• Anastasia Pentias

TBN: Luxury Bags- How to Navigate the Second-Hand World

If you are bored with my occasional rants about the luxury world (and who can blame you, really), its decline in quality and skyrocketing prices (you can find a concise round-up of the main problems here), feel free to tune out now.

Also, if you are a serious person that has outgrown the notion of social pressure of fashion and style, you can tune out: you will find this article thoroughly ridiculous. It deals with finding luxury handbags through the second-hand market, or 'pre-owned', or 'pre-loved' as it has been, forgivingly, re-named. Still expensive but (much) more affordable.

In the old days, we woudn't dream of selling our bags, we bought them for life. First thing I did when I bought my Chanel flap? Throw away receipt, box and authenticity card. Doh!! Second thing I did? I took out the hologram sticker, to avoid staining the cream leather underneath.

*** D O H !!!!!!!******

That way, I pretty much destroyed its re-sale value by 70%. So, when it got old, I sent it off to the amazing Handbag Clinic and they turned it into a matte black, crossbody stunning beauty instead. Which turned out to be a good thing because, had I sold it when I wanted to, I would never, ever, have been able to buy another in my lifetime at today's prices.

Fast fashion, a notion that has extended to luxury, means that stylish bags come and go quicker than ever. How can one keep up with a current fashion vibe at these prices? For me, and most luxury lovers out there, the answer lies in the second-hand market. We buy more often and we sell more often; it's a recycling climate nowadays. Having sold and bought more than 30 bags in the last 3 years, I now have a good feel about navigating this arena. If you are thinking of going into this world, these are my top tips that I learned along the way (often the hard way).

A Soho Disco, like the one I found in great condition for exactly half of the retail price

1. If you are starting out, I would strongly advise only trusting re-sale platforms that authenticate centrally themselves and guarantee the authenticity of your item. Vestiaire Collective was my favourite platform from the get-go and I became an Expert Seller, much to my amusement. Never could I imagine that my Balenciaga obsession all those years ago, would reward me after all. If you are in the U.S., Fashionphile and the RealReal are great places to start. These websites charge higher commission than other platforms like Depop or Ebay. You will pay somewhat more. But the peace of mind and ease of transaction is priceless. It's a great consumer experience that protects you from fraud. Which, in less regulated platforms, is the norm.

After years of experience, I now use Depop to buy my bags because it's a lot cheaper. BUT. More than half of luxury sellers are scammers (very good ones too, getting dozens of great reviews by selling trinkets and then scamming clients on the expensive items). I've spent so much time researching and lost money along the way, so I can weed out the bad ones. My favourite sellers on Depop are Italian, with a long, trusted history of sales and an excellent selection. Whatever you choose, for the love of god, DO NOT ACCEPT TO PAY OUTSIDE THE PLATFORM TO SAVE MONEY. You will not be protected in case you get a fake or no item at all. There is not one decent seller with good intentions who would do that. They only want to take away your right to claim your money back, so don't do it. End of discussion.

The Fendi Spy. A masterpiece that I don't need and will never use.

2. Don't go nuts, it's not a free-for-all. The bags you'll find are cheaper but they are not cheap. Stay focused on the one you're dreaming of. Stalk your holy grail bag early in the mornings and midday on the websites, check frequently. Believe me, if you are patient and consistent, it will turn up at a good price. You need to wait it out. Do not get sucked into buying something that only resembles your dream bag. You'll only want the original more. If you don't know what you want, take a lot of time to look at the selection. If you miss an opportunity, do not give it a second thought- I guarantee you another will pop up sooner or later. Also, just because something is beautiful and more affordable, does not mean it's right for you and your lifestyle. I have bought many bags that ended up being re-sold after a few months because they were not right for my daily habits. Revise your wardrobe, pinpoint what's missing and zero in on the right bags. For example, I only wear crossbody bags. I cannot hold a bag on my shoulder or my arm, I've just refused to do that ever since I turned thirty. I adore the Fendi Spy bag; I think it's the most beautiful thing ever and it's now going for 300 euros, in excellent condition. I suspect it will soon be re-launched by Fendi at 10-15 times that price, minimum. But it's only shoulder-worn and I refuse to allow myself to buy something I simply won't use in the long run. I am not a collector for the sake of it anymore. I'm trying to give my child the best education I can, so I'll only buy a bag if I sell one from my collection. Every piece needs to be indispensable.

A Céline C bag like the one I authenticated- twice. Célines are widely, and excellently, replicated so it's notoriously hard to guarantee you're getting the real thing.

3. If it doesn't come officially authenticated, authenticate everything you receive yourself. Superfakes (high-grade replicas) are REALLY good. They are indistinguishable from authentics. I have examined two myself, compared them to their authentic counterpart and could not believe that the reps were even better in some minute details of craftsmanship. A sure sign of the times, there are now authentication websites where you upload photos of your bag and experts give you their verdict. They also give you a certificate of authentication, which helps re-sell your bag later. There are many such services but my personal favourites are Real Authentication and especially Authenticate First. Easy, reliable, fast.

4. Take care of your bags, because you might want to re-sell them. Or keep them looking good for life. Even if you find your dream bag, you might find that after a while you'll need something else. In any case, these are expensive purchases; why not keep them in tip-top shape so you can pass them on to your daughter? Stuff them with paper when stored to keep their shape and make sure they are not exposed to humidity. If you keep them in a closet, like I do, open the doors often to air them out. I don't keep them in boxes or dustbags and I protect them from direct sunlight. I also use inserts (lightweight, structured pouches that you fit into the bag) to always preserve their shape when I use them. It makes them super-functional and keeps them looking new. Handbag Angels is my personal favourite; well-priced, great products, excellent service. You can make a custom one or choose from their ready-made line. I also always spray my leather bags with a waterproofing spray (I use Colonil Nanopro), as it protects them from the rain and colour transfer from clothes. Do not spray a printed logo, though, as the spray will react with sunlight and make it fade (as my Céline Nano Luggage can, sadly, attest- triple DOH!). If you can, keep everything that came with the bag (box, papers, dustbag etc). For some reason, that continues to elude me, people want that stuff when they're buying pre-owned. Why? I don't know. I throw away everything and always find buyers for my bags but I know they would pay a bit more for all the extras. Lastly, if you watch enough YouTube tutorials, you can restore any damage to your bags. My article on that subject is here.

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