I was out with a friend recently when I noticed the brand-new handbag slung over her shoulder. Buttery-soft caramel leather, immaculate piping, roomy enough to hold a laptop; it looked expensive.
As it turns out, it wasn’t. My friend Amy had bought her nearly-new Proenza Schouler ruched tote for less than $700 from luxury resale platform The RealReal – a steal considering it usually retails for $2000.
I was sold. That night I went home and scanned resale platforms like TheRealReal, ebay and Vestiaire Collective where pristine bags from the likes of Chanel and Dior, as well as more affordable brands like Acne and Mansur Gavriel, can sell for half price.
Amy and I aren’t the only ones turning to preloved to purchase luxury handbags. A recent report by ebay and The Business Of Fashion found that the luxury resale market is flourishing, with 26 per cent of US luxury shoppers purchasing a secondhand luxury accessory in the past 12 months.
Jane Thompson, the director of one of Australia’s most established luxury resellers, Blue Spinach, agrees that demand for preloved handbags is soaring.
It’s changed a lot in such a short period of time.
“It’s changed a lot in such a short period of time,” she says, adding that only a decade or so ago luxury fashion wasn’t readily available to Australian consumers. But with more brands opening stores in Australia, supply and demand for designer handbags – both new and secondhand – has grown.
Covid also helped spur on demand, she notes, as people had time to contemplate their consumption habits.
And then of course there are the financial considerations. Chanel increased the price of its handbags not once but twice in 2023, and there are rumblings among diehard fashion followers that the older pieces at some brands feature higher-quality materials.
Little wonder then, that savvy shoppers are turning to presale. “It’s become a new consideration, you know ‘Before I buy a new bag that I need or want I might just have a look on the preloved sites to see if I can’t find something that’s in great nick that is a saving.”
Whatever the reason, experts like Thompson agree that there’s never been a better time to buy a preloved handbag.
For a start, there’s currently a lot of stock on the mark; thanks to the current economic downturn, more people are selling handbags to make extra cash.
And February is a particularly good time to pick up a bargain, notes Miranda Gillespie, the founder of Luxe.It.Fwd. “At the start of the year during January and February in particular we see a massive surge in quote enquiries for customers wanting to sell their pre-loved bags. Customers are really in the ‘refresh and new beginnings’ mindset at the start of the new year and that often involves closet refreshes resulting in a surge of beautiful bags coming into Luxe.It. Fwd.”
Plus, she adds, there’s often an influx of bags as people offload bags they were given at Christmas.
During January and February, we see a massive surge in customers wanting to sell their pre-loved bags
So, which bags are most popular right now? “I haven’t seen a change in the top three brands in 28 years,” laughs Thompson. “Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.”
Gillespie agrees, adding that Louis Vuitton is number one on Luxe.It.Fwd.
Both Luxe.It.Fwd and Blue Spinach offer authentication services (and some sites like ebay offer guarantees against fakes), and warn that to avoid buying a fake, it’s best to steer clear of any too-good-to-be-true bargains. “If you don’t feel comfortable with a seller, don’t buy the product,” says Thompson.
Thinking about buying preloved? Follow these expert tips:
Look closely. “Pay close attention to the condition description and photo,” says Gillespie. Look for stains, tears and general wear and tear, which can greatly affect price. Don’t mind a little light use? “You can save a massive amount by buying a pre-loved bag with very light use vs brand new.”
Get savvy with timing. Find out if and when resale platforms upload their new product. Blue Spinach for example releases its new handbags every Friday around 5pm. “Everybody gets to know that and it gets a bit crazy,” says Thompson. Blue Spinach sends two emails a week; when new bags are listed on Wednesdays and when bags are discounted on Fridays.
Set alerts. Some websites allow you to set an alert to let you know when a particular style and price point is listed.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Rushing in is not the answer,” says Thompson. “People need to do their research, take their time and learn about the market and ask lots and lots of questions.”
Be alert to fakes. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Photography: Daniel Goode.
Styling: Lucy Wood