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Secondhand designer clothing at discount prices is in fashion

At the Shop-Hers website, women can buy luxury apparel at big markdowns or clear out their closets and make more money than through regular consignment shops.

February 05, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times
  • Jaclyn Shanfeld, co-founder and CEO of Shop Hers, sees the website as a way for women who shop runway shows and designer boutiques to sell the unwanted items crowding their closets.
Jaclyn Shanfeld, co-founder and CEO of Shop Hers, sees the website as a way… (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles…)

Jaclyn Shanfeld moves from garment to garment with the unbridled joy of a little girl rummaging in her mother's closet.

From the "wall of Chanel" Shanfeld retrieves a light pink and lavender jacket that once fetched $3,200 but was priced for resale at $750. She shows off the unmarked soles of a pair Nicholas Kirkwood boots, originally purchased for $1,500 that are now offered for $700. She unveils a sheer black, sleeveless Alaia gown bought for a special occasion — but never worn. It set back its first buyer $5,400, but it's now available for $650.

These Rodeo Drive castoffs are among the luxury clothes and accessories offered for resale in the digital consignment store Shop-Hers. The online marketplace offers shoppers the opportunity to buy previously owned designer fashions at a discount. Sellers, meanwhile, can create room in their closets and pocket a higher percentage of the proceeds than consignment stores typically offer.

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"I dreamt of a site that catered to secondhand luxury, a site where one could find women all over the country that were just like them aesthetically in order to have the experience of shopping one another's wardrobe," Shanfeld, 29, said.

The online store re-creates the airy shopping experience of an upscale boutique, with fashions from such designers as Alexander Wang, Hermes, Manolo Blahnik, Tom Ford and Zac Posen. Shanfeld and co-founders Jenna Stahl and Thanh Khuu added an element of social networking to help women browse the virtual closets.

First-time users furnish a profile picture and their measurements to ensure that women of similar size can fit in the items purchased from the seller's digital closets. Then, they select their favorites from among 20 designers. The sizing and fashion preferences help the site recommend "style soul mates," women whose tastes and dimensions most closely match the shopper's own.

When an item is purchased, the seller receives an e-mail alert and has three days to ship the item to Shop-Hers. Upon receipt, the site inspects the item for authenticity and verifies that its condition is as depicted on the site. If it meets expectations, Shop-Hers ships the item to the buyer and sends a follow-up notification to the seller, indicating that the sale is complete and payment is on the way. Shop-Hers keeps an 18% transaction fee.

"I love the site," said Diane Nagler, a publicist who owns her own firm in Denver and was among the site's earliest users. "My first purchase was this amazing, emerald green patent leather Max Mara clutch. I got it for $70 but it retailed for $600 to $800."

Secondhand shops once carried the taint of the declasse, said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Assn. of Resale Professionals. But now the resale industry accounts for annual revenue of about $13 billion, according to First Research. Online, EBay alone enabled $7.9 billion worth of sales last year of new and used clothing and accessories.

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The digital consignment market is showing momentum. In 2011, e-commerce veteran Julie Wainwright launched the RealReal, a members-only website that acquires new and vintage luxury apparel from stylists in Los Angeles, with backing from well-known venture capital firms. Other ventures caught the attention of Silicon Valley's investment community, including Threadflip, Twice and Thredup, which specializes in children's clothing. Poshmark offers an app that allows iPhone users to resell items from their closets.

Shanfeld launched Shop-Hers.com in November, backed by such notable investors as Jeremy Zimmer, chief executive officer of United Talent Agency; Brian Lee, founder of Shoedazzle; David Lee, a Silicon Valley angel investor who also backed Twitter; and Shana Fisher, managing partner of High Line Venture Partners, a New York fund that was an early investor in Pinterest.

"Jaclyn's a really extraordinary person, as a founder," Fisher said. "She stands out among the best of them."

Shop-Hers had its genesis when Shanfeld left her job at Vision, a modeling agency where at age 23 she was scouting talent, developing the models' careers and booking jobs.

"Once I left the agency, my salary plummeted. I wasn't making money, but I was used to being able to buy designer clothes," said Shanfeld, who grew up in Beverly Hills, the daughter of a screenwriter and real estate developer — and granddaughter of the late comedian Phil Silvers.

Shanfeld found herself attending a series of weddings and recycling the same dresses. A catty remark from someone she knew — "I saw that dress before. Where did I see it? On you, at a wedding last weekend!" — prompted Shanfeld to explore ways to refresh her wardrobe.

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