The appeal of a vintage designer handbag is undeniable. Sometimes the thrill of the hunt, or scoring an amazing deal makes it even better than buying a new designer bag. Luckily, the secondhand fashion market is thriving, in the form of local boutiques—but especially online with various options to choose from, whether it’s an app, a specialty website or even eBay. Even Nordstrom has recently gotten into secondhand fashion, with the launch of a secondhand online store this year.
The benefits of buying a designer handbag secondhand are endless. First of all, it’s more sustainable. You can find the pieces you may have missed out on the first time around, and even score an epic deal. But navigating which bag to buy and how to buy it can often be a complex process. So, we chatted with Seth Weisser, co-founder of What Goes Around Comes Around, one of the best sources to find vintage luxury handbags (or anything else fashion related) from any era. Just last year, What Goes Around Comes Around opened an uptown flagship in New York City, which is now the luxury vintage retailer's fifth storefront. Given the fact that the company was founded in 1993, long before the obsession with vintage designer handbags became so popular—they know a thing or two about finding the perfect secondhand bag. Read on to hear the best tips and tricks for finding your dream vintage bag.
Related: How to Shop Luxury Vintage
Do Your Research and Create a Mood Board
The first thing to do is decide what bag is right for you. In order to do that, think about what features you need or make a mood board of the styles you love. “It’s important to focus on acquiring classics and pieces that speak to your individuality and are functional for your lifestyle,” explains Weisser. “Spend some of your extra free time searching (and researching) for the perfect pieces to complete and/or fill in the gaps in your collection.”
Reinvent the New Classics
Part of the fun of buying vintage bags is all about nostalgia. Think about some of the most iconic bags throughout the ages—the ones that brands bring back again and again. “Right now, the most searched for brands on our website are Fendi and Chanel, we’re seeing a huge uptick in demand for the Fendi Baguette in particular. The Dior Saddle Bag is still trending, especially the rare and iconic prints, which are much more difficult to find. There is also a growing demand for core classic pieces, like the LV Neverfull, Chanel Flap bags, and Goyard St. Louis totes,” says Weisser. Buying one of these pieces will guarantee a new classic in your wardrobe.
It’s also worth considering some of the fun collaborations you may have missed out on the first time around. “The Louis Vuitton collaboration collections continue to be in high demand, especially the Takashi Murakami Multicolore Monogram collection in both the white and black, from small accessories to larger handbags,” he adds. “Prada nylon is another huge trend that we’ve been seeing all over celebrities, models off-duty, and influencers—these early 2000’s pieces are definitely nostalgic, and are making a comeback in a big way.”
Go With Tried and True Brands
Some bags hold their value better than others. If you’re specifically looking to buy a vintage bag that will appreciate in value down the line, explore some of the most classic options. “It's usually best to look for brands and styles that hold steady and increase in value over time. The tried and true top brands always hold their value. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermès are always the safest bet in terms of pre-owned bags,” Weisser says.
“For example, classic Chanel is always in style, and the prices increase every year for the new pieces. Therefore, the vintage and pre-owned pieces also increase in value over time, of course depending on condition and wear. Key pieces from the early 90’s are still in high demand,” he explains. “Rare and limited Louis Vuitton pieces continue to grow in popularity and demand. Many of the collaboration collections from Murakami, Sprouse, and others continue to appreciate in value over time. Since these collections were limited edition, it’s becoming harder and harder to find these rare pieces in top quality and condition.”
Small Details Matter
Authenticity is the most important focus when buying vintage bags. But it can be hard to know what’s real and what’s not, in the world of secondhand fashion. “Each brand has its own ‘rule book’, both for how they create and protect their brand. It is very hard to give singular tips on authenticity because there are so many variables, including the style and age of a bag as well,” explains Weisser. He says to look very closely at the fonts and placements of logos/branding, the stamps on the hardware (zippers, keys, locks, metal accents), and the quality of the hardware itself. The leather quality and craftsmanship such as stitching, and finishes are also key details to look into. “Many brands have specific stamping, holograms, and other proprietary ways to identify their products, which are key components of authenticity that vary by brand, style, season, and other factors.” Most of the details for particular brands can be found online with a simple search, for easy comparison.
“In the end it is critical that consumers buy from reliable sources and verify that they can be trusted,” he adds. “Reading up on the company you’re buying from is important. Buying from marketplaces is very dangerous because you don’t really know who the seller is, and most are not very concerned about protecting the consumer. Would you go and buy a diamond from just anyone? In our opinion, the peace of mind you get when shopping with a trusted source is clearly worth it.”
Look for Deals, but Be Cautious
“The age-old adage of ‘if it seems too good to be true, it likely is’ applies greatly to buying vintage bags,” Weisser says. “Many sellers are not professionals and therefore the risks of buying online are quite high. Don’t just look for a great deal but look for a great bag which you can use and also which will uphold its resale value. Think about what you want in advance, and make sure to research the style and brand beforehand.”
“Vintage and pre-owned items are often priced by demand and availability. Our team is constantly analyzing the market, looking at what’s out there in both the new and vintage space to ensure that our pricing is on point. If there is no demand for the item, the price will drop. If there is a high demand for an item, or if it’s harder to find, clients will find that it’s typically more expensive.” He also suggests consumers pay close attention to the details when comparing pieces across different retailers and sources, by checking the photos carefully and reading the descriptions and looking at the condition very closely. “If you see a big differentiation in price, look at the condition, as this can be a huge factor in cost—it’s very similar to a used car in that sense, the more wear the piece has, the lower the price will be.”