Expert Tips on Buying a Vintage Designer Bag

I love shopping for vintage fashion, finding that special thing that no one else (or few people) will have. But when it comes to vintage designer bags (a particular passion of mine), there’s a lot to know and look out for.

So, I met with Tisha Collette, owner of Collette Consignment, to talk about buying on consignment, vintage, and what to know before you start.

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First things first. There’s consignment and then there’s vintage. A bag is considered vintage at 10, 20, or 25+ years, and designer provenance is important here (Hermes, Chanel, Gucci are always valuable on the vintage market). Oftentimes consignment, says Tisha, is a bag that you can’t get anymore because it’s a few years or more out of production.

Tisha tells us, “people shop [consignment] because you can’t get it anymore. That’s what makes it special. And the vintage aspect of it…you’re not going to find it anywhere.” That doesn’t mean that you should always give into the pull of the one-of-a-kind though. She cautions that you should give a piece the same amount of thought that you would a new item; if you’re going to spend a lot of money “on anything, whether it’s vintage, consigned, or brand-new, you should think about it. But if it’s a dress off the rack here, you can safely shop it and say, ‘Wow, I got a great thing and I got a great discount.'”

Think fast, though, because you may never see the bag again if you walk away. If you’re ready to purchase, it’s helpful to be in a store like Tisha’s, as most of the scrutiny and legwork has already been done for you.

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1. First up is authenticity: Make sure what you are buying is what you think it is. Short of bringing the Chanel store employees shopping with you, there isn’t much you can do besides trust your gut. Do research on the store before you enter it. If it’s reputable, you’re most likely A-OK.

2. Next, examine the condition of the bag. Tisha explains, “Normal wear and tear on a bag would be the edges rubbed on the bottom. That’s it. You don’t want any part of the bag to be marked up by things that can’t be removed by a leather cleaner.”

3. Leather specialists are akin to miracle workers though, so she cautions that you shouldn’t be hung up on condition, saying, “we’ve had Birkin bags that have literally been run over by trucks. They look flattened, worn to death, and we have refurbished things to brand-new condition.” Just be reasonable: If the bag is not in pristine condition, the price should reflect that.

4. Speaking of price, don’t always assume that vintage and consignment means it has to break the bank. If you’re not reaching for designer merchandise, you will still come across that diamond in the rough that you can’t believe no one has snatched up yet. Be patient and wait for that one true love. You’ll know it when you see it and you’ll never let it go.

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