This old thing? It’s second-hand! Forget rifling through dusty charity shops — these women show you can get real designer bargains
- Many upmarket boutiques offer designer clothing items in nearly-new condition
- Experts search for the best items online, instead of relying solely on donations
- Buying second-hand items is also now seen as a smart and savvy investment
- One report even predicts resale fashion will be worth £30 billion in five years
Buying second-hand clothes once meant sifting through rails of musty jackets and scuffed shoes. You might find a gem, but it was a far from glamorous experience.
Well, no longer. Old clothes have had a modern makeover, with upmarket boutiques offering designer pieces in nearly-new condition. Experts trawl the internet for the best items, instead of relying solely on donations, and use sleek websites to market their wares.
Attitudes are changing, too: far from being an economising secret, buying a second-hand Chanel bag or a pair of Prada shoes for half the original price is now considered a savvy investment — plus it’s environmentally-friendly.
And, while High Street retailers are having a tough time (H&M reports a 60 per cent profits fall, while Marks & Spencer is to close 100 shops), second-hand fashion is booming, with a report predicting resale fashion will be worth £30 billion globally in five years’ time.
Carla, Sophia and Charlie (pictured left to right) revealed how they were able to make massive savings on designer items that they picked up from a boutique
Second-hand sites such as HEWI London, Vestiaire Collective and Edit Secondhand offer designer pieces at a fraction of the original price, with something of the same luxury shopping experience you get when buying new. They accept only high-end labels, from Chanel to Givenchy, then in-house experts authenticate each item, professionally clean and restore it.
Sharon Wolter-Ferguson, who owns HEWI London (Hardly Ever Worn It), says she gets some of her best pieces when women sell her the contents of their wardrobes to generate enough cash to splurge on the next season’s collections. ‘I do it myself,’ she admits. ‘If I have my eye on something that costs a lot, such as a hat for Ascot, I’ll go through my wardrobe and sell whatever I don’t need to pay for the hat. Then, once the races are over, I’ll sell the hat to invest in new clothes.’
Indeed, the new second-hand shops offer every woman the opportunity to wear designer clothes at High Street prices. But where to start? We asked the experts for their tips . . .
I HATE CHEAP STUFF ON THE HIGH STREET
Claire Rampling, 49, lives with her partner and two children, aged 18 and eight, in Teddington, South-West London. She is a jewellery designer and volunteers at Mary’s Living & Giving — a charity shop chain set up by TV’s Mary Portas that sells luxurious second-hand clothes — where she also shops.
When I go to the High Street, I see a mountain of cheap stuff I know will end up in landfill. I can’t understand why you’d buy something new, but poorly made, when you could pick up a gorgeous Vivienne Westwood dress for £80.
I’ve always loved vintage fashion, but today, it’s so much easier to find beautiful, well-made pieces.
Even charity shops are nothing like the ones we grew up with. At Mary’s Living & Giving, we get a lot of designer brands in lovely condition and display them like a normal shop would, so it’s easy to find what you want. I buy a lot from Mary’s myself (profits go to the charity Save The Children), as well as resale sites. I stick to labels I know will hold their value, such as Mulberry, or vintage pieces, like this silk kimono (worn above). I love its texture and modern cut.
Claire Rampling, 49 (pictured) paid £154 for designer clothing worth £970: Vintage silk kimono: £48 (originally £300) Sandro trousers: £28 (originally £220) Roger Vivier shoes: £79 (originally £450)
When I want a change, I’ll take an item back to the shop, so that it has another chance to make money for charity.
TIP: Go second-hand shopping with a friend who’s a different size to you — that way, you can pick out clothes for each other instead of fighting over the same dress!
NO ONE ELSE WILL BE DRESSED THE SAME
Carla Kyle, 41, a personal stylist, lives in Windsor, Berkshire, and is divorced with three children, Alice, 12, Ava, 11, and Henry, seven. She shops at HEWI London.
Many of my clients have had a life-changing experience — they may have lost a lot of weight or got divorced — and want a style overhaul. They have all kinds of budgets, so I often look for second-hand designer pieces to mix with High Street buys.
Clients can’t believe I can get my hands on such a lovely item for the money. They might not have thought of going second-hand — in fact, at first, some feel put-off — but I explain how easy it now is to find authentic pieces and they always come round.
I keep an eye out for myself when I’m trawling boutiques. I’ll buy a fabulous jacket, wear it a few times, then sell it to buy something else.
I do shop on the High Street, but for a special occasion, I don’t want to walk into a room and see three women in the same dress. Second-hand designer means you can wear something no one else has.
TIP: Make a note of pieces you covet on the catwalks — they may pop up second-hand a few seasons later. My favourite buy was a Chloe dress I had wanted for years when it appeared on a resale site — for only £300. It would have been at least three times that originally.
STYLED IN: Gucci skirt: £600 (originally £1,400) Burberry coat: £400 (originally £2,500) Louboutin shoes: £180 (originally £600)
CARLA PAID: £1,180
FULL PRICE: £4,500
DON’T TELL MY HUSBAND . . .
Sophia Lorimer, 32, a part-time nanny, is married with an 18-month-old daughter. Sophia says 80 per cent of her wardrobe is second-hand, and she shops at editsecondhand.com
From the age of 12 or 13, I turned my mum’s cupboard under the stairs into a walk-in wardrobe — I just love clothes. And I have never been snobby about buying second-hand, either.
Shona McLeod, 50,(pictured) paid £8,320 for clothing that was worth £21,300 at full price: Prada dress: £195 (originally £850) Hermes Birkin handbag: £8,000 (originally £20,000) Louboutin shoes: £125 (originally £450)
I started out rummaging through charity shops, but can now afford proper labels from authentic, luxury second-hand sites — many items have been worn just once or twice.
I’m going to a wedding in a few months and bought the most beautiful, full-length Diane von Furstenberg dress from a website I love, editsecondhand.com, for £190. It would have been more than £500 new. I buy something from there about every two months — don’t tell my husband! — and then wear it to death.
The most I’ve spent is £950 on a Chanel bag, which would have cost more than double that originally. I remember seeing it and running outside to scream. Then I called my sister — and bought it.
TIP: Never follow fashion trends, as they’ll quickly date. Instead, look for something original — it’s much more satisfying.
STYLED IN: Lanvin dress: £420 (originally £1,800) Jimmy Choo shoes: £220 (originally £450)
SOPHIA PAID: £640
FULL PRICE: £2,250
I WAITED 18 MONTHS TO SNAP UP AN OUTFIT
Charlie Collins, 30, lives with partner Matt in London. She runs the VIP division for resale fashion website Vestiaire Collective. She shops at Vestiaire Collective and car boot sales.
After university, I worked at Deuxieme, a second-hand resale store on the King’s Road. We used to get the most surprising famous people dropping off everything from Balenciaga to Dior.
I loved seeing women’s faces light up as they browsed the rails and found a pristine Chanel suit or pair of Manolo shoes.
My job now involves helping wealthy and famous clients — from businesswomen to celebrities — detox their wardrobes, editing out the pieces they don’t wear any more and selling them so they can reinvest in new ones.
Most of my own clothes are second-hand, such as this Pucci dress (worn second left), which I found in a shop in Berlin. I’m not an impulse buyer: my most treasured purchase is an Eighties YSL red gypsy blouse and skirt for £300. I’d eyed them up for 18 months and, finally, the price came down enough for me to afford them. I’ll never sell them.
I’ve got a tiny flat, so I stick to a one in, one out rule.
TIP: Be persistent. I’ve been known to type key words into Google daily until I find the one thing I’m desperate for. I missed out on Lulu Guinness’s Frida Kahlo basket bag when it was new, but eventually got hold of it via Vestiaire Collective by setting up an alert on the site. I’d get an email every single time they had one to sell. It was so worth it.
STYLED IN: Vintage Pucci dress: £175 (originally £800) Charlotte Olympia sandals: £60 (originally £450)
CHARLIE PAID: £335
FULL PRICE: £1,250
MY GIRLS WILL FIGHT OVER MY WARDROBE!
Shona McLeod, 50, is divorced with four children, Maddie, 17, Tabbie, 16, Charlie, 14, and George, 13. She lives in Wandsworth, South London, and runs a second-hand boutique, shonamac.com
When I had my children, I gave up my City job to train as a fashion stylist. I’d always worn lovely suits, by Joseph and Max Mara, and they were in good condition. I knew I wouldn’t wear them again, so I tried to sell them — but it was so tricky!
I spotted a gap in the market and started selling clothes for clients on eBay. It eventually turned into a business, with its own website.
Since then, there’s been a big change in the way women regard second-hand fashion. It’s gone from something shameful to a clever alternative to the High Street.
I do buy for myself, but I have to be strict. My biggest splurge was an £8,000 Hermes Birkin bag (worn above left). I tell myself it’s ok, as it was worth a lot more than that originally! Not to mention the fact Birkin bags are a real investment because they hold their value.
Another great buy was a Lanvin dress I bought for £200 instead of £600 and have worn every year since. It’s something my daughters will fight over in the future!
TIP: Always buy from a seller with a first-rate, no-quibble returns policy and check how they guarantee that their pieces are authentic. Second-hand stores can be duped into selling fakes, just like anyone else.