I’m pretty late to looking at and buying preloved designer, but in recent years, since we couldn’t go out and check out everything new and shiny, I turned to the past. And I have been smitten!
I own a few luxury designer bags from up to 15 years ago, and I can very safely say that the quality of luxury designer goods then and now are quite different. It seems trite to say this, but the quality appears to be better in the older, vintage bags.
I had a few people ask if I could share some tips on buying preloved luxury designer bags, so here’s a few things you should bear in mind. The preloved industry seems to be booming now, but I’d advise proceeding with caution, because so is the counterfeit industry 🙁
Shopping preloved luxury designer bags
Back in my day, used products were called just that – used. Or secondhand. I do think preloved does sound better LOL! 😀 There also used to be a bit of a stigma surrounding buying a used item, implying that you could not afford a new one.
In the realm of luxury designer bags, not being able to afford a new one in these times, is pretty much a fact. I have noticed that prices of designer goods have been rising very quickly, with price increases year on year, to what I deem to be a ludicrous amount these days. I’m not even talking about the more luxurious brands like Hermes or Chanel or Louis Vuitton. Even mid-tier luxury brands like Coach cost significantly more than I think they’re worth, and for someone who’s familiar with their older products, I can safely say that the quality used to be miles better.
I believe this sharp rise in prices of luxury designer goods is what has spurred the expansion of the preloved fashion industry. It’s given people the opportunity to own a luxury designer item, but at a more palatable price.
I wouldn’t necessarily use the words “low price” or “cheap” because that definition is dependant on your own perceptions and how much you can afford or are willing to spend. But in many instances, if you are looking for a luxury designer good, the prices are more palatable than buying a new item.
I’d noticed in the past that countries like Hong Kong and Japan have many preloved luxury designer bag stores. I’d even picked up a little bargain in one little store in Hong Kong in the past! But I’ve also noticed more stores popping up locally (that seem a little more legitimate than the ones that used to be available) so it must be a sign that our local market is maturing in terms of luxury designer goods too.
I have some tips you can keep in mind before you dive down this rabbit hole, if it’s one you’re considering 🙂
Why shop preloved luxury designer?
Aside from the fact that a used good is often priced lower or at a more affordable price than a new good, there are other reasons you might want to consider a preloved bag.
- Discontinued style – Perhaps you’ve always liked a particular style or design but did not have the chance or means to purchase it when it was first available. If you look in the preloved market, there is every chance you will be able to find it, in various conditions. If you’re lucky, and look hard enough, you might even find one in a near new, well-kept condition. I used to eye up some brands and designs back in the day, but skipped them over in preference for others. But when I see a design I like pop up, in a good condition and price, I am sorely tempted, just for the opportunity to own it! 😛 A good example is the Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Hobo bags. I loved them back in the day but they were incredibly costly! These days, I could pick one up in excellent condition for under RM2000 – I haven’t though. I’m still looking haha 😛
- Better quality leather and make – As trite as it sounds, I have personally found that the quality of older bags from the 90’s or early 2000’s seemed to be better. I say this by comparing them side-by-side with a new, similar item from the same brand. Sometimes, the leather feels thicker and more durable, the stitching and glue holds up better, and even coated canvas feel better. This is especially true with Louis Vuitton canvas bags, and is true even in high end designer like Chanel, as their long-time fans can often attest.
- Owning a high quality leather bag at a lower price – Depending on the brands you are looking at, you can get some brands are a very good price. In many cases, below RM1000 for a full leather bag. I personally love leather bags for their durability and texture, and when I see the prices of new bags these days, I find it hard to justify buying them. At RM1000 (US$215), you could get a new leather bag from a brand like Fossil or Bonia, or you could shop the preloved market and get a preloved leather bag from a brand like Ferrragmo, Loewe, Miu Miu, Mulberry even Bottega Veneta, if you look hard enough 😉
- You want to look unique – Well, if you pick a design that isn’t trendy or popular, you will be! While many people shop the preloved market for trendy IT bags, you can find some less popular but interesting designs that usually go for an attractive price. There are so many older, discontinued designs of bags that you just don’t see anymore, so toting one about will up your unique fashion quotient 🙂
What brands to look out for in the preloved luxury designer market?
From my observation, you can find almost any luxury designer brand in the preloved market. However, some brands hold their value better than others if you’re selling.
From what I can tell, Chanel and Hermes hold their value the best. You can often get a preloved bag from either of these brands at slightly lower prices, but they’ll never be “cheap”. You’re still looking at prices in the thousands of RM. However, if you don’t mind a less popular design e.g. if you don’t go for the Chanel Classic Flap or Boy, or opt for a bright or non-neutral colour, you are more likely to score a deal.
Similarly with Hermes, the preloved market prices are still very high, no matter the design. In some cases, a well kept Birkin or Kelly can go for even above retail. Hermes is a whole ecosystem in itself that I cannot pretend to understand 😛
Louis Vuitton too holds its value fairly well, depending on what you’re looking at. The signature monogram canvas holds its value incredibly well in the popular designs like the Speedy or Neverfull. But their full leather ranges are more affordable in the preloved market.
I personally love the Louis Vuitton epi leather (from the 90’s to 2000’s, not their current epi leather) which is hardy, sturdy and all-round beautiful quality. Many good condition bags made with epi leather from that period can be gotten for under RM2000. In my books, for a full leather Louis Vuitton bag, that’s a steal! 😀
From my observation, unless it’s a terribly popular design from a certain brand, you can get luxury designer bags from most big brands at a fraction of their brand new price. Brands like Prada and Miu Miu are expensive at retail prices, but if you buy something from a few years ago, their prices drop very significantly. You can quite easily get full leather Prada bags for under RM2000 and full leather Miu Miu bags for under RM1000 or even under RM500 – I kid you not! 😉
I’ve noticed that the Celine Trapeze, Luggage and Belt Bag go for a very nice price in the preloved market. Back in the day when they were popular, the brand new prices were through the roof! But if you have always wanted one, and thought you missed the boat, you can pick one up for a song now 😉 The quality of these bags are still very good, but they just aren’t popular enough to hold their value well. Good for bargain hunters, not so good if you’re a seller 😛
If you’d like a good quality leather bag at a very attractive price, and aren’t too fixated on what brand it is, look to brands like Tod’s, Mulberry, Prada, Miu Miu, Gucci, Celine, Ferragamo and Bottega Veneta for higher end, and other brands like Coach, Furla, Kate Spade for the mid-end market. You can often find very nice bargains in these brands 😉
With brands like Loewe, Chloe, Saint Laurent, Fendi etc, I find it a little cyclical. Their popular designs can be quite pricey, but other older or less popular designs can go for a song. It’s pretty much about sifting through what you like, and how much you’re willing to spend.
Should I be wary about fake bags?
Oh yes you should! Fake or counterfeit bags aren’t only for new designs. Remember, they would have made fakes for the popular bags when they first became available, and these fakes will similarly be out in the market.
Fake bags are the biggest minefield of the preloved market. Unless you are very sure and familiar with a design or brand, there is every risk you may encounter a fake product.
So here’s what you have to do:
Do your research
There is a ton of resources out there with photos and videos of genuine products that you can refer to. Before buying any designer bag, identify the design you like and research the hell out of it 😛 I find the purseforum useful for this purpose. Look for photos of the original item and compare it to the one you’re interested in.
Authenticate your goods
There are some online authenticators that are trusted, who can look at photos and tell you if the bag you’re interested in is genuine. Often, there’s a fee. These days, some local preloved stores offer authentication via a service called Entrupy. I’ve personally not have any experience with either of these methods, so I have no comment 🙂
If you’re buying a very big ticket item, it’s worth getting it authenticated before and after purchase for peace of mind. Sometimes, a seller maybe genuine, but a fake item slips through their fingers. Just a note to add that the brand stores will not authenticate a product for you, so don’t try taking it to Chanel or Louis Vuitton or Hermes. It won’t happen 😛
Ask for more photos if buying online
A proper seller should be able to provide a lot of photos from every angle, and provide you with more photos if you need them. Sometimes however, if you are buying from a store with many outlets, they may not acede to your request, if their goods are stored in warehouses. This is especially so if you’re buying from stores in Japan. If you’re buying from a local store, ask all the questions you want, and they should be able to answer them.
Is the price too good to be true?
If it’s too cheap (a few hundred RM for a high end designer item in good condition) be wary. I wouldn’t trust a seller who has multiples of items that look the same as all vintage or preloved bags are always unique in their condition. I also don’t trust anyone who’d label the bag a ‘bundle item’. Often, it’s just code for fake. A LV Speedy for RM200? Unless it’s fallen apart, it’ll never go for that price.
Where are you buying from?
Are you buying from a preloved store that is registered with the authorities? Or from an individual off an online platform or social media? If you’re buying high end luxury designer items from the latter, unless you know the person well, I’d be wary. I’ve seen individuals post up very in-demand Hermes bags for a ‘quick sale’ and it always makes me suspicious.
Where can I buy these preloved luxury designer bags?
Speaking for us here in Malaysia, there are a few places you can look. I’ll list them, and append my comments about them, so you have an idea of what to expect.
- Carousell – Carousell is an online platform that allows for individuals to list their preloved items for sale. I’ve personally browsed it many times and as a buyer, I don’t think it’s the best place to get a deal as it’s a little risky. You save on consignment fees of course, but the prices do tend to be a little higher. On the flipside, you can try bargaining with the seller to see if they’ll reduce the price. The only way I’d trade on Carousell is by first asking for as many photos as possible, before paying a small deposit if I’m truly interested, and then arranging to pick it up in person and then paying the balance after inspecting the goods. Carousell is also known to house a lot of scammers who ask for full payment up front and failing to deliver the goods, so I’d be very hesitant to use it unless you are familiar with it and are willing to run a risk. Just be sure to do your research about the seller, check their previous listings and run if you see too many similar items for sale. I reckon Carousell will be something like Gumtree or Craigslist – I’d be wary, but there are opportunities to score a deal.
- Instagram – Instagram is another hive of scammers, unless you are recommended a trusted seller by a friend who has bought from them before and has received an authentic product. Only consider buying from an Instagram seller if they have a physical shop you can go to, and a registered company. I have bought from stores on Instagram recently. With one, I had very good service, and a pleasant experience. I picked up my item in store and after inspecting it, made full payment via online transfer. With another, I didn’t have a good experience, and the item turned out to be in poorer quality than described. It can be salvaged, but I’m very wary about buying anything from them again.
- Facebook – I’m not active on Facebook, but the same precautions apply as with Carousell and Instagram above. If buying from individuals, always try to get it authenticated before buying.
- Consignment stores – There are more and more consignment stores opened locally these days. I do find their prices a little higher, possibly due to overheads, and although I’ve browsed one or two before, I’ve found their reception a little cool. I’ve browsed similar consignment stores in Japan and Hong Kong, where I do receive a warmer reception and not treated like I’m about to steal something. Perhaps it’s just a local thing 😛 Shopping from a consignment store will feel safer primarily because you can see and touch the item in person and make your decisions accordingly instead of relying on photos. It isn’t to say you may not be faced with a fake item, so caution still applies.
- Websites – Some consignment stores have websites you can browse, and pick up the item in the store. There are some other reputable ones out there from overseas like Fashionphile or Vestiaire Collection, but as I have not actually shopped at them, I won’t endorse any 🙂
- Ebay – Ebay is where I’d shopped in the past, and where I still prefer to shop at now for preloved designer bags. The primary reason is because of the protection that Ebay offers if the seller does not send the product, or if they send a fake product and you can prove it. They are good that way for buyer protection. You can also get older or less popular brands and designs on Ebay, as local consignors only tend to resell popular designs and brands. It’s understandable, as they too have to make money, but for the buyer, your selection is very limited. While prices on ebay aren’t as competitive as buying from a local seller in Malaysia for a similar very good condition item, you can find a wider variety of brands and items in varying conditions, at lower prices. I have picked up a pillowy soft Loewe leather tote for under RM800 shipped, which was in excellent, almost new condition. It is probably 10 years old, but still almost perfect. The only Loewe I see locally for resale are the Puzzle or Hammock which are done to death. I also don’t mind slight imperfections in preloved bags, so I have picked up vintage Louis Vuitton that have minor marks, watermarks, scratches etc, at really good prices. Often, once I receive them and give them a good clean and polish, they look amazing and as good as new! My personal preference is to shop from Japanese stores. They often offer free shipping by courier, the condition of their items are clearly described (and sometimes flaws are over exaggerated so you get a near new item) and their prices are very attractive. You can even get huge sales sometimes if they’re clearing older stock, so you can grab quite a bargain. I personally hesitate to endorse any specific store as experiences and expectations will vary, but I will encourage you to do your own research on the store and the bag you want, and always proceed with caution. You will be taxed on your purchase, so take that into account when working out if it’s worth it.
Are there fake sellers or scammers?
Oh yes there are! So many people have been scammed by people claiming to be selling luxury designer bags, and it’s a very unpleasant experience. Here’s a few things you can look out for.
- Do they have a store? – While brick and mortar stores seem to be on their way out, I think in this instance, a physical presence inspires more confidence. It’s a place you can go to find them, and to actually see the item before purchasing.
- Is it a registered business? – If you’re buying from a consignment business, buy from a registered business. If something goes wrong, you can lodge the necessary complaints and reports with the authorities and take necessary legal action.
- Is it someone you know? – If you’re buying from an individual, the same precautions apply to doing research and authenticating the item, but it will help if it’s someone you know or someone with a reputation.
- Can they send you recent photos or videos? – Ask for recent photos and videos with today’s date if you can. If they have the product, they can take you photos. Fake sellers often don’t have the item in hand, and use stolen photos to get the attention of buyers, so this is one way you can check if they’re legitimate.
Usually, fake sellers or scammers target high value goods. It’s not worth their effort to go for goods worth hundreds of RM. I am personally very wary when I see an individual or a new account randomly pop up with a selection of Chanel and Hermes bags for sale at below market prices. If someone wants quick money, most consignment stores will take the bags. Some pay up front – a lower sum, but quick money nonetheless. So, selling popular bags on a social media platform for a ‘quick sale’, without even considering a consignment store raises a red flag for me.
How do you get the best deals?
I’m serious. Sometimes, it’s about scouring all the sites and platforms you know of and trust, comparing similar items of varying conditions, and prices, before making a decision.
If you buy from a local consignment store, it’s easier to gauge the prices, as it’ll be in local currency, and there are no additional taxes on top of it. From observation, experience and anecdotal experience from people I know, the condition of the item is usually very good. Local buyers are very picky about the condition of their preloved items, preferring something almost new.
If you look carefully, you can find some trustworthy stores that don’t tack on a very high premium on their items, so you can score some very sweet deals of just a few hundred RM. Generally, they won’t be on very popular designs, nor on new designs. So, it depends on what you are looking for.
If you buy from Ebay (which is my preferred platform) I take my time to look for similar items, and then their condition. Sometimes, if I have an item in my cart, the seller offers a discount on it. Sometimes, they accept offers, so you can offer a slightly lower price for it. Sometimes, they have a sale on the item, and still accept offers. One of my items was purchased for less than half the original asking price, in excellent almost new condition, so it was a steal. The key is patience and putting in the legwork. I usually buy from eBay stores based in Japan, who also have physical stores in Japan. They have a strict anti-counterfeit law in Japan, and the preloved luxury designer goods market there is huge due to their level of consumption. There are deals to be found – patience is key 🙂
Can I expect preloved bags to be in good condition?
This pretty much depends on what is your level of tolerance for faults and flaws.
A bag in near new condition, with its original dustbag will naturally go for a far higher value than one without a dust bag, and with some flaws.
Many high end designer brands do offer a repair service. For example, if you want a LV Speedy but don’t want to pay a lot for it, you can buy one that’s in a poor condition but without tears in its canvas, and send it in to LV to replace the leather and straps. It isn’t cheap, but it is a little cheaper than buying one new. You can also send it in to bag restorers or bag spas, but I have no experience with that so I have no comment.
Personally, I am willing to accept some flaws, if it’s offset against a good price. If I’m eyeing an item with vachetta leather, I do not mind that it is scratched or has water marks, or that it has a patina or is slightly dirty. I personally like aged vachetta leather, and from experience, I know that vachetta can be cleaned and conditioned back to a beautiful lustre.
With Epi leather, I’m happy with a condition that has no deep scratches. If there are marks, experience has shown me that most marks can be cleaned off quite easily.
I also check corners, flaps and straps, at the weak points. I will usually pass on items with very worn corners or cracks in canvas or leather, or broken or torn straps, or items with oil stains. Those are hard to repair unless you have them replaced.
For me, what’s important is that the bag retains its structural integrity, there are no significant defects (e.g. holes or tears or peeling leather), and it’s in a decent condition that I can clean and condition it myself. If there are marks in inconspicuous places, and that brings the price down, I’m happy to take it. If you’re willing to accept bags with stained lining, you can actually score some sweet deals on the preloved market. All it usually needs is a bit of clean up or conditioning to get it to a beautiful condition.
If the item you’re looking at is damaged but going for a very low price, there are many services these days that can help repair or replace parts. It won’t be the original materials, but you will get many more years of use out of it, if repaired properly. In the alternative, you can hide some of the flaws e.g. wrapping a scarf around a peeling leather handle.
Must you send your item to a bag spa to clean? Well yes and no. I don’t, and do it myself 😉 But I’ll share what I use another day because this is just getting too long LOL! 😛
All in all, I’d say that buying preloved bags is fun. It can be stressful, if you aren’t familiar with the item you’re eyeing, or if the authenticity is questionable. My tip for the latter is simply this – if you have a doubt, walk away. Unless it’s a unique one-of-a-kind piece, you will always be able to find it elsewhere again.
My second tip is to take your time. Don’t ever allow a seller to rush you to make up your mind. I made the mistake once, and I’m not making it again. Sometimes, if you shop on Ebay and don’t buy immediately, the seller will offer you a little discount to nudge you along. Or you might see it go on sale later.
Remember, it’s not life or death to decide to buy immediately. Take your time, do your research, and buy when you’re ready. And then, enjoy your preloved piece, and know that you’ve just given a quality item a new lease of life 🙂
Have you bought any preloved luxury designer bags? Do you have tips to share?
The best deal I got was on a Loewe tote that you see above, for under RM800. The nappa leather is buttery smooth and pillowy soft, it’s super light, and it’s so unique because I’ve never seen anyone else carry it. What’s your best preloved purchase been? 😀