Friday 24 November 2017

The boom might be back, but Irish fashionistas have fallen head over heels with pre-loved designer pieces

A woman looks at a shop window of a Chanel fashion store
A woman looks at a shop window of a Chanel fashion store
Givenchy top handle bag at the Designer Exchange
Chanel flap bag at the Designer Exchange
Lorna Weightman at the launch of Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil at Wineport Lodge. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Lorna Weightman pictured at the launch of Penneys festival inspired 'Prism' cosmetics collection'in Urchin St. Stephen's Green .Photo: Anthony Woods
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Our pockets might be a bit heavier and our feeds filled with an endless array of designer gear, but that doesn’t mean our taste for the good life has to come with a price tag to match.

When it comes to fashion, the term "second-hand" had some dirty connotations - the notion of not buying that season's must-have item straight from a department store or website likely meant you couldn't afford it. And this was during a time when not affording a designer piece meant you lost your elite street cred.

Then the recession hit and we had to be smarter about our money, the well-documented "lipstick effect" theory surmises that consumers will buy more luxuryproducts in times of financial hardship in order to improve their self-confidence.

In the years that followed, social media exploded and suddenly having the newest 'it' bag wasn't that important anymore, having something different was, and a number of canny entrepreneurs saw an opening for what has become a boombng business.

Paddy Coughlan, owner of the Designer Exchange on Dublin’s Dawson Street set up shop in 2012 and owns one of the most popular designer swap shops in the country. As for what motivated him, he said he gives the same answer in every interview as it sums up the spirit behind the business model.

"I have five sisters, it’s a split psyche between the five of them. One of them, who is quite affluent, has no problem buying a new top and pieces and another one would desire what she has, but couldn’t justify going full price; so it’s about covering the marketplace to make these things attainable," he told Independent.ie.

While influencers bombard our feeds with a seemingly endless array of Gucci belts, Louis Vuitton Speedy bags and Chanel espadrilles, we have more access to new (and old) styles, but are trying to be wiser when it comes to spending our cash.

Stylist Lorna Claire Weightman thinks we've learned from our mistakes from the past and are more interested in classic pieces rather than getting the next new 'it’'bag.

Givenchy top handle bag at the Designer Exchange
Givenchy top handle bag at the Designer Exchange

"We’re definitely a little more wealthy than we were a few years ago, but people are still being very frugal with their money," she told us.

"I think having something current season isn’t necessarily a priority anymore – people are happy to have something that is classic and timeless. The fact that we used to buy the pair of Manolo Blahniks that were in Sex and the City doesn’t happen anymore.

"You see that those shoes are still being made, so if you can get your hands on a pair that are a little less second hand, you’re going to buy them. New designer things aren’t coveted anymore."

When it comes to the Designer Exchange, bags are the biggest form of currency and Louis Vuitton and Chanel reign supreme.

Chanel flap bag at the Designer Exchange
Chanel flap bag at the Designer Exchange

"If I had 50 Louis Vuitton Neverfulls today, I would sell them all today. They are the most sought after piece, people can’t get enough of it – I believe Louis Vuitton themselves are the same, they can’t make enough,” Coughlan explained.

"Then there are classic Chanel items, an Hermès Birkin, which we have in stock now and are selling for If you walk into Hermès today, they have to decide today if they even want to sell to you and it takes 18 months to make. With us, you have a guarantee it’s authentic while you can circumvent the waiting list."

A Birkin costs at least €12,000 and you have to have an existing relationship with the brand before they'd even consider selling an iconic piece to you, so to have one in stock for €7,000 is a major coup.

There are dozens of guides online to buying a Birkin, because most of us don’t fit the criteria of a premium Hermès shopper.

It’s an iconic piece of hardware – last month, at Christie’s in Hong Kong, the world’s most expensive handbag was auctioned off for a whopping $379,261.

Last year, it was reported that investing in a Chanel bag might be the ultimate investment piece as the classic flap bag has increased in value by more than 70% over the last six years. In some cases, usually among a higher tax bracket,  it might even be more of a "sure thing" than property.

The concept of fashion as a sound financial move is a big selling point for Coughlan.

Lorna Weightman pictured at the launch of Penneys festival inspired 'Prism' cosmetics collection'in Urchin St. Stephen's Green .Photo: Anthony Woods
Lorna Weightman pictured at the launch of Penneys festival inspired 'Prism' cosmetics collection'in Urchin St. Stephen's Green .Photo: Anthony Woods

"You buy one pre-loved, but you also get a piece that isn’t going to drop in value. We have customers buying pieces that maybe they won’t own forever - some buy a Chanel classic flap for €3,000 then use it for a year and exchange it. In real terms, that’s not a hard salesman speech."

Was he inspired by the post-Celtic Tiger fire-sale approach to designer wardrobes?

"You could see the lot of bags coming in that were made during the Celtic Tiger years. They aren't selling bags to pay the rent, but unboxing their

There is an ever-growing market for Irish consumers, in particular, Siopella and the Cobblers Wardrobe are also among the most popular places to purchase these types designer items.

Weightman, an in-demand tv and editorial stylist, is all too familiar with the demands of dressing well and showing her 16,000 Instagram followers a new OOTD that will inspire and hopefully, influence.

"I practice what I preach, I have loads of second hand designer stuff," she explained.

"I went to a charity auction a few years ago before I worked in fashion, where Irish celebrities donated pieces from their wardrobe. You bid on them and I saw this black leather jacket from afar not knowing who it as by –I legged it for that jacket, I picked it up and it was Emporio Armani for €90 and I still have it.

"There’s something nice still about buying something a bit older, it might come with a story. You think, 'Did this Louis Vuitton coat travel around the world, how may hotels was it in?' There’s something romantic about it."

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