If you’ve always coveted a Louis Vuitton bag, you can find one for a fraction of the retail price here in the East Bay, where consignment shops are booming. That means you might score an "It" bag, a Joie blouse that feels brand-new, or rare European labels at 25 to 50 percent off retail. Fast-fashion prices without creating more environmental waste—it’s a shopping win-win.
Labels Luxury Consignment’s 6,000-square-foot Walnut Creek store specializes in couture designers. As owner Lynn Nice explains, "Labels was created for our local community to bring in high-end pieces that didn’t work in their wardrobes anymore." For consignors, it’s a way to recycle clothes to earn back some of their shopping budget. For buyers, the boutique is a designer-bag mecca, where the most-wanted handbags—including hard-to-find Hermès Birkins—have been known to surface. Iconic items like Gucci logo belts and Valentino’s Rockstud purses and shoes are always in demand. You’ll also find contemporary brands and premium denim here and at Labels’s sister store in Berkeley. labelsluxury.com.
Designer handbags are also hot-ticket items at A Dress Change in Danville, which has a special case devoted to Chanel bags. Owner Jonni Smith says she didn’t experience a spike in demand for Chanel following Karl Lagerfeld’s death this year; the brand is always coveted. While a used Chanel bag will still cost thousands, the shopkeepers note that it tends to hold its value. Pre-loved Armani, Escada, and Versace ready-to-wear, an athleisure section (think Lululemon), and a dedicated Chico’s rack offer something for every woman. adresschangeconsignment.com.
Meanwhile, in Orinda, Rechic 101’s aesthetic is classic, from the black and white exterior to the well-organized interior, where everyday pieces in natural fibers such as silk, cotton, and cashmere are popular. Apparel and accessories by the likes of Burberry, Tory Burch, Vince, and Madewell are displayed by style and color. Premium denim, as well as contemporary brands including Free People and Zara, can be found in the more casual section toward the back. "I believe the merchandise should be curated with a point of view, and the shopping experience should be every bit as pleasant as a new boutique," says Rechic 101’s owner, Maureen Brown. "Secondhand shopping is full of beautiful clothing that is fun, fresh, and modern." rechic101.com.
Follow these guidelines to ensure you make the perfect pick.
• Check stitchwork and thread color for consistency.
• Always test zippers.
• Even if a piece is your size, try it on before buying, since pre-owned clothing may have been altered.
• Don’t rush. Spend some time searching for, inspecting, and trying on items you’re considering buying.
• With designer handbags, insist on a certificate of authenticity.
• With clothing, look for pilling under arms and on the inner legs of pants, as well as stains, snags on knits, holes, and missing buttons.
• With shoes, inspect soles and hardware for wear, then try on both shoes and walk around the store to make sure they feel sturdy.
• Scoop up timeless pieces such as designer handbags, leather jackets, tailored blazers, vintage coats, silk blouses, cashmere sweaters, premium denim, boots, and items with stripes and animal prints—they’ll give you the best return on your investment.