We are also going on a buying trip to Korea. I've been there before and there's some really cool stuff there."