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Save big bucks by shopping the wonderful wacky world of designer luxury consignment

None of my clothing is new. Okay, my knickers and my knackers are new. But I haven't bought a dress off the rack, toured a mall for jeans or purchased an unboxed pair of shoes in years.

It's not like my threads are bare. While a few of my garments hail from Value Villages across Canada, many pieces in my used wardrobe once sashayed down the fashionable runways of Paris, Italy and New York. Some of my stuff is even rumoured to have been previously owned by rich socialites and one celebrity. Yeah, that's just the way I roll.

I'm not brand-driven or even into luxury labels, but when I can afford a silk and wool Dolce & Gabbana dress for less than the cost of a cotton sheath from Club Monaco, I'm choosing luxury over the mall.

So, what's my luxe wardrobe secret? I make the second-hand economy my first economy by shopping the wonderful, albeit sometimes wacky, world of designer luxury consignment.

I first stumbled upon pre-owned designer wares at VSP Consignment – a pristine, white-walled boutique on Toronto's Dundas Street West. Boasting a display of unworn and nearly brand new Christian Louboutin heels, Prada pumps and Stuart Weitzman boots for 50 to 90 per cent off retail prices, I was something I never am – speechless.

Racks of dresses boasting big names like Chanel, Céline, Alexander McQueen, and even Victoria Beckham were selling as low as $175. A Burberry trench priced under $500 sent my heart racing. I've always wanted the classic coat, but my thrifty nature balked at the $1,500-plus designer price tag, so I opted for the cheaper $275 Banana Republic version instead.

Suddenly, the world of high-quality fabrics and precision tailoring was within my budget. I asked Britt Rawlinson, the 32-year-old store owner, how designer consignment works.

"It's not just the rich reselling," says Ms. Rawlinson. "It's people from all backgrounds. Someone may have saved up for months to get that special item and after wearing it once or a few times are ready to sell it."

The trick to surviving in a resale market is price, she says.

"The piece has to be priced what it's worth. The customer is coming in for a second-hand deal so we find the sweet spot where the seller, the customer, and the store are happy. Designer consignment is a triangle – it takes all three of us to walk away with something and feel good."

Not every item is accepted onto VSP's highly curated shelves. Only pristine garments and well-heeled shoes are priced for resale. Designers must be in demand and everything must be 100 per cent authentic. Ms. Rawlinson and her team do extensive research to verify an item's authenticity. Working and growing up in her mother's Calgary-based consignment store earned her the chops to spot the knockoffs.

Luxury resale and designer consignment stores are proving popular, and are cropping up for business across Canada. There's Mine & Yours in Vancouver, Vespucci Consignment in Calgary and Edmonton and Love That Bag in Montreal.

The world of authenticated luxury consignment isn't limited to brick-and-mortar locations, though. Sites like The RealReal headquartered in California and The Vestiaire Collective hailing from Paris are bringing new online life to pre-loved pricey clothing.

Both sites consign and resell high-end purses and luxury wares for at least 50 per cent off retail, but it's their mobile apps that make finding that coveted runway or vintage piece addictive. With notifications of flash sales and new designer duds added daily, it's hard to resist checking in with either app over my lunch break.

Other consignment junkies are hooked, too. Launching in 2011 with hope in a designer handbag, The RealReal is expecting $200 million in revenue this year, doubling their 2014 earnings. Not bad for a bunch of used stuff with fancy labels.

So is shopping the second-hand economy worth the hunt?

Ms. Rawlinson thinks so.

"Resale luxury can be a lot of searching around so you just have to take a peek," she says. "Don't worry about sizes because every designer fits differently. Sometimes you find 20 things that fit and sometimes you find nothing. The right piece always finds you."

A wall of designer luxury shoes reselling for 50 to 90 per cent off retail prices at VSP Consignment. (Kerry K. Taylor for The Globe and Mail)
High-end designer goods like jewellery, handbags, shoes and clothing sold used at VSP Consignment. (Kerry K. Taylor for The Globe and Mail)

(Kerry K. Taylor for The Globe and Mail)

Proenza Schouler bag: Originally sold for $2100. Resale price is $1098 at VSP Consignment.

Proenza Schouler shoes: Originally sold for $1600. Resale price is $398 at VSP Consignment.


(Kerry K. Taylor for The Globe and Mail)

Alexander McQueen hummingbird-print dress: Originally sold for $2,295 (U.S.) at Net-a-Porter.com. Resale is $400 at I Miss You Vintage, Toronto.


(Kerry K. Taylor for The Globe and Mail)

Victoria Beckham silk and wool-blend crepe blue dress: Originally sold for $2,550 (U.S.) at Net-a-Porter.com. Resale is $575.00 on TheRealReal.com.


(Kerry K. Taylor for The Globe and Mail)

Proenza Schouler bag: Originally sold for $3400. Resale price is $1598 at VSP Consignment.

Acne Studios shoes: Originally sold for $750. Resale price is $228 at VSP Consignment.



Kerry K. Taylor is a personal finance and consumer expert, the author of 397 Ways To Save Money and the lone blogger at Squawkfox.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @squawkfox.


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