Today In Retail Therapy: Working Through Second Hand (Clothing) Bias
I am not going to lie, I love living on the Upper East Side. No, it’s not exactly sample sale heaven, but there are so many other benefits that make up for that. It’s not just the museums and the park that make me starry eyed, but also the meet-cutes that happen with Candice Bergen who stops to baby-talk your dog or Paul McCartney who is shopping ahead of you at Dean & DeLuca—both of which have happened to me. Fine, maybe this isn’t unique to the Upper East Side; celebrity run-ins happen citywide when the city is New York. And it’s understandable why so many celebs make their homes here… where else would they stumble across so many sample sales and consignment stores and thrift shops PACKED with underpriced gems all within any given three block span?
If you’re an avid TSC reader, you probably know by now that I myself have mixed feelings about secondhand apparel and shoes. Yes, I confess I am an only child and I’ve never liked sharing things. I didn’t borrow clothes from friends growing up and I can’t imagine wearing some stranger’s shoes. But the economic data doesn’t support my shopping preferences as the second hand apparel industry (offline and online) is an astounding $18 billion industry, and it is forecasted to reach $33 billion by 2021.
While I suspect most of the future growth will come from online consignment shops such as ThredUp and platforms like TheRealReal and Vestiaire Collective, I do hope Upper East Side second hand clothing stores still have a place in the future of fashion. Whether you’re motivated by investing in better quality you couldn’t afford otherwise or by environmental consciousness and sustainability, there are plenty of reasons to give second hand shopping a second look. Heck, even I did a double take that paid off.
On a recent visit to Margoth Consignment Shop at 218 East 81st Street, I was received with so much kindness in this cozy store, that I let my guard down and—gasp!—forgot about my preconceptions about second hand clothes. I don’t often establish relationships with sales people, but I feel in this kind of store, it’s not only a perk, it’s a must. My advice? If you can, get the inside scoop, make friends with the owner, ask her to let you know if something you want is brought into her store. This gives you an advantage you’d never get from any typical clothing store or sample sale.
Designer Revival at 324 East 81st Street is a much larger store with a good selection, pleasant décor, and a chic atmosphere to help support your retail therapy. Although I didn’t buy anything there, I’ve bookmarked their beautiful and functional website DesignerRevival.com and I will most certainly check it out from time to time.
If you want to minimize the traveling time and you want to hit as many consignment stores as possible, you can try Madison between 84th and 85th. For many years that block has been the location for Encore Consignment and BIS Designer Resale, but the imminent upcoming arrival of Michael’s puts it into a different category. Michael’s, the “family-owned mainstay known as a go-to for secondhand designer-label fashions & accessories” will be located on the North East corner of Madison and 84th.
I haven’t seen the financial statements of these stores, but I have a feeling nobody is getting really rich from doing this. Still, they’re sticking with them for the joy, the more personal retail experience, and the benefits for the environment and your wallet. These are challenging businesses, especially when you have to pay the Upper East Side rents. What they sell depends on the quality and quantity of products people give them to be sold. While some of them (Designer Resale, Michael’s) have new management with prior experience from the corporate world, social media savvy, and adaptability to adjust to the times, these are still tough times for most of them. If you love vintage and want to save the world (or just your money), give these small stores a chance. And when you are there and you stop by at Dean & DeLuca for a latte, don’t forget to look for Paul McCartney… you never know.
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