[ STYLE FILE ]
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
At The Catwalk Designer Consignment Boutique, Kimberleigh Colt shows an array of secondhand and collectible Louis Vuitton purses available for purchase. The 2002 Conte de Fees limited-edition mushroom appliquéd pochette at left was exclusive to France and Japan markets. It's $750.
Choosing quality makes sense when the market for gently used goods hold lure of future returns
IN ANCIENT times, like, 10 years ago, product cycles crawled so slowly that women could actually use the same handbag, day in and day out, until the seams popped loose and the leather sagged. Can you imagine that happening today?
It's gotten to the point that just when you think you've found the perfect purse and will never want another, some designer will spin your head with an impossibly adorable and irresistible baguette, banana, satchel or wristlet that you can't live without -- practicality be damned.
Consumerist behavior in the extreme means that as our attention spans shorten, ownership might be on its way out. The Web site www.BagBorrowOrSteal.com already aims "to make sure our members always have something extraordinary on their arm" by leasing the latest in designer purses.
Starting at a Trendsetter level with a $19.95 monthly membership fee, brands available range from Burberry to Ugg. You can keep a bag for as long as you want and return it when you're ready for a new look. Other levels are Princess ($49.95 per month) and Diva ($99.95 per month). The higher levels give you access to more luxurious couture purses, which come with an additional $100 to $150 fee, meaning that the purse is pretty much paid for after four to six months.
Other designs available are from Trina Turk, L.A.M.B., Baby Phat and Hawaii's Bliss Lau.
While some refuse to hop on board the merry-go-round of fashion's in-and-out cycles, when it comes to buying luxury, there is practicality behind the madness.
In a time when secondary markets for "gently used" goods are booming, it's designer goods that, like luxury cars, are most likely to retain a high resale value, returning to their owners the equivalent of a down payment on their next splurge. In exceptional cases they could even increase in value.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ming's pieces start at $180 for ivory earrings, up to $4,500 for the 20mm 14K bird and plum blossom pierced bangle bracelet at Catwalk.
It might take a couple of years to master the art of collecting or trading your beloved items for cash, but a quick trip through eBay will demonstrate a booming exchange in all things Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci, impostors as well as the real thing, so newbies are safer dealing with official merchants.
If you don't have the patience or technical skill to sell your own goods online, a number of local companies such as Wesellthings4U will do it for you. You can also go the old-school route by taking your best items to a consignment shop.
At Pzazz, Judy Joseph deals with designer apparel, and said she's been able to remain in business for 11 years because "there are a lot of shopaholics out there.
"There are a lot of women who only use things a couple of times and don't use them, or who never use them at all and bring them in. They just like to shop.
"One woman was between a size 2 and 4, so she'd buy one thing in each size and whatever didn't fit, she'd bring in. I asked her, 'Why don't you take it back to the store?' and she said, 'Oh, I don't want to be bothered.'"
But a majority of consigners have more conservative habits, bringing in items that no longer fit, gift items that don't fit or suit them, or things that they simply regret buying.
"It's a good way of getting rid of your mistakes," said Joseph, who believes in being honest with her clients, scolding them when necessary.
"One attorney brought in one of the latest, newest Louis Vuitton bags that she had never used, and when I asked her why she didn't take it back to the store, she said, 'I'd be embarrassed.'"
Joseph ended up telling her that instead of buying such a trendy purse, she should go in search of a more classic style that would last a long time and age gracefully.
"I feel strongly about being honest with customers and teach a lot of classes about dressing professionally. I tell people, don't buy quantity, buy quality: a good leather handbag, good leather shoes and a good watch.
"I bought an 18K gold Rolex in 1975 in Switzerland for $500, and that was a lot of money back then. But it's worth $10,000 today.
"When you buy quality it holds up better, it looks better and, if you take care of it, its resale value can be high."
KIMBERLEIGH Colt, owner of the Catwalk Designer Consignment Boutique, saw how much collectible designer merchandise could bring in while she was a student eight years ago at Waseda University in Japan, working part time in a consignment jewelry store.
Through connections throughout the world, she is able to bring to her Kaneohe boutique limited-edition designer rarities such as Louis Vuitton appliqué bags exclusive to the Japan market. She said it's not unusual for a purse originally priced at $5,000 to fetch $15,000 when offered to collectors.
"In Japan this is huge. The secondhand stores look better than Macy's. I always wanted this to happen here because there are plenty of people here who want and wish but don't know where to go."
She said trying to establish a similar business at home, where she wanted to raise her family, took a while.
"Hawaii's a very small place and establishing trust is most important. I don't want to make a mistake, and there are so many knockoffs out there. I see them everywhere. I get calls all the time from people who want authentication.
"I spent a lot of time learning what's marketable in Hawaii. In Japan, collectors went after Tiffany, Cartier and Rolex. Here, Ming's is No. 1. There's a lot of male collectors who just buy it and store it."
Customers simply walking in to find affordable secondhand apparel in good condition will see typical consignment offerings of casual and evening wear, and accessories, but Colt also has a sizable collector clientele focusing on diamond jewelry, Imperial jade and Ming's jewelry.
"One of the biggest collections of rare LV handbags belongs to a 4-year-old girl. She has 40 with an average price of $5,000 each.
"Her father is a massive collector, and when he had a daughter, he didn't know what to get for her. He has a friend who buys Rolexes from me, so he came to my shop and started to buy handbags. He built a case for them in her room, and it's temperature-controlled.
"But like any kid, when she comes to the store, she just wants to play with (the handbags)."
To be a successful collector of luxury goods, like other collectibles, she said, "You have to shop with your brain, not your heart. It's more difficult for women because we just see something pretty and we want it."
Of course, sometimes it's enough to spend outrageous sums of money on a luxury item simply because you love it, worked for it and believe you are most deserving.
"If you just want to buy to show off, that's OK," Colt said. "Never mind."
HOW TO RE-DO
If you're looking to turn over your great goods, here are more details:
The Catwalk: At 45-1151 Kamehameha Highway, near Kahuhipa intersection, in Kaneohe. Sellers receive 50 percent of sales price of typical consignment goods. The Catwalk keeps 20 percent of sales of specialized items and fine jewelry involving appraisal and authentication. Call 236-0888.
Pzazz: At 3057 Waialae Ave. Merchandise sells for about half off retail prices, depending on condition. Sellers receive 40 percent of the sales price. Call 732-5900.
The Ultimate You: At 449 Kapahulu Ave. (in the Hee Hing Building). Designer consignment. Sellers receive 40 percent of sales price; negotiable for jewelry and high-end items. Call 734-7724.
Wesellthings4U: At 839 Queen St. Posts items for sale on eBay for a fee, with additional fees when the item sells. Call 589-1102 or visit www.wesellthings4u.com.