Last week, Ellen introduced Thrift Thursday, our weekly series that highlights one (or more) of our fav slow fashion finds and share our secrets to scoring the best deals. Whether vintage, thrift or consignment, one of the reasons we started this blog is to share our our passion for shopping on the secondary market. We want you to fill your closet with special pieces in a way that is both better for the environment and your wallet.

One of the things that bonded Ellen and I over shopping was our love for finding designer bargains on the secondary market. What started out as a desire to save money while invest in my wardrobe with things I couldn’t otherwise afford, has become a way to:

  • Find rare and unique pieces that you won’t see on 15 other women
  • Get out of your comfort zone and try pieces that are bit more unique. Consignment shopping is a great way to try a “trendy” or “statement” piece, or something unique that you may not otherwise buy when it’s full price. You might be more comfortable trying it out on a consignment price tag.
  • Support a local business. Most consignment shops are locally owned – and many by women – and I like knowing I am supporting an individual and not a corporation
  • Curating a collected wardrobe of signature designer pieces that are as relevant now as when they were on the runway. The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” holds true here – one gal’s rags are another gal’s Rochas…or whoever it is you’re drooling over.

Ellen – who I call an eBay Ninja – gave you a few of her general eBay tips last week. I wanted to use my first Thrift Thursday post to highlight two of my favorite scores from one of my favorite consignment stores and share my tips for finding designer treasures.

For years I wanted the quintessential Chanel boucle jacket and quilted purse. Knowing that full price was never an option, I began to make the rounds at consignment stores and online. Even on the secondhand market, these two bucket list items can still break the bank. So when I popped into Michael’s Consignment during a business trip to New York City, I was thrilled not only to find these two items but on SALE!

The jacket is quintessential Chanel – wool boucle, silk floral lining, signature Chanel buttons on the pockets, in a black and camel window pane plaid with just a hint of sparkle with a metallic thread. The purse is the perfect neutral and with my favorite gold hardware and chain strap. It’s a good size – not oversized but not tiny. Just right for every day needs but dressy enough for luncheons or dressier work events… and very ladylike, just like Coco. When I found it, I quickly snapped a pic of it and texted it to Ellen asking for verification/validation that the price was indeed a good deal for a bag like this. She replied with a resounding YES, and I pulled the trigger and have never looked back. Are these more of my more pricier pieces? Has the cost per wear in just the few years I have owned them made investment worth it? Also YES! Like I said, these are investment pieces that I will have in my closet forever.

On the occasion of legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld’s death, I pulled these two items back out of my closet in homage to him. I paired them with simple black Theory trousers, my XOXO KARL t-shirt scored at Century 21 on that same NYC trip, animal print pumps by Sam Edelman (you read my post on how Cheetah is the New Black, right?!), and another favorite Chanel treasure – the flower necklace. I bought this piece years before I found the jacket and bag at a wonderful Austin boutique which is sadly no longer in business (I love shopping local). It’s a vintage Chanel floral brooch that was repurposed as a necklace with a double chain. It plays off the shimmer in the jacket and pops with the black, making this Chanel look almost head to toe – or at least neck to wrist.

There are so many other secondhand finds I love and can’t wait to share them with you here over the coming months…. The Etro beaded caftan, the Lanvin(s), the Missoni poncho…. Squeal! I get excited just thinking about them!

Here are a few tips on how to get the best deals at consignment stores:

  1. Do your research. Different consignment stores can specialize in different items. If I am looking to buy from a store that I have never visited before, I also research any online reviews.
  2. Get to know the owner and the staff. The people who work at those stores are usually just as obsessed about fashion as you are and love to join in on a good hunt. Getting the head’s up from a sales person or even the owner is a great way to buy a piece before the general public even sees it. And they love a good treasure hunt too – sometimes they’ll launch a search for a specific item you’re looking for just to help you score it! *(see caveat below)
  3. Visit the stores often. The more the staff sees you – and begins to like you – the more they will help you on your search. As they begin to know you and your style, they can make recommendations on any new product that has arrived since your last visit. And ask questions, e.g. when do you get shipments of new product? Are there any specific items you are looking for? etc. That last one came in handy recently due to lacking supply of Golden Goose sneakers compared to the high demand to find a pair on the secondary market. *But please do NOT assume that they will search for you. Some places can, but many are not able to do specific notifications when a particular item arrives. (If they help you, they have to help everybody.) But it doesn’t hurt to ask if they can at least keep an eye out.
  4. Try to refer business when you can. With Michaels, my previous job allowed me to bring a group of rather affluent Texas women on a shopping trip there, which I know they appreciated. With my local favorite, Moss, not only to I steadily consign clothing for them to sell, but I refer friends to them all the time. I have even taken friends shopping there who didn’t understand how their pricing works (Moss is one of those places where the price of an item falls after so many days…stay tuned for a lot more on them in future posts!)
  5. Social media stalking, the non-creepy kind. Thanks to the internet, we are no longer constricted by geography when it comes to finding deals. Bookmark your favorite stores website, especially if they sell directly from it, and their social media and make a plan to check them on a regular basis. I have asked a few of my favorite stores when they update their websites and Instagrams (see tip #2) and make it a point to check when they update. There is nothing worse than seeing a coveted item online with the dreaded SOLD next to it. Online availability means things go FAST!  One of my favorite go-to stores is Renaissance in Santa Barbara, CA.
  6. Go with the flow. Unlike department stores, you cannot expect any specific inventory at consignment stores, so keep an open mind when searching through the racks and online listings. As much as I use consignment stores to find a specific item, like my Chanel boucle jacket, I was flexible on the color, pattern etc. Additionally, some of my best finds have been those items that weren’t on my Wishlist – The aforementioned Etro beaded caftan (I die!). You also need to plan on taking more time at a consignment store then say, Nordstrom or Zara. Consignment stores are not the place to power shop as you really need to take your time to look through all the racks so you don’t miss something.

Armed with these tips and a desire to rescue someone’s castoff beauties, I wish you happy hunting and an abundance of treasures. Drop us a line and let us know your best thrifty finds! And if you know of other fantastic consignment shops – let us know!