Have you ever wondered what the dos and don'ts of buying luxury goods on second hand platforms are? Stylist Marie Shortt shares her top tips for finding a bargain online.
Marie Shortt is a French stylist, with extensive experience in the fashion industry. Previously working with designer brands such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood and Barbara Bui, her approach to fashion has a sustainable focus with an emphasis on shopping in a more mindful way. Here, she shares the dos and don’ts of buying luxury items on second hand platforms.
I have been shopping second hand for many years – I started on eBay and my penchant for pre-loved has only grown from there. I love second hand platforms focused on luxury as they make the pieces more accessible. Second hand pieces are often better too… a Mulberry bag looks so much better with a bit of wear!
If you associate second hand with slightly pokey, musty charity shops, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Are you or any of your friends guilty of having new, unworn clothes in your wardrobes, still with tags on? Well, many of those same items (or similar) end up on second hand platforms.
In fact, this entire outfit was styled using only clothing I have bought on second hand platforms. The boots are Ariat and were bought in 2018. The coat was made in Italy and is 100% cashmere – bought on Agité Closet. My Aran sweater is from Jack Wills (bought on eBay), my wool skirt was designed by Patrizia Pepe (bought on Vestiaire Collective) and my necklace is by Philip Lim, purchased on Vestiaire Collective.
Quality is key
My first tip for shopping luxury is to filter items based on condition. This is something I personally do and it helps me to find what I’m looking for more easily. Some pieces I will only buy brand new. For others, I’m more willing to compromise on quality.
I always start with Vestiaire Collective for luxury as it has a large catalogue of items for sale online and the authentication process gives you that extra reassurance when buying larger, more expensive pieces. Start with “never worn”, or better yet “never worn with tags” items at the start to ease yourself in with second hand. Hardware is an important element of a luxury bag, cheap zippers are a no-no, also check for pictures of the inside pocket zipper. Fakes are much more likely on bags and shoes, which is why I would be more cautious.
If a bag has lost a stud, or the zipper is broken but the bag is in perfect condition otherwise, that could be your chance to grab a bargain. Buy it, then bring it to a cobbler to fix it. Isaac Jackman on Charlemont Street in Dublin can really bring items back to life!
Location, location, location
Another tip is to filter items based on location. This is especially important if you don’t want to end up having to pay customs fees – in which case, you should keep your search limited to the EU. On Vestiaire Collective, I often select the “direct shipping” option as it means I don’t have to pay for the authentication fee. I don’t think this is always necessary though – I don’t use it for clothing items as it is an added cost.
Look at the pictures
When shopping for clothes, pay attention to the pictures. If I spot a garment that has been photographed flat on the floor, I look at the pictures as they often include more details about the particular brand/model which I can then Google. Seeing the piece worn by an actual person helps to tell you more about the fit.
Always ask for a picture of the size. Sometimes sellers change the size of the garment in the description because they feel the actual sizing isn’t accurate, so it’s important to always ask for a photo of the full label with size and brand/model name if possible. Measurements are great and the most accurate way to ensure items will fit… so it’s time to invest in a measuring tape if you don’t already have one.
Don’t be afraid to message the seller if you need additional photos or have any questions on fit. I find most people are really good at communicating. You can also ask to negotiate the price as there is often 10-20% leeway. Beware of shops who have set up on luxury resale platforms though as some of them are less available to answer your questions, and in my experience, have been the only sellers I have had to return items to.
I find the luxury platforms really good for high-end jeans. If you don’t know your size, you can always go to a department store and try on the brand you are interested in so then you know your size for future use. My jeans come from a mix of department store sales and second-hand platforms.
New, smaller platforms have also been popping up online more – they’re usually very eager to help and actually want to give you more information about items. I recently purchased a stunning cashmere coat from Agité Closet who are based in Ireland – they were so helpful with sizing and also offer return options if needed too.
Make a favourites list
When shopping, I create a full list of favourites with a selection of that same specific item from a range of different sellers. This helps me to mull things over before buying and decide which piece is the right one to go for. I usually wait around a week before buying as that gives me enough time to do some research first. I send out price offers to the various sellers and see who comes back with the best price. It can often be very surprising!
Buy from brands you know
It’s always good to buy from brands you already know. You most likely already know your size so it’s quite a safe bet and you could even nab something that you might have missed out on in a previous collection. It’s worth noting that platforms like Vide Dressing and Zalando also allow you to return items, which is handy if you’re unsure about a purchase. Many items are posted by sellers on many different platforms, so you might spot the same piece on a few different websites – being able to return an item can give you additional peace of mind.
It’s a good idea to check the full-cost price of the item you’re hoping to buy as well as how much that same item has sold on the platform in the past. Unworn Gucci loafers are not going to sell for €100 – it if sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Jewellery is a completely foolproof thing to purchase on second-hand platforms. I have purchased incredible costume jewellery, especially from sellers based in Italy, and pieces like a statement necklace from Philip Lim or Max Mara earrings always make an impact. I’ve found mine for less than the cost of high street knock-offs too.
Photography by Jason Lloyd-Evans. This article was originally published in September 2022.